Strong Relationships and #FOSS Saves Districts' Money!

A local equipment/furniture rental place ends every advertisement with, "We can SAVE YOU MONEY!" Unfortunately, I must have heard this commercial too many times and it's stuck in my head like a jingle you can't forget.

On a listserv today with other tech directors focused on free, open source solutions, a colleague shared the following story. It was such a motivating one, I felt I had to share it with you:
As I look at switching my district to Linux next year (servers with Ubuntu/Edubuntu desktops and laptops) I will need you guys [listserv] more than ever.  As more and more schools face the budget crunch my distrcit has (and will again next year) I feel the FOSS movement will be more marketable....
Intrigued by this remark about switching to Linux, I asked her to tell us more....
I approached it from the financial standpoint.  We had a $150,000 budget cut this year and were just informed  to estimate a $140,000 cut next budget year.  Every penny that I can save the district is one less cut that teachers must face that might impact their curriculum.  I set up a demo unit to show the powers that be how advanced these “free” programs have become and challenged them to find something it couldn’t do.  
But I do have to admit that this was an easy sell to the board as most critical services for our district are already web based and we had already pushed Google Apps out this year to great reviews. 69 desktops161 laptops (we are a 1:1 district 7-12)5 serversOur current ADA is 212. We will be using FOG to reimage the machines over the summer. But I am changing the common area computers (lounge, library, etc.) after spring break so that people get the opportunity to start seeing the new systems immediately to hopefully lessen the shock value in the fall.  Also, all of my tech trainings (the third Thursday of each month) are going to be showcasing the new systems.  My superintendent and principal agreed to give teachers comp days in August if they attend my summer trainings. I have to also admit (truth in advertising here) that I think my district’s small size is an advantage here.  They all know me personally and trust my judgment.  If I tell them I can make it work, they believe me.
Has this tech director come upon a formula for success? Consider the following:
  1. The relationship she had with her peers enabled them to know her personally and trust her judgement. This enabled her to bring about powerful changes that some district leaders would scoff at..."Pshaww...Linux? Give our children a break! That's insane when Mac or Windows are available!" The power of relationship building proves that before you begin any major change, build a solid relationship with people.
  2. Get top-level support from district and campus administrators.
  3. Take advantage of web-based apps, such as GoogleApps for Education.
  4. Use free solutions like to facilitate reimaging computers
  5. Offer frequent professional learning that highlights the changes being made.
Of course, some will argue that small is better in this situation. A PT boat (pictured at the top of this post) is more maneuverable than an aircraft carrier. More importantly, though, is making sure that #1 your relationships are strong, you have top level support, and you take advantage of free, open source tools and web-based apps with regular professional learning.

Kudos to the tech director in this district!

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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