Computer technology is a fundamental component of quality education yet Clarke County Public Schools is facing an uphill challenge in delivering the technological infrastructure necessary to support classroom learning and SOL testing. Many of the computers being used by students are more than ten years old and are the result of end-of-useful-life donations from federal government agencies. A recent donation of ten computer servers by a local technology firm is intended to address
“Several years ago a previous company I worked for donated some AV equipment to the Clarke County school district which I believe may still be in use today,” said Clarke County resident Tony Parrott. “I understand the school district can always use extra help in so many areas so anytime I find something that I think could be of use to the school that could save them money or offer a better experience for the kids, I ask if I can help.”
Parrott, and his wife Michelle, have lived in Clarke County for twelve years and have four children attending Clarke County Public Schools. Parrott is Global Support Manager – Return Materials for iDirect, a manufacturer of satellite-based IP communications technology that enables constant communication for voice, video, and data applications in diverse and challenging environments. iDirect specializes in global satellite communications and serves customers in over 50 countries, in over 40 different industries, through a diverse network of service provider partners.
iDirect is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, and has offices in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
Parrott’s professional expertise with data systems has provided him with a keen understanding of the technical challenges that the school district faces. Parrott said that since iDirect often donates equipment and services to assist with relief efforts around the world, he wondered if iDirect would be interested in offering assistance locally to Clarke County Public Schools.
“We don’t have an official school program, however we donate equipment and funds to relief efforts around the world as often as we can,” Parrott said. “Satellite has a natural fit for providing an immediate communications infrastructure to aid in relief efforts; in these cases we donate equipment and resources whenever we can help a situation.”
Parrott decided to approach iDirect’s management team with the idea of donating end-of-life computer hardware, ten IBM X Series rack mount servers, for use in data storage.
“It didn’t take much convincing at all,” Parrott said of his discussions with iDirect management. “I approached our CFO Chris Norem and he said â€˜If the school system can use them by all means, let them have the servers.’”
Parrott said that the original purchase value of the new equipment was approximately $20k but even though the products are now expendable to iDirect the equipment can still be useful to the school district. In fact, iDirect sells its products and services through a diverse network for service provider partners, such as Verizon, British Telecom , Orange Business Systems, and Intelsat to name a few. iDirect’s service provider partners use iDirect’s equipment to offer satellite services to schools, hospitals, enterprises, government, maritime, aeronautical and oil and gas companies all over the world.
At a recent school board meeting Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy and the school board heard firsthand from Technology Director, David Baggett about the technology maintenance and budget challenges facing the district.
“We fight every day to keep some of those systems working,” Baggett said. “Moving to a five year replacement rotation where we replace 200 machines a year will require $200K annually.”
“We are playing major catch-up with our infrastructure and technology,” agreed Dr. Murphy .