Board praises schools PC plan

A leasing deal would put 11,000 new computers in Hernando schools.

By Tom Marshall, Times Staff Writer
Published February 20, 2008

BROOKSVILLE - School Board members glimpsed the future of computer technology Tuesday in Hernando County, and they liked what they saw.

That vision - 11,000 new computers installed in the district this summer under a four-year, $8.1-million leasing deal - won't get a formal vote until a future board meeting.

Information systems director Cindy Peters said it can't come too soon.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we're fighting a losing battle with obsolescence," she said at the start of a workshop presentation.

Three-quarters of the district's 10,474 computers are more than three years old, with some dating back to the previous century, Peters said.

Under the leasing deal, the board would pay about $2.3-million this year to Dell Computer, and nearly that much for the next three years, mostly from capital improvement funds.

In return, the district would get new machines and better technical support than any competitor could offer, Peters said. At the end of the lease, the board could buy the computers, or sell them to students for $60 or less and enter into an agreement for new machines.

Each teacher would get a laptop computer, and each elementary class would get four desktop models. Each elementary school would also get a computer lab or cart with 25 laptops for every 200 students. Middle and high schools would get a laptop cart for every 175 students.

Board member Sandra Nicholson asked a skeptical question about the $1-million in "green savings" anticipated under the deal, but finance director Deborah Bruggink said the numbers add up. Each of the 11,000 machines will cost $75 per year less in utility costs, and that savings will be redirected toward the price of the lease.

Other board members had nothing but praise for the plan.

"I think you're going to see a big change in attitude throughout the school system," said Pat Fagan. "This is like an early Christmas."

The plan will make "every school seem like a new school," added Dianne Bonfield. "So many of our schools have gone wanting for years and years."

In other business, the board voted 5-0 to suspend Westside Elementary teacher Jennifer Gallagher without pay, pending a due process hearing before the state Division of Administrative Hearings. Superintendent Wayne Alexander has called for her firing, alleging excessive absenteeism, absences without approved leave and gross insubordination.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or 352 848-1431.