Decision to Drop School Macs Angers Boulder Voters

| Reports

Parents and residents in Coloradois Boulder Valley School District are up in arms over the boardis decision to replace school Macs with Windows PCs, but this isnit a platform war. These voters are questioning the boardis methods, claiming that the school district violated its own policies and deceived the voters that are footing the bill.

Voters in the district narrowly approved a ballot measure last fall that freed up money so the school district could replace aging computers and add additional workstations where needed. Currently, about 75 percent of the school computers are provided by Apple. The school board plans on spending US$2.5 million a year for four years to purchase about 2,000 new PCs annually.

That deal has been awarded to HP, and it appears that no other computer manufacturer, including Apple, was asked to provide a bid. The boardis policy requires sealed bids that are opened publicly for any purchase over $10,000. The school board contends, however, HP had already provided a bid at the state level, and it could take advantage of that instead of opening its own bidding process.

According to statements school board officials made to The Daily Camera in Boulder, once the decision had been made to purchase Windows-based PCs only, "There was no reason to request a bid from Apple."

Many Boulder residents disagree. They are angry enough about the situation that it spurred them to launch their own Web site called BVSDWatch.org, and regularly attend school board meetings to voice their disapproval. Some voters have been concerned that the district is conducting "closed doors" meetings, so they started posting their own notes from the meetings they attend on the Web siteis forums.

According to a statement on the Web site, the forums are anonymous, so anyone can voice their thoughts or concerns without fear of retribution.

TMO spoke with two of the siteis founders, Andrew McIntosh and Mike McDaniel. Mr McIntosh is a Macintosh consultant in the Denver area; Mr. McDaniel is also a Mac consultant and father of Boulder Valley School District students. Mr. McIntosh commented "The administration is dictating what the teachers use, not the other way around. Itis a 1950is mentality."

He also said that the voters arenit looking for a Mac-only classroom environment. Instead, they want the teachers to have the option of using Mac or Windows computers based on their needs.

Other residents are concerned about the potential for hidden costs once the transition to a Windows-only platform is complete. The BVSDWatch forums have numerous comments about fears of viruses, extended down time while waiting for tech support from the districtis I.T. staff, as well as fewer application options for students and teachers.

Some have commented that they feel betrayed, stating that the district led them to believe that approving the ballot measure would lead to enhancements of the existing technology base, not an across-the-board replacement.

Mr. McDaniel said that the school board made its choice without involving the community, and that during one of the districtis open forum board meetings, Deputy Superintendent Christopher King admitted "[The school district] should have had more meetings."

School board members told The Daily Camera "The PC platform should free up time for technical support staff, allowing them to address computer problems faster," and that "itis important for students without computers at home to learn how to use PCs."

Board member Teresa Steele commented "The right decision has been made."

Mr. McDaniel sees it differently. He said "Theyire not being good stewards of the money."

[To date, TMOis request for comments from Boulder Valley School District Members have not been returned.]

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