ARMAGH — The United School District Board of Directors on Tuesday approved technology contracts with ARIN Intermediate Unit 28 relating to Internet and consortium services and Web hosting service and training.
The contract between ARIN and the district for the purchase of wide area network, Internet and other related consortium services was approved for an initial term of five years extending from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2019, at $2,363.59 a month. This is approximately 20 percent lower for United than what it is in its current year and was reached after an eight-month competitive bid process, according to Josh Muscatello, director of technology at ARIN.
The rate of the decrease varied per district, with some schools saving more, but Muscatello said across the board the decrease was approximately 25 percent.
The consortium was formed seven years ago when the 11 school districts, the two technology centers and ARIN came together in an effort to drive down the cost of Internet services, Muscatello said.
As a result, he said, a federal grant was released statewide to pay for some of the of the build-out of that, which included connecting all of the schools together to share services over the Internet, as well as sharing services out of the IU.
The contract that was approved Tuesday continues that, Muscatello said.
The board also approved a service order addendum between ARIN and Sting Communications that calls for the following services to be ordered and provided by Sting Communications: wide area network 100 Mbps Ethernet transport at $1,325 per month; 40 Mbps base Internet access at $245 per month; and basic managed firewall at $85 per month with base proposal equipment 60D included, for five years extending from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2019.
The board also approved a letter of agency for funding years 2014-2020 between United and IU 28, which allows IU 28 to file for the E-rate on behalf of the district, Muscatello said, and also confirms the district’s participation in the consortium.
Also, the board approved two contracts between Schoolwires Inc. and the district, one for the purchase of Web hosting service and professional services for an initial term of six months beginning Jan. 1 through June 30, 2014, not to exceed $7,000, for faculty and staff training on making their own changes to their pages on the school’s website.
Currently, the district has a basic website through SchoolCenter that is managed mainly by one person, said Robert Sarraf, an ARIN employee who serves as the district’s coordinator of technology services. When someone such as a teacher, staff member, coach or adviser needs to make modifications or add information to the site, the request is sent out to a middleman of sorts, who makes the change, he said.
“There are a few people within the school that do make changes to it, but not the full staff,” he said. “With Schoolwires, we’re moving to having the ability for the staff … whoever it might be that actually knows the information, to be able to make those changes themselves.”
The technology department, he said, will go out and provide the training to the end users, who will then be able to take it and “harness the training that we give them to be able to turn it into their websites.”
This is an extra service ARIN is willing to provide to the district through the consortium and an agreement with Schoolwires, Sarraf said.
Part of what’s included with Schoolwires, he added, is a template library that gives the ability to change the site’s templates as well as the ability to “adapt the technology to new smartphones, new tablets, new technologies that are coming out.” A lot of the older websites don’t give the ability to have them look as they should on those types of devices, he said.
Sarraf said that between Jan. 1 and June is when they would like to get the training and the migration from the current website to the Schoolwires site completed, but that it’s going to be based on how quickly the staff pick it up and “how excited they are about getting into it.”
He said that once the training is set up, there’s an initial training class that Schoolwires gives to administrators. The technology administrators will then go back to the district and provide the training to the district, he said.
“Once we get that training done, we can start moving into the creation of the teacher pages themselves,” he said. The goal is to have it ready by the next school year at the latest but preferably earlier, by June or July, he added. The site will physically be running before that, he said, “it’s just a matter of whether we flip the switch and publish one instead of the other. They’ll be running side by side” until they’re ready for the new website to be activated.
The website will continue to use the same URL address, Sarraf said.
The second contract between Schoolwires and United was approved for the purchase of Web hosting service and professional services for one year beginning July 1, 2014, though June 30, 2015, not to exceed $6,000.
The district previously had IT services provided through In-Shore Technologies Inc., and Web developer supplemental services with independent contractor David Wilhelm, which the board approved to discontinue Tuesday, effective immediately.
“When we didn’t renew (In-Shore’s) contract and renewed with ARIN, it was just a consolidation of services so we really no longer needed his services,” said board President Don Davis.
Davis said the main way United will benefit from these contracts is through the money ARIN saved the district through the consortium.
“The money that they saved us with that will provide the same amount of funding necessary for Schoolwires,” he said. “Schoolwires, we think, is a better program” because it takes the middleman out of the process of adding information to the website and “there’s less chance for miscommunication, more chances for things to be updated in a more timely manner.”