Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Ask Slashdot: Best Practices For Maintaining IT Policy In K-12 Public Education?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the good-luck-with-that dept.

Education 208

First time accepted submitter El Fantasmo writes "I work in public education, K-12, for a small, economically shaky, low performing school district. What are some good or effective tactics for getting budget controllers to stop bypassing the IT boss/department? We sometimes we end up with LOW end MS Win 7 Home laptops, that basically can't get on our network (internet only) or be managed. The purchaser refuses to return them for proper setups. Unfortunately, IT is currently under the 'asst. superintendent of curriculum and instruction,' who has no useful understanding of maintaining and acquiring IT resources and lets others make poor IT purchasing decisions, by bypassing the IT department, and dips into IT funds when their pet project budgets run low. How can this be reversed when you get commands like 'make it work' and the budget is effectively $0?"

cancel ×

208 comments

Use fear. (4, Funny)

MrQuacker (1938262) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131051)

Just make up some bullshit about how only machine brand XYZ will work for us. All the others can be hacked by predators to take pictures of the children. Use FUD to your advantage.

Re:Use fear. (5, Insightful)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131085)

Wow, literally, "Fear will keep the local systems in line"

I fear for when your IT department becomes fully operational.

Re:Use fear. (4, Interesting)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131091)

Well, somewhat along those lines you could legitimately argue that the "windows 7 dust bowl edition" does not meet the organization's security standards (because it won't join a domain).

Speaking of which, how can these low end winders laptops use school resources if they can't log into the company domain? You *are* using active directory, aren't you? Please tell me you aren't just leaving everything open.

Re:Use fear. (1)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131209)

Domain security isn't always the answer - what it does appear to be is a series of IT people screaming "my kingdom, my kingdom!" especially with the move to student owned devices. Thankfully a lot of technicians are coming around on actually securing their shit rather than hiding it (my personal favourite: Poor home folder permissions because group policy says you can't connect directly to UNC paths or run scripts or open cmd.exe etc.). Missing simple features like transparent proxying over just lopping them off at the firewall is a sign of a technician who is going to be left behind very quickly - especially with the android/iOS revolutions that are streaming through schools at the moment.

Re:Use fear. (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131617)

Dunno about where you went to school. My daughter (HS senior) can bring her own laptop and other electronic devices to school, but they are absolutely forbidden from connecting to the network.

I think this is partly because of exactly what MrQuacker was talking about -- the possibility of sexting or other inappropriate materials getting on the school network from students. (Staff is a different matter.) The organization protects themselves from abuse by the legal system by forbidding all but school property to connect to the school network.

One domain, and every resource accessible from that domain, would seem to solve the problem. It has the side-effect of not allowing cheapie home edition laptops to join the network, which gives IT leverage to get the equipment imaged properly.

Re:Use fear. (2)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 2 years ago | (#39132421)

Protecting the children is absolutely a necessary thing to be doing, and I can not agree more with the general sentiment. However I don't see that lack of network access is going to affect the children's ability to traffic in sexting or other similar acts, only cover the ass of staff when it happens on school grounds. They are still able to be prosecuted for negligence without the devices on the network, and I'm sure if we went and looked there would be at least one case where this happens. At least when you put the student owned devices (SOD) on the network they can be monitored. There is plenty of software and hardware available to listen and watch, you can enable client isolation on your AP's and log everything through a local jabber server as a just in case. This doesn't stop something like apple's AirDrop or even point-to-point wifi, so your AP's are set to nuke any rouge AP's around the place, and so on.

There are a lot of SOD's moving into schools and corporations now, many of them are driven from the (probably incorrect) viewpoint of beancounters or upper management. Wrong or otherwise, we need to adapt or die - and if adapting means we have to change our field a bit and stop thinking of how many units are in the empire, instead thinking of how we monitor and control the devices that are out there then that is what needs to happen.

And it's going to cut down on budget as well. A lot of people complain that they need that big a budget. That might have something to do with it.

Re:Use fear. (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39132461)

> Protecting the children is absolutely a necessary thing to be doing, and I can not agree more with the general sentiment. However I don't see that lack of network access is going to affect the children's ability to traffic in sexting or other similar acts, only cover the ass of staff when it happens on school grounds.

My understanding is that this is precisely the point. The rule is not to protect the students but to provide legal protection for the staff.

Re:Use fear. (2)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131237)

Oh, c'mon. In the mind of a PHB, any kind of rational argument about capabilities and feasibility is refuted immediately by "I don't care how, just make it work." When a PHB says that, all laws of causality and physics and economics and common sense are instantly banished. The PHB has made the impossibility YOUR problem. If you can't do it, it's your fault.

And to the previous commenter who said something about use fear of PEDOS or HACKERS or TERRORISTS to bend the PHB to your will... HAHAHAHAHA! Use that argument, and all you've done is that you've just admitting to KNOWING the risks and FAILING to stop them! Because the PHB said "GET IT DONE" and you didn't. You're now a pedo-facilitator or terrorist-supporter because YOU DIDN'T DO ANYTHING to STOP THEM.

Read up on Cassandra some day. Don't be Cassandra.

Re:Use fear. (0)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131659)

So, what I'd do in that case is:

A) Set up a domain, and cut off all the Dust Bowl laptops from the school network, period. If they want access to resources, they must turn in their laptop to be re-imaged. Period. There, I just made it work.

Or

B) Quit. Because I don't want that stain on my resume.

I don't see any other solution.

Re:Use fear. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131103)

Agreed. Fake a virus attack. Sometimes it's the only way to survive in this industry.

Re:Use fear. (4, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131151)

Just make up some bullshit about how only machine brand XYZ will work for us. All the others can be hacked by predators to take pictures of the children. Use FUD to your advantage.

You didn't "listen" to TFA - you would still have to make it work. Generally the laptops would work with a bit more memory, as I have a real bottleneck now with my work PCs having less memory than optimal. As time marches on Operating System and Software require more resources and the real killer is paging memory. A bit of push-back may be required - have IT issue (with support from upper management, no mean feat) a minimum plaftorm for purchases. When technology decisions bypass IT and then IT is saddled with maintaining it, it sets the stage for Failure. Ultimately the IT department has to make its wishes known and have full support or the battle will always be a losing one.

Re:Use fear. (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131267)

All the others can be hacked by predators to take pictures of the children.

Why would they care about that, when the government has no problem with school districts spying on students themselves? [theinquirer.net]

I work for a public school district (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131359)

Let me explain how it works, will any of this make the person in charge look good(politics)? Telling your district purchaser to stop the madness will just lead to negative political impact on the person making the call unless there is greater easier political capital to gain by making the call. Until someones ass is held to the fire for the mistakes (which is rarely the actual one making them) nothing will change short term. Now lets talk on how to make school district politics work, forget the current person in charge, they already have their established friends and people who they owe favors. Instead look about 3-5 years in the future and figure out who might be in charge then and gather their favor as they are clawing their way to the top, these people will be much more willing to listen and have a higher probability of effecting the change you are looking for.

Your first step, get your butt out to the school sites and work closely with the principals and give them what they want and need. These are those people who you will see in the positions you are looking to effect 3-5 years in the future, and most of them will remember the favors you did and the logic you provided those years ago.

Welcome to school district politics, its slow, its annoying but with enough patience you can get it to work.

Re:I work for a public school district (5, Informative)

ghbpiper (701001) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131565)

I do as well. We've been able to save TONS by purchasing off-lease systems at 10 cents on the dollar WITH 3 year warranties. The bigger issue is that the wrong person is selecting and specifying technology purchases. Talk to the Supt or CBO. And yes try to make them look good, if you can. All computer, networking, AND software purchase should have to pass through the IT dept for evaluation. To not do so is foolish at best.

Re:Use fear. (1)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | more than 2 years ago | (#39132137)

Just make up some bullshit about how only machine brand XYZ will work for us. All the others can be hacked by predators to take pictures of the children. Use FUD to your advantage.

For god's sake, don't forget sun-spots! The sun-spots will work with the predators and John Travolta to create landing pads for gay Martians...*

* Apologies to whomever's sig I just ripped off.

If all else failes, try the obvious. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131075)

I know this sounds like a stock answer, but you will get much more bang for your buck with Linux.

Re:If all else failes, try the obvious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131671)

I know this sounds like a stock answer, but you will get much more bang for your buck with Linux.

True.It sounds like the submitter is up the creek regardless of OS, though. Apart from Linux, they'd probably need some more personpower too. And realistically, even if it would technically be the right thing to do, telling the boss that we should ditch all the licences for W7 that we've "paid" for isn't gonna fly...

Maybe a long term plan of building a parallell machinepark of rag-tag donated machines running linux and used for experimenting and learning about computers themselves (as opposed to learning word and access and bonzibuddy) , while being able to do wordprocessing and webpages as well... but howto further the gnu/linux commike plot was not the topic. ..

Meta: So, parent was modded flamebait... I find that moderation more inflammatory than the above comment. Whom would the comment be baiting? Are we really supposed to not mention that linux is free of cost and could be used for general computing, because that could get Microsoft proponents agitated? I think the moderator should try to aquire some better moderating skillz.

Re:If all else failes, try the obvious. (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131711)

Exactly. If you're low on cash and somebody keeps taking your budget and giving you junk instead of working machines, switch to bare-metal-only policy for acquiring new machines. Making your own Linux install image is pretty easy and it takes much less post-instal setup than cloned image of Windows (plus there's no trouble with minor differences in hardware which can make cloning Windows installations between different machines impossible). As a bonus, you can then report the superintendent for wasting money on useless Windows licences.

Re:If all else failes, try the obvious. (1)

AnalogDreams (2478696) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131995)

Our IT department built Windows 7 images that can be deployed across different hardware builds.
This was after we were asked to find a solution without purchasing additional software, which we did.

Now I want access to SCCM.

Also, making an image of a Windows installation with Ghost, Acronis or another program of your choice is not the "correct" way to image multiple machines.

but did you pay for the licences? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39132279)

Also ghost is the old way of doing stuff and lot's of places still do stuff the old way hell XP is still out there on lot's of systems.

Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131081)

Find a way to make it work.

I know! (2)

dishpig (877882) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131593)

Make Network Maintenance an elective!

licensing Microsoft School Enrollment (3, Informative)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131113)

You need to have the licensing right for the software that you have.

http://www.microsoft.com/education/en-us/buy/licensing/Pages/schoolenrollment.aspx [microsoft.com]

But right now you need to tell the people who say 'make it work' how big the fine is for not have the licensing right.

Re:licensing Microsoft School Enrollment (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131465)

And get their answer in writing. When the worst happens, their main concern, won't be fixing the problem, but asigning blame.

Remember, bureaucracy first, IT second. Trust me on this, or your next post here will be about your search for a job.

Re:licensing Microsoft School Enrollment (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131541)

Get records of that, bring it up at major district meetings so that everyone knows about it, and if they still don't fix it...

Anonymously tip the BSA off to trigger a raid.

Re:licensing Microsoft School Enrollment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131941)

Great way to get fired also anyone with half a brain would look at the BSA "auditors" and tell them to get lost until they contact the lawyers.

Re:licensing Microsoft School Enrollment (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 2 years ago | (#39132041)

We're talking about public school administration staff.

You're lucky if there's a quarter of a brain there.

Do you have a service-quality issue? (4, Interesting)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131117)

There is a reason people are bypassing you. From my experience, it is because you either are not performing well, or they think that you are not performing well. If it is the latter, you should raise awareness with regard to backups, security, etc. You may also want at look at prices. For example, recently I have seen ridiculous internal prices for a few GBs of file-server storage accessible to a complete department.

Of course, if it is the former, then you are screwed and people are bypassing you so that they can get their jobs done. In that case you should think about abandoning the current IT department and building up a new one with people that understand that they are service providers.

Re:Do you have a service-quality issue? (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131159)

I should also add that IMO you must get away from "curriculum and instruction" or you will not be able to do your job well. If you cannot do that, then I advise you to look for a better job where they actually let you do work under acceptable conditions. Yes, that may be hard, but in these situations, typically all the good people leave for exactly this reason and the IT department slowly becomes non-functional. I have seen this several times, fortunately from the outside.

Re:Do you have a service-quality issue? (2)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131667)

Forget all the bad advice. It's called politics. Want the right things done, start accruing political power. Create a circle of supportive people with sufficient power to make real decisions.

Never forget there are many shit heads who will make terrible decisions just to get freebees from suppliers, undermine that relationship and they will seek to get you fired and they will do that as their major job focus, unbeknownst to you, until you are gone.

Want to implement solutions. First present them to the 'elected officials' and explain how they can make themselves look good in the eye's of the public by implementing them and how they can make the political competitors look bad by going with campaign donors, hard sell, easy to count money the understand anything at all to do with IT.

Reality solution, line up another job, then and only then implement the correct solution riding roughshod over all the political appointees, arse holes looking for freebees and, people to lazy to change. You will either succeed or be blamed for everything including the bad weather and be fired.

You will find that corrupt supplies will block sound decisions at every turn and you will have to directly publicly challenge them and their supporters.

Re:Do you have a service-quality issue? (1)

Cormacus (976625) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131217)

Well, there could always be the issue of "thats the way we always did it." If no one has shown the folks doing the purchasing how the process ought to go before, then they will do whatever they are familiar with/whatever they can come up with. You might be able to get somewhere by setting up a very simple procedure (making sure to avoid the problems mentioned in parent) and then get out and talk with the people who are making the requests that sidestep your department. Basically, if you can train people to come to you first then you can sanitize all the requests. On the other hand, if people perceive faults like the parent suggested, this won't work.

Re:Do you have a service-quality issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131297)

There is a reason people are bypassing you. From my experience, it is because you either are not performing well, or they think that you are not performing well

From my experience, your job performance is entirely irrelevant. This is simply pointy-haired-boss syndrome. Some idiot up the food chain thinks he knows how to do your job better than you do.

If you can't properly train your PHB, the only solution that usually works is to get a new one. This may involve planting kiddy porn on his laptop and seeing him do some hard prison time, if he proves intractable.

Re:Do you have a service-quality issue? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131385)

Obligatory link to BOFH [theregister.co.uk] .

Re:Do you have a service-quality issue? (4, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131603)

He did say he was in an "economically shaky, low-performing school district". An organization being characterized poorly like that usually means that the people running it at the top are doing a lousy job, and when that's the case, there's not much people at lower levels can do, and it also means those people at the lower levels probably aren't to blame.

Re:Do you have a service-quality issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131685)

Not really. His predecessor could have been an idiot, and now he is fighting the institutionalization of that.

Re:Do you have a service-quality issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131741)

I agree that there must be a reason they do not recognize that the IT director should have oversight of IT purchases. As the IT manager for a larger district with better funding, I feel your pain. You need to put together a concerted marketing effort (not just one PPT!) to demonstrate how you can get real ROI by implementing basic standards around HW and SW platforms. If you can't get them to agree, it is either because you are not the right person to sell it, or they really are idiots. Either way, it's time to look for another job.

Techsoup (3, Interesting)

gotpaint32 (728082) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131121)

Have you considered purchasing your software through Techsoup. Microsoft software is virtually free (last i remember something like 10 to 20 bucks per copy of windows, similarly cheap for server OSes as well) so long as your organization qualifies. I am assuming you want to integrate everything on a Windows domain...

Re:Techsoup (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131423)

Unfortunately public schools aren't allowed to take advantage of Techsoup. I am the IT guy for a non-profit that takes advantage of Techsoup (Cisco 2960 switches for $250) but am not allowed to use them for the public school that I am the volunteer admin for.

You don't. (5, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131125)

If it's literally as bad as you describe, your intended function is to fail as spectacularly as possible in order to be the fall guy. You can't gather meaningful evidence to convince or refute the decision-makers, and no one is going to believe you when you claim you're being asked to do the impossible by the unreasonable.

Leave. The only reason they want you there is that they want you on the bridge when the ship runs aground.

When failure's not an options (because it's mandatory), you're under no obligation to remain involved with that fiasco, and short of blackmail-level evidence, you have no way to change course anyway.

Re:You don't. (5, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131191)

I second the "Leave" recommendation. You aren't going to change minds. You can dig in your heals and tell them "No, this will not work", and they may listen to you...but just as likely they'll find someone who they can bully around. More likely really.

Time to jump ship and let them fail on their own.

Re:You don't. (5, Insightful)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131241)

Also concur. Get out before they drag you down with them, and ruin your chances for another gig.

Re:You don't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131383)

When failure's not an options (because it's mandatory), you're under no obligation to remain involved with that fiasco, and short of blackmail-level evidence, you have no way to change course anyway.

I second the "Leave" recommendation.

A matter of taste, I guess: I second the "blackmail-level evidence" - just don't make it short.

Re:You don't. (2)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131485)

We DO seem to see a lot of "I'm in an impossible job situation, what do I do?" Ask Slashdots lately. The most common answer is usually the same... if you're in a bad spot, things are falling apart, and all the usual routes of resolution are being thwarted by people you have no control over, YES, it is time to leave. It's frustrating, defeating, and unfair but sometimes that's just how life is and you have to react.

Re:You don't. (2)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131225)

I agree. Except that they may not understand that they are setting IT up to fail. They may just consider IT to be "not important". Of course that is wrong in any modern organization. Today, IT is basically always critical. Still, there is no reason to battle insane odds, no matter the root cause. A lot more organizations need to fail because of handling IT wrongly or as a lesser priority before things change.

Re:You don't. (3, Insightful)

Marillion (33728) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131261)

First things first. You need to recognize that you don't have a technology problem. You have a people problem. Then you need to articulate this (tactfully, of course) as far and as wide as possible.

If you succeed at that, follow up on the other excellent technical ideas expressed here.

Re:You don't. (1)

JeanCroix (99825) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131345)

Start getting your resume out now. This isn't a budget/technology problem, it's a management problem, and it doesn't sound like you're in the position to do anything about it except take the fall.

Re:You don't. (3, Interesting)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131893)

If it's literally as bad as you describe, your intended function is to fail as spectacularly as possible in order to be the fall guy.

I found this epic tale [thedailywtf.com] as an example of this situation. Knowing the indicators to look for based on others' hard-won experience can keep you from repeating their mistakes.

Re:You don't. (3, Interesting)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39132241)

This story has a lot of valuable lessons to be learned. The first lesson, I think, that you can take from your experience is that you are wholly unqualified to deal with the political and management issues involved. Therefore, do not involve yourself in management or politics. The (non-technical) suggestions given have all involved either an upward appeal to authority, or coercive measures. These will only make matters worse for you. If you want to keep your job, and think that you actually have a chance to make things work, ingratiate yourself to some people who can support you if things go south. I doubt very much that you are being deliberately set up as a fall guy. The school, after all, has a need to stay somewhat technologically relevant, but they're doing it on increasingly less money.

I'm guessing you went into education because you want to make a difference. Some people I know did as well, and they all tell the same story. Long, hard hours with very little acknowledgement. I would guess that's a reality of education these days. With a budget that's always short on funds, management will squeeze every last drop of effort from every employee. So, work under the assumption that the people who hold the purse strings are under at least as much pressure as you are. Maybe it's not true, but there's nothing you can do about it except quit.

Off the top of my head, the best people to get on your side are teachers and students. While you can't solve everything all at once, perhaps there are some small problems you can solve for specific people. And, while someone joked about making network maintenance an elective, there's probably some truth to it. I volunteered to help out the sole network admin when I was in high school. Perhaps some bright students would be willing to help out in exchange for some tutoring. The important thing is that some people know who you are and what you do, and can commiserate since your job is just as difficult as theirs. If it's important to you, hang in there. If it's not, then it's probably time to look for something less stressful.

two words (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131135)

bsa adult

Push back (1)

Okomokochoko (1490679) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131147)

If you can, start by cutting off access to devices that you don't have control or at least knowledge of, i.e., any device that hasn't been brought in for proper setup (where I work we achieve this through central static DHCP). Also, tell your boss that you cannot do your job if (a) you have no money to do it and (b) no one lets you do it by bypassing you at every opportunity.

Re:Push back (2)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131365)

start by cutting off access to devices that you don't have control or at least knowledge of, i.e., any device that hasn't been brought in for proper setup (where I work we achieve this through central static DHCP).

So annoy everyone and make more work for yourself?

Within your domain (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131149)

Run with your hair on fire!

Unless these machines are members of a domain, remote management will be a *major* PITA if not impossible without 3rd party tools. Working stand-alone workgroup machines sucks balls from an IT admin point of view. They also tend to suck up vast amounts of bandwidth youtubing and playing games. You can forget content filtering via DNS content filtering as students will end up using their own public DNS forwarders. It can sorta be done. But locking shit down through a managed firewall will take weeks if not months of tweaking and tuning. It will absolutely be a cat and mouse game between you and the students. Again, you can't manage their machines with GPOs and whatnot.

Simple solution. Ban all laptops and have them use iPads instead. Focus on IP white listing at the firewall level. No viruses, everything is the same experience. And parents foot the bill for the units.

I don't the schools have the funds for ipods and s (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131259)

Run with your hair on fire!

Unless these machines are members of a domain, remote management will be a *major* PITA if not impossible without 3rd party tools. Working stand-alone workgroup machines sucks balls from an IT admin point of view. They also tend to suck up vast amounts of bandwidth youtubing and playing games. You can forget content filtering via DNS content filtering as students will end up using their own public DNS forwarders. It can sorta be done. But locking shit down through a managed firewall will take weeks if not months of tweaking and tuning. It will absolutely be a cat and mouse game between you and the students. Again, you can't manage their machines with GPOs and whatnot.

Simple solution. Ban all laptops and have them use iPads instead. Focus on IP white listing at the firewall level. No viruses, everything is the same experience. And parents foot the bill for the units.

I don't the schools have the funds for ipods and even then the hardware / software to manage them.

Also buying software for lot's of ipods is a big mess as well.

Re:Within your domain (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131503)

Content filtering etc. is done at the firewall/router/proxy level, so that's not an issue. If the hardware supports it (switches, access points, etc), then I'd set everything up so that clients get assigned round-robin into a number of VLANs -- as large a number as the network hardware will support. Each client would then only see the outside internet (via a proxy), a domain server, and a small number of cohabitants on the same VLAN. I've set it up that way at work, and it helped prevent spread of worms and viruses that would try and attack every machine on a given subnet. Since we have about 20 permanently attached machines plus up to 10 coming-and-going ones, everyone is always on their own VLAN as we have configured 64 VLANs. Equipment is also segregated into VLANs: IP phones on one VLAN, printers on another, network switch and access point management interfaces on yet another. Access to internet, and routing between VLANs, it configured per VLAN, so for example printers are invisible for anything but the server machine, as are the phones. Client machines are not mutually visible either, and guest clients only see a SMB print service (via a separately running instance of samba). Only clients that register on an internal webpage (using a valid username/password) get switched over to the full gamut of services (SMB file/domain/print server, AD server, etc).

$0? (2)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131161)

Shut it all down. Continuing to run it in that condition's just going to degrade it further. Send the kids home with a note explaining what the incompetent !@#$hole forced you to do to their kids. Cc: the note to the news media.

Oh, and get another job. You'll need it. Hell, you need it now.

A !@#$storm like this can only blow up in your face. No point putting the solution off until it does.

Mission of your deparment is??? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131163)

If your department doesn't have a mission/vision statement, then you have no standard to complain about not being able to meet. You also have no direction, and frankly, probably don't deserve to get funding for anything anyway. If you do have a mission statement, and you're currently unable to meet its objectives, then point it out. If you don't have leadership support, go to the citizens. Have them elect a school board which gives priority to educational technology. This is not that hard to do, but it does require a steadfast commitment. The National Ed-Tech Plan is also a good resource to argue from. Seriously, there are so many funding opportunities for low-income school districts in this country that there's no excuse for wallowing in your current predicament.

Fiscal policy? (5, Interesting)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131175)

dips into IT funds when their pet project budgets run low

Given the fact that you work in the public sector, you may wish to consider obtaining anything and everything available on budgetary policy for your school district, county, state, etc. It may turn out that what you're observing on the fiscal side of things actually represents clear misappropriation of funds. If that's the case, bringing it to the attention of people three or four levels up in the chain of command may have an interesting effect, and perhaps a detailed letter to a state representative would bring uncomfortable attention to those mismanaging the funds.

Re:Fiscal policy? (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131321)

If that's the case, bringing it to the attention of people three or four levels up in the chain of command may have an interesting effect, and perhaps a detailed letter to a state representative would bring uncomfortable attention to those mismanaging the funds.

That's dangerous, unless you are absolutely sure of the lines of patronage and corruption, and you're sure you're not complaining to a decision-maker about one of their pet cronies.

Yeah. I would normally concur with the general guidance of "use the chain of command" (or, more accurately, "go over his head"), but you need to be sure you're not narcing out to the wrong player.

Maybe anonymous muckraking whistleblowing? I can think of any number of TV station newsrooms with investigative reporters salivating at the prospect of misappropriation, gross negligence, and the unwillingness to THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

Re:Fiscal policy? (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131513)

I certainly agree that if there's any chance of serious blowback, it may be in the submitter's best interest to conduct the research and submit reports anonymously. Of course, any retaliation resulting from an honest report of funds misappropriation would most likely be a very poor move on the school district's part, and would be great fodder for lawyers and the media as well.

Re:Fiscal policy? (1)

godel_56 (1287256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131557)

dips into IT funds when their pet project budgets run low

Given the fact that you work in the public sector, you may wish to consider obtaining anything and everything available on budgetary policy for your school district, county, state, etc. It may turn out that what you're observing on the fiscal side of things actually represents clear misappropriation of funds. If that's the case, bringing it to the attention of people three or four levels up in the chain of command may have an interesting effect, and perhaps a detailed letter to a state representative would bring uncomfortable attention to those mismanaging the funds.

. . . and nothing bad ever happens to whistle blowers. /sarcasm

You are asking the wrong crowd (5, Insightful)

ZeroPly (881915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131211)

This is a management/politics question. Gaining resources for your own department is what a good manager or VP does every day. IT people are fundamentally bad at this because they give answers that are technical and correct, yet are irrelevant in a financial or political context. While fighting the good fight, terms like "PCI", "HIPAA", and "BSA" will help you much more than "IPSEC" or "DNS".

Learn political skills, work on establishing trust relationships with the other players rather than just being a technical grunt, and remember that if you're not at the table, you're on the menu.

Re:You are asking the wrong crowd (2)

rk (6314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131791)

This is education. A big political term you should acquaint yourself with is FERPA [gpo.gov] .

Install win7 ent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131283)

Install the correct version of Windows 7 and send them the bill. If they ask whats the difference, tell them the license is for home use only and does not support the minimum connectivity needed your environment.

You need to be able to win that battle first.

Talk with the budget controllers to let them know that you have to pay for Windows twice if they select the wrong options. Work with them to build a list of 2-4 pre-configured builds that you publish twice a year. I believe Dell can set you up with an account to manage something like this.

Re:Install win7 ent (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131407)

Install the correct version of Windows 7 and send them the bill.

And pay for Win7 Ent licenses from where? Own pocket?

CYA (4, Informative)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131299)

Bitch, constantly, in writing... preferably notorized.

That way, when the shit inevitably hits the fan and your bureaucratic slave-driver comes looking for a fall guy, you have documentation that shows you tried your ass off to get them to change their idiotic ways, but they staunchly refused.

Been there, done that; still got screwed, but at least by documenting everything I managed to take the asshat who wouldn't listen down with me.

Options: Easy way or Hard way or A** Hole Way.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131307)

1. Probably the easiest and most satisfactory way to solve this situation is to resign in protest. After finding a new job of course.

OR

Brainstorm with your boss about strategies for change, (or maybe you are the boss of the IT dept).
Look for board members that are sympathetic to your cause.
Get outside review from some impartial organization.
Get media attention. Someone would probably like to do an expose about the school district making incompetent IT decisions.

OR

Just be an indignant self-righteous belligerent basterd about it. Foam at the mouth too, it helps. [yes I know it's messpelled]

OR

Just do a half-ass job

Is Linux an option? (1)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131335)

Is there any possibility that the laptops could be converted to run Linux? Usually Linux can be make to work very well on older and more resourced constrained devices. If the IT department knows nothing about Linux or you must have Win7 then it might not be a good option - otherwise why not explore this option.

You could get everything you need for zero cost: an operating system, LibreOffice, browsers, decent networking (although that may depend on the wireless chipsets), LDAP etc. Plus, you won't have to lock them down so lots of games get played on them (apart from TuxRacer).

Plenty of schools run Macs - at least the ones near me, so the "they only understand Windows" argument is invalid. Linux could be made to work well for school-type tasks without you having to get anything other than the budget for one competent sysadmin.

Re:Is Linux an option? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131493)

We have done this on about 250 out of 650 systems. For the most part it works very well, as the students are not yet brainwashed into the "I can only blow my nose on a kleenex" mindset when it comes to product choice. That happens when we become adults.

You do, however run into problems with short-sighted vendors who only support windows and grudgingly support mac. And despite the relatively short path to porting most mac stuff to linux most vendors are loathe to do so. For the most part this is kind of warped economics, as they fear they will have to start supporting Linux. No dude. That's what WE'RE here for.

You will also need to prevent your curriculum "experts" from getting starry-eyed from the shiny BS spun by the sales reps. On a broader note, even though they may have a "cloudy" spin on their web-based stuff to get the suits all moist, it damn well better integrate with the SIS, and not charge extra for the privilege. Unfortunately you have to get the powers that be to see past all the cutesy graphics and crap to the underlying mechanisms (or lack thereof).

LDAP integration for auth, and NOT just AD. Support for groups in separate OUs. The list goes on.

Quit (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131341)

You really shouldn't be settling for anything below a high-end netbook or a low-end thinkpad.

Ditch windows (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131351)

I mean it, keep some terminal server boxen around for the stuff that really must run on windows. Pitch it as a cost savings and standardization plan. Everything running end user windows should be using deep freeze or similar so you revert back to the known good state every reboot. Linux runs on just about anything you throw at it and lets face it most lab PC's need to run a very limited set of software.

id say adapt (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131353)

to the lowest common denominator. an active directory would be nice, but if you have control over the network then you essentially are 'the internet.'
id consider repurposing the older hardware for something thats still useful (flagrant *nix plug, sorry) to students and teachers as a general access desktop that gets its configuration once a day or once a week and can still be used for teaching programming or proctoring an online exam. more advanced systems can be granted access to the sensitive side of the infrastructure like AD shares and "the network" as windows knows it.

as for people bypassing the helpdesk, locking down network ports and wireless AP's is a good way to get to know these guys. make sure you approach them with a smile and a bit of sympathy as theyre likely only being clandestine because theyve been abused in the past. consider having a power-users group of faculty or maybe students too that can help eachother if you're overloaded, and always accept their feedback (even if it isnt really that great.)

Good (exclusive) or effective tactics (1)

someWebGeek (2566673) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131387)

Good Punch the idiot in charge in the face every time you get stuck with junk technology. Effective This one's trickier. It sounds as though your system's policy structure is ill-understood by your "asst. superintendent of curriculum and instruction." On what basis just he justify overriding the placement of responsibility for purchases from IT to your budget controllers? Take the issue to your school board with clear explanations of the wasted monies that result from buying unusable computers. Explain to the board the failure to provide required educational materials. Convince them to clarify and set up or reaffirm the needed policies and establish or approve procedures to maintain oversight and enforcement of the correct practices. If your board seems recalcitrant, take your arguments upstream to the commissioners (or other public officials) who control the board. Finally, the court of last resort is public opinion; get media coverage to expose the waste and failure of the current practices. If it's too risky to your employment to attempt these things directly, recruit parents to be your public interface and feed them the needed facts.

Re:Good (exclusive) or effective tactics: Parents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131501)

Find a group of parents who are somewhat tech savvy and who also volunteer at the school or local community organizations. Tell them what is going on and outline the ways you believe the system can be made to work correctly. Nothing is nastier in the collective minds of the school board than a collective of concerned committed capable parents.

Go to the supt, and the CBO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131389)

Make sure that ALL technology purchases require IT department approval and evaluation. This is what we do. Also, we report to the business dept, not curriculum, which works better since the CBO has a better grasp of "technology" (K12-speak for IT/DP/Stuff with das blinken lights).

Re:Go to the supt, and the CBO (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 2 years ago | (#39132007)

Make sure that ALL technology purchases require IT department approval and evaluation. This is what we do. Also, we report to the business dept, not curriculum, which works better since the CBO has a better grasp of "technology" (K12-speak for IT/DP/Stuff with das blinken lights).

There can also be a disclaimer to this: "All technology purchases NOT approved by IT are unsupported." Although making the rule, and enforcing it are two different things.

learn how to be unhelpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131391)

I don't think it's a no-win situation, but you need to learn when to be completely unhelpful.

You see, the thing a couple things happen if you start to help someone do something with inadequate tools and resources. If you try to explain that you're willing to help them but tell them why it won't be as good as it could be, they'll either take it as a.) an insult couched in technobabble or b.) an excuse for your own ineptitude (also couched in technobabble). If you go forward with it and deliver a subpar solution (as you told them you would), you will find that you now own that solution and all the quirks and frustrations that go along with it. If it causes a problem for one of their responsibilities, they'll just tell their boss that it's your fault.

Just repeat after me, "I'm sorry it's so technical."

Along the same lines try to avoid end-user education. It took me a long time to figure this out, but it's pretty obvious really. What did all the cool kids in school think of the teachers of difficult subjects such as algebra or chemistry? They hated the teacher, personally, not the material or their lack of dedication. Those people grew up to be your co-workers, and they'll turn it into a personal issue if you attempt to teach them something and they don't get it on the first try.

I suppose the biggest thing is learning how to let users fail and learn their own lessons. They won't listen to a computer nerd like you, because they believe they're better than you are. Just let them fail on their own, and if you get flack for that just say those magic words, "I'm sorry it's so technical."

maybe...... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131429)

Start a project to install open source, get the students involved, see how good they are at problem solving how to get a laptop working on your network.

Also make sure you have mail stating your position on licensing and keep a copy ;)

People problem not technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131445)

Your problem is with your boss. I am not sure if this is the best place to get people advice. Couple of mine

1) Sit down and explain to him the issues. Come up with a policy for a minimum standards.

2) If this fails, PHB keeps going on, making it work.
        a) Try the fear factor. Not my favourite, not work in the long run. Against my ethics.
        b) Document it and make sure document survives after you leave. Then start looking for a job.

Good luck...

Re:People problem not technology (1)

Joiseybill (788712) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131663)

Amen.

As this poster says, mixed with some previous posts.. the people are the problem.

"they" - the users or folks buying these doorstop machines are doing it because they think they have to.
bosses / beancounters : if nobody is getting raped, killed, or sued .. then your problem isn't scary enough to throw money at.

You are in a key position to make a difference.
  In addition to your technology know-how, you also have the position of being inside the system.
  Most of us IT folks have to learn on the fly. Just change your tactic a little.
  Learn the laws and policies that your State, county, school district, etc needs to live by. Put together a binder if that helps you.
  Student info needs to be protected under many US laws.. learn them, quote them, hang them in your office, sign your email with it.. anything that helps.

  In addition to having your boss - who is obviously in a position to control some money (just not the way you think it should be done).. you are allowed, and probably encouraged to participate in School Board meetings, Educator's Union or other trade council meetings, and technology groups ( like ACM education SIG) .
Learn to speak the bureaucratic language. Heck, I bet you need a signature to request a vacation day. Get a signature every time you make an adjustment or installation on a computer. Not just when you want to - all the time. This becomes a "policy".
When you see that users are trying to work around the system - something isn't working. The IT department is only there to make the job of education (and administration) easier. When you help , you are probably not noticed. When you impede, then you become the big problem everyone will blame.

Make it work. You are on /. Have you ever heard of Linux, Samba, Open Office, Apache?
Get open source software, install it on as many machines as you can - then put all the work on a server that you keep secure.
If the users can get what they need on your website, they won't need high-end machines.
Watch your system logs, and document the heck out of things. Make sure users know they are being logged.
    ( raises your visibility without becoming THE problem)

If your dept has money to spend and bail out other people's pet projects, then you are doing it wrong.
Start the year out with a planning meeting. Discuss how your department will most effectively use the budget you have.
Put these goals on paper, and periodically refer back to them.
This gives you concrete items to work towards, and the money is all "spent" on paper.

If another department has a project / problem / cash shortfall that impacts your IT department, then you have the backup to say,
" Okay, if we deviate from our original plans, do you want me to lower standards or cut out project 1, 2, or 3 ? "

For as long as you keep this job, think of it like a small boutique store that you manage.
Everything is documented, the customer is always right, and nothing is free.
--If nothing else, that will cut your frustration and headache levels.

My sympathies (2)

deacent (32502) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131515)

Sadly, it's not just education that's suffers the "make-it-work with $0" mindset. This along the lines of "the beatings will continue until morale improves" except it's "the budget will not be funded until results are achieved." This is a management problem, not an IT problem. You need someone intelligent who speaks management to make it understood that they have to have realistic and definable IT goals which includes a willingness to fund them on your side.

I don't know much about your community but if you're lucky enough to have a grant-savvy PTO, you might be able to get them to write a grant application for the funding but, again, you need to be very clear about what the goals are and how the hardware/software you want will achieve them.

Also your local board of ed and board of finance may be interested in the dipping into the IT budget when pet project funds run low. They tend to frown on stuff like that.

take the initiative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131551)

In situations like this, the problem is ignorance of management to the costs and issues involved. Done properly, you can have machines that are standardised, running the correct OS, and costing less than generic individual PC/license purchases.

Rather than simply bitch about it, work towards fixing the problem. Engage Dell/HP (or put the requirements out to tender with a bunch of them) or another large OEM, and run them through the number of PCs you have, and come up with a plan to depreciate them over 3-5 yrs (get extended warranty). Dell/HP will likely be able to give you bulk discount pricing of significantly less than RRP - like 25-50% off retail. Discuss your licensing options - being an educational institution, you should be able to get the correct software licenses for less than the cost purchasing individual licenses - and because they're perpetual "per head" or "per machine" licenses, you don't need to buy new ones every time you get a new PC - you simply pay for the count in use on an annual basis, which will save you money.

I work for a company that had been doing licensing the "dumb" way before, and we ended up getting a better selection of software, proper enterprise support and annual per-head licensing for less than the cost of buying individual machines with OEM licenses. And thats with no EDU discount.

Once you've got some numbers and a plan together, pitch it to management - ideally with a couple of suits from Dell/HP/MS at a meeting for your IT requirements.

I"m guessing you're fairly young - all this coming from some fresh out of uni kid will not get much respect, but if you have suits from Dell/HP/MS on board and saying the same thing, your opinion will have a bit more validation behind it.

If management are still not on board with the idea, leave. There's no hope, and you don't want to be stuck in a dead end job with no budget and thus no exposure to proper IT tools and procedures. It will do bad things for your career. At least you'll be able to say you tried.

-smash - can't log in and post for some reason... buggy...

School IT... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131579)

Start by setting up a second network. If possible, put a different color faceplate on the outlets. Use smart switches with MAC authentication and VLANS.

Now you have the IT maintained network, and the unsupported network.

On the IT maintained network, you want your domain, all of your printers, and all of the machines you support.

For the unsuported network, you have a DHCP/DNS server, transparent proxy/filter.

Let them add their own computers to the unsupported network AFTER they have checked them in with you (MAC filtering), but make it clear that anything on the unsupported network are NOT something you are going to fix / make work. All you are providing them on the unsupported network is an IP connection.

Now, that proxy set up we talked about above? Set it up to monitor for virii, and shut down access (via the switches) when it detects them. Before it does, send an automated warning to the sponcer (teacher or student), as well as to you, your boss and the sponsors immediate supervisor. Then after the third warning, kill their access, noting that they need to fix it before it can be added back to the unsupported network.

Now, thats the stick. You also have ot have a nice carrot.

Find some nice toys you can support. Basic Moodle installs, site access to databases, etc. (make them go through the log-in from home stuff via the unsupported network). storage is a good one. Site licensed software is a good one. Network printing (paid by IT) is a REALLY good one, and fight like hell not to let the unsupported computers anywhere near the IT supported printers.

Oh, don't play the port game, you will loose. Open ports on request for the supported network. Make it REALLY easy on the supported network. Close problematic ports on the unsupported network, but leave everything else open.

If you can make the supported experience a lot better than the unsupported one, you will start to win hearts and minds. Be REALLY good about fixing things on the supported network. ACTIVELY support teachers on the supported network. When you start getting a few teachers saying "of course your computers don't work - you keep bringing in this crap that you use on the unsupported network" then you will start to win.

Linux for Schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131629)

If the Budget is 0 there is only one way out - Linux

Do like Extremadura in Spain and go for Skolelinux.no (Debian Edu)

http://linux.slashdot.org/story/12/01/24/0416236/spanish-extremadura-moving-40000-desktops-to-linux

http://www.slx.no/

That way the kids will learn.

Go for it :-)

Quit (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131673)

Let them wallow in their own failure.

Quit (4, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131677)

Quit.

You'll score a job at a place which values your expertise, probably with higher pay. The institution you worked for will go under, not because you left, but because it's fairly obvious that it's already borderline, and the people in charge have their heads up their asses -> Misallocation of appropriated funds is not looked kindly upon by the press, and following the fomenting scandal, the state may be forced to shutdown the school. Since it's already a low-performing school, an argument will be made that the state's SAT scores will rise by getting rid of this particular institution, and after a fight by the local Teacher's union (you need a leg to stand on to win these kinds of battles, and they won't have one), some dagger work will be pushed through, and the problem (the school) will be made to "go away."

You probably feel for these kids, and you want to help them out; however, you can't. You have neither the time nor the resources necessary to change the pervading mentality that IT is the asst. supervisor's trick. Given that, the best you can do is hope that their future will not be terribly impacted by the ensuing shit-storm, and get yourself out of the line of fire.

And be sure to document all further interactions with people of interest, in either written or electronic form. Keep a nightly off-site backup of your emails, as you may be charged at some point for complicity in this madness, and will need an alibi. Remember, a bureaucrat will not hesitate to throw an underling under a bus to save himself, and no one believes the accused.

I like the car analogy... (1)

snemiro (1775092) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131715)

IT is just like a car....you can run for a while...until you need gas. No gas, no energy to move the car. Pushing the car is against the purpose of the car. - Establish a plan with milestones and goals. Offer alternatives. Use open source. If somebody insist in $0 budget, ask him/her advice in how to do that and if he/she want to join you to make it happen. I don't know how to run a car with an empty tank with no gas. I've used LTSP once and it's cool to boot a class of 40 diskless PCs with PXE. Using a 100 Mbps network, they even boot much faster than any MS product. A little tricky for the graphic config. http://www.ltsp.org/ [ltsp.org]

Several solutions (4, Informative)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131723)

I have worked in EDU for quite a few years now, I was involved with a K-12 before (consulting) and have been at two higher ed jobs (one in central IT, one in research)

a) Go open source and simply tell them: no more Windows because your licensing doesn't check out (licensing for small-to-mid schools is mighty expensive even if you get all the discounts). You have to not only get your licensing for your machines (which are ridiculously low to pull in your non-technical staff at a low point sometimes $10 or $20 for Professional versions or bundles with Office and Windows licenses) but a heap load of servers and CAL's to get everything on the Microsoft-side to work together (which ended up in one of the negotiations I was in averaging $25/FTE/service (Exchange, Sharepoint, Forefront and AD (the standard suite) was thus $100/FTE) + several $100's per server (~$300 for W2K3 Standard back then).

b) Spec a lot higher than you need. Sure, someone (you) can go to Dell/HP and spec out a $500 machine but you should budget for that machine to cost $1500, your purchasing department (if there is one) will balk and negotiate you down to $1000 and you'll get a decent machine. I have to do this all the time in research because computer gear is the first thing that gets axed out of the budgets. For ballpark figures in research: budget your workstations at 2x the actual cost, servers at 3x the actual cost, storage at 4x the actual cost and you'll usually barely be able to afford what you need.

c) If you really need MS Office or a 'commercial' offering because the manager/purchasing/principal wants someone to yell at when it breaks down talk to an Apple rep and have them spec out your environment including all software licensing, they're pretty honest about it unlike Microsoft as the client is simple and included in your hardware cost (no 'upgrade' or 'enterprise' required), Server is unlimited clients and cheap (and again, your organization qualifies regardless), no CAL's, no FTE calculations, no hidden fees, no need for extra licenses or site licenses just to evade their auditing department (I'm your customer Microsoft, not your serf), you'll get a rep that has experience with K-12, free seminars and classes. They're great and easy to manage and integrate well with Windows even though they may require an overhaul of your entrenched Windows admins that got hired because they're the friend of the cousin of the principal.

d) Get better negotiation skills and set up vendors against each other. Dell for example will RAISE their prices or remove their cheapest offerings for K-12 (especially existing customers) unless you can pit two sales people against each other. They can sometimes go to great lengths to reduce their cost. Alternatively, I have found that if you need a boatload of generic computers, you might even be cheaper getting a local company to custom build you a boatload of your specced out computers. I have worked with a company that custom builds laptops and desktops (if you need more than 50) and they have local, free customer and technical service whenever it breaks down and they're cheaper than the Dell/HP offerings and they build only to what you need. I needed for example specific workstations (2 nVidia cards with at least 1GB VRAM, Xeon CPU's, 16GB ECC RAM) and HP would sell me machines that came with the choice of Quadro ($$$) or an empty slot while Dell would in the same lineup have 1 month a shipment of nVidia cards and the next a shipment with ATI (now AMD) cards and then all of a sudden they would send me a machine with ECC RAM but the motherboard didn't support the ECC functionality.

e) Look elsewhere to cut your budget. Do you really need Cisco gear? How about HP or Netgear even? Do you really need service plans? Do you really need Microsoft software on your server? LDAP is free, Samba is free and both are just as easy to manage as AD with the proper tools. And for the whiners that say "how about Global Policies" - do you really use that crap? In an educational environment you want to be as much hands-off as possible and simply re-image a broken computer, if you lock it down, people complain and teachers are (or can be) whiny about restrictions. Also, you don't NEED AD to push policies, you can simply set policies and then image the computers or do it with a login script.

Job Titles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39131745)

Speaking as someone with an advanced degree in curriculum and instruction, let me just say how much it gets my goat that many so-called "curriculum and instruction" people in schools have zero educational background.

Accountability, connecting perception to reality (1)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131935)

There is often a disconnect between perception and reality in school environments (many others as well, but I've seen it magnified in schools). The real job before you is getting their perceptions to catch up to reality. Do you know how much equipment your IT staff is responsible for maintaining? Do you know how many hours are spent on particular tasks? Setting up an inventory and work order/ticket system, and having the staff use it allows you to produce hard numbers instead of "Somewhere around 'X'". That kind of data can help your IT boss reason with the supervisor, or the board.

You may have a crappy situation with existing equipment, but make the best of it you can while advising school teachers and administrators that this is the best that can be done with sub-par equipment. Giving them a little bit of knowledge (equipment is sub-par, but we're precluded from buying better because of bureaucracy) can help mobilize the squeaky wheels (every district has them) that won't stop nagging until changes are made.

Solutions? Does your IT department oversee/maintain solutions that contribute to your Districts bottom line? Things that improve test scores or save money? If not, get some. When you get technology working for your district, you make your department more relevant. Saving money on power by ensuring classroom computers shut down is a simple money saver that contributes to the bottom line.

Documentation. I just heard you groan, but building a documentation system can be a real blessing. Wiki's have worked well for me, but use whatever works best in your environment. It can be a reminder for ubscure stuff you may have to handle from time to time, and it can also be an awesome show and tell piece for people to understand that you don't just re-install the OS.

Remember that policy is all good and fine, but when the boss says jump, you jump. Even if it breaks policy. If it's a security issue, explain it to them, and if you judge necessary, require the exception to be made in some form that can be converted to hard-copy. Often they can tell between you being seriously concerned for District resources, or being a prideful hard-ass. Pick your battles carefully. When they can see you are willing to bend when possible, they will respect you more when you don't, even if they over-rule you.

I see a number of people saying "quit", but these are the kind of challenges that can make a resume shine. Obviously you care about the job, otherwise you would have asked how to transfer from a K-12 job =D. [/soapbox]

You're not in charge, are you? (1)

spopepro (1302967) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131957)

Based on your description, it seems like you have a cursory idea of the orgainizational structure of your school district, but very little knowlege about how things get purchased, out of where, and who is responsible for what. Based on your description, I have you pegged as a support tech, and there is 1 maybe 2 other people in the IT department (like a Technology Coordinator/Director and maybe a Network Manager). No?

In truth, you should be celebrating the fact that your department is under the Assoc. Supe of C&I. Tech needs a department, and only the biggest districts are willing to make the Director an assistant/associate supe, so you either get to be under C&I or under Business. Your purchasing issues might get better under business, but the C&I side can get more things done, and is better for coordinating implementation. And can be used in your situation here if you know what to do.

You make mention of your "purchaser" which I am also going to assume means someone at a site. This is typically how things go wrong. See, not everything is handled through the district budget and depending on your superintendent, schools frequently have significant lattitude in making their own descisions and purchases. Most of the time, not such a big deal. For tech: big deal. Now here's where you need your director of C&I, because that person is the direct pipeline into the sites, and the principals will listen to that person. So you only have to convince one person that the purchases are bad, and then it gets filtered out. Do you have weekly C&I or Educational Services meetings? You should. This is the place to get yourself (or really, your director) on the adgenda and demonstrate the problem. Don't explain it, it won't do any good talking.

Now it also seems like you need to learn how school budgets work, because if you are public K-12 there is very little ability to take from one budget and move to another. Something else is going on there, and you probably aren't important enough to be privy to what's going on. Budget swipes have been prevelent in schools over the past 2 years, and part of it is because states are withholding categorical funds that were originally promised to balance their own budgets. Just last week we were informed that we wouldn't be getting $72k of categorical money from the state that was part of this year's budget, and then we had to start shuffling, because you can't make major changes in the middle of the school year. If you want to work with those in charge, rather than against them, try dialing back the mistrust.

As far as no money, I'm going to guess that there is money out there. What is your ERATE filing? It might take some work, but most districts are leaving federal money on the table.

Simple and effective answer. (1)

Pollux (102520) | more than 2 years ago | (#39131993)

Unfortunately, IT is currently under the 'asst. superintendent of curriculum and instruction,' who has no useful understanding of maintaining and acquiring IT resources and lets others make poor IT purchasing decisions, by bypassing the IT department, and dips into IT funds when their pet project budgets run low. How can this be reversed when you get commands like 'make it work' and the budget is effectively $0?"

Grow a pair.

Seriously. You're not asserting yourself. You're letting your assistant sup do whatever they want with your budget. And he/she's probably doing it because you're not putting your foot down.

I work in a small rural school as a tech coordinator, so from my experience, let me gather a few facts from your post. First thing's first: if you have an assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, your district's not small, as in small-small. Practically any district that's less than 2,000 students K-12 won't have any assistant superintendents. Maybe you're not LAUSD, but you're not small. Given those numbers, you are probably not the only guy in your IT department, either. I'd give a rough estimate of somewhere between 500 to 1,500 machines in your district. Long story short, your district has money. Maybe it's not flowing to your department, but your district has money.

Now, those machines need support, or they fail. Support costs money, both in parts and in human resources. You can easily communicate to your asst sup the poor return on investment he/she will get if they continue to underfund your department. If you want to illustrate the point more clearly, grab a faulty power supply out of your storage room (not one that fails outright, but one that has some inconsistent rails and a good heaping of dust bunnies to cause overheating), break into your sup's office and swap power supplies. When he/she calls you back the next day to complain, explain how you don't have any funding to repair the computer.

But that's the passive-aggressive approach. What you really should do is get in there and assert to the ignoramus that poor purchasing decisions and lack of funding are diminishing the quality of the tech equipment in the building. If you want to be professional about it, cite observations you've made about increased demands on the computer resources over the last few years and increasing complaints from teachers and staff about how current tech is not meeting those needs. Explain the financial angle of how failure to comply with software licensing issues can be very detrimental long-term. Explain how buying equipment incompatible with the current infrastructure is a waste of money and human resources.

And if he/she doesn't listen, go to the superintendent directly. If he/she doesn't listen, go to the school board. And if they don't listen, go to a different school.

But seriously, grow a pair.

Use linux ? (1)

bigbangnet (1108411) | more than 2 years ago | (#39132035)

Since cash is a big problem (boss are stuck up that subject ) in your school where you work, here is your answer. It's not the perfect answer but it's a good one. GNU/Linux. Yes it's not Windows, yes you have to do more than click next, yes it's not simple. But here are a couple of points that you should look at:

1.Linux is free.

2.If your new to it, start with some package distro like Ubuntu or Fedora, super easy to start with...learn from there. trust me it's easier than you think

3.Linux distro works with Windows network environment

4. Most,if not all, have free software alternative that can stand up to the big popular software like Microsoft office for example (openoffice is one)

5.It's more secure for your users. In a sense that once it's deployed they can't change important system files or settings, they need administrator access for that

6.You can customize lots of things like the look, the interface and lots of other settings

7.Linux does have a Gui interface like Windows so the switch is easier than you think

8.Linux as a great, wonderful, hell better support than Windows if you ask me. Lots of distros have wiki's, forums, website with support section.

Note: Ubuntu is nearly as easy to use as Windows when it comes to it's use sometimes...just click next 20 times and your done installing..I swear. Super easy transition tip: Install vmware, then install Ubuntu in vmware. Install most programs you need. If you can't find some, find alternative (you will find some, your a geek like us), once your confortable enough, deploy some linux PC's in some department for testing and let it test for some weeks.

Low budget but windows? (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39132073)

I can't even remotely understand how you can have budget issues, but can afford windows. Heck, if I wanted to buy windows 7 pro, it would cost 50% of what my current laptop costs. Granted: it's getting rather old, but that's exactly what happens when you have a low budget.
Can't you just format it with something that's *free* if budget seems to be the issue for everyone?
(I don't even mean FLOSS, just free as in freeware).

Deal directly with the Asst. Superintendent (1)

rossz (67331) | more than 2 years ago | (#39132229)

Remove the engine from his car. Demand he "make it work". Refuse to give back the engine or to pay for a new one.

Oh, and quit your job because there isn't a damn thing you can do to fix this problem. You are fucked.

Move On (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39132325)

Perhaps its time to move on before you are forced to. Is the current administration happy with the IT department? If no, then start looking for a new job. You should always be looking for a better job anyway. I've been in a similar situation and the administration had unrealistic expectations. I was always under a lot of stress, and my family and health suffered. Since then, I've taken other jobs, while paying a little less, they had no stress, normal hours, and have been some of the best jobs I've ever had. I wish I had left earlier. If they are lucky, they will find someone else who can take the IT department into a different direction and work well with the administrators, whether or not they are actually better or worse with integrating technology into the school.

Consider Chromebooks (1)

Guidii (686867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39132343)

I read an interesting write up on Chromebooks in education [rwentechaney.com] today. The article discusses tech for students... not sure if this is what you're looking for, but they really cut down on their support costs.

Quit, or issue an ultimatum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39132381)

Seriously. There isn't enough IT representation in the administration/decision-making strata -- which is necessary to PREVENT these situations. Even when we get there, we are typically relegated to token roles, without any authority, and certainly not strategic roles. We can't hold anyone accountable.

You need to look for a better job -- or make one -- but, stop propping up ignorance and bad management.

THAT is why the world is the way it is. That is why the Internet is being taken over by grey-haired men with well-trimmed mustaches: because IT bends over and takes it. Well guess what: they need us. It'll hurt, but we have to stand up and say "we won't play, unless it's on these terms."

Use your skills (money, time, etc) strategically. If you don't like something, stand up and change it, or stop propping it up. Simple as that. It's gotten to the point I'd rather work in a warehouse than a lot of IT departments where I'm only helping make society worse.

15 years in K-12 IT with a multimillion budget (4, Insightful)

buss_error (142273) | more than 2 years ago | (#39132417)

samzenpus,

Stop making it work. It's the only answer. Your cleaver ability to make it work (somehow) only reinforces their "vision" that you don't know what you're talking about and ask for too much. Do be careful, and don't do this when a really obvious workaround is available. I'm taking about spending a week or two head scratching to come up with an answer is what you should stop or at least slow down. Don't make the slowdown suddenly, make it over a year.

Also see this post: http://ask.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2686997&cid=39131125 [slashdot.org] - and take it to heart. Just happened to me. I quit rather than take the "death march". Got nearly a 100,000 dollar raise out of it too. Did I mention it's always good to carefully document your projects?

When the higher-ups start complaining about things not working, say things like:
"Yes, I knew that would happen if we substituted the windows licenses I requested for the less costly versions we were supplied. There is a reason for the price point difference. I would have pointed it out if I'd been informed of the change."
"That hardware was known to be under-preforming, however, we were not advised our requested hardware was to be substituted for that or I would have pointed out the deficiencies."
"I wouldn't dream of selecting what educational materials were purchased because I'm not an educator. I'm not sure why people that are not IT professionals would substitute their judgement in IT areas with out a even a consult with IT. We know about budget constraints and we specify the least expensive choice that still gets the job done with the resources available." (Careful with that one.)
You should come up with at least a dozen variations on this theme and drop them causally to everyone, not just the PHBs. I was able to force out a PHB that constantly was changing my orders for software, services and equipment with careful documentation and a grass roots effort from classroom teachers.

Go to the school board/committee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39132431)

Under your state's open meeting law, they should be allowing citizens to be present and be heard

Since You're Already a Microsoft Shop (2)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | more than 2 years ago | (#39132445)

You might consider exploring a campus agreement--some variants allow the sale of software at a super-steep discount (in recent years including OS) to students for use on their machines, so this might get you to a place where the machines could be manageable Pro or higher editions without major expense... Compliance would still be hard, but really we're at a point where you shouldn't be having "client" systems connect directly to the internal network, and should instead carefully manage their traffic and communicate content to students from the school on semi-private networks that don't have access to the live network. It isn't very difficult to conceive of configuring a VPN service onto that network in such a fashion as the clients couldn't communicate with the other clients, and only have access to the terminal servers you provide application services from...

If students want access they need to login... Android, iPhone, and iPad all support VPN connections so it seems like a trivial inconvenience to protect all involved.

It would also give you access to some very cheap pricing for the software you're probably already over-paying for.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...