COMPUTERS AND TECHNOLOGY
This chapter reviews the organization and management of information technology (IT) at Dallas Independent School District (DISD) in four sections:
- A. Technology Planning
- B. Training and Technical Support
- C. Instructional Technology
- D. Infrastructure
A. TECHNOLOGY PLANNING
The Texas Education Code (TEC) requires each school district improvement plan to include provisions for integrating technology into instructional and administrative programs. Some districts compile these plans with few of the elements required to guide a district's efforts to effectively use and improve its technology. Technology plans often contain goals and strategies for instructional technology but contain little about the effective use of technology to automate or streamline administrative duties.
The best plans contain clear goals, objectives and action plans for major technology projects, assign individual responsibility for implementation and identify milestone dates for completion. Planning for new technologies is particularly important to education because of the factors listed below.
- Equity: Despite the best intentions, the level of technological resources available to each school in a district can vary. Unfortunately, poorly planned introductions of new technology can further widen the gap between the "haves" and "have nots." Careful planning at the district level can ensure all schools receive adequate, appropriate and consistent support; at the school level, planning helps guarantee that no child is excluded from the benefits of new technology.
- Rapid Change: The pace of technological change continues to accelerate. If planning for the implementation of new technology does not allow for an adequate period of time, such as three to five years, a district will fall behind.
- Funding: Funding can be the greatest barrier to using technology effectively in the classroom. Unless planning addresses whether and how projects will be funded, schools may not get the technology they need.
- Credibility: The public is anxious to see that tax dollars are well spent. Thorough planning demonstrates that proposed strategies have been well thought out, acquisitions of technological resources have been carefully considered and that every aspect of the implementation is cost-effective.
To implement information technology effectively in administrative offices or classrooms, a school district must have an extensive computer network connecting modern computers; comprehensive, administrative and instructional software and up-to-date operating systems; effective, ongoing training; adequate technical support; and an ample professional staff capable of implementing and administering a technology-rich environment. Each of these components should be addressed in the district's technology plan.
Technology infrastructure is the underlying system of cabling, phone lines, hubs, switches, routers and other devices that connect the various parts of an organization through a WAN. A sound infrastructure gives most users access to people and information throughout their organization and beyond. A WAN generally provides tools such as electronic mail systems and links to the Internet.
A key function of a WAN is to connect LANs throughout the district. A LAN typically connects all the users within a single building to one local network. By connecting the LAN to a WAN, all LAN users gain access to others users in the district, and anyone connected to the Internet
The network infrastructure of DISD enables schools to transmit data at 1.5 megabits per second, using up to 24 communication channels. This capability, called a T-1 connection, sets a high standard at the individual school level. At some locations throughout the district, personnel are able to transmit data at a rate of up to 44.7 megabits per second, using up to 672 communication channels for data, voice and video. DISD also has this capability, called a DS-3 connection. DISD has the necessary technology infrastructure for future expansion.
Exhibit 9-3 presents DISD's technology budget in comparison to the overall expenditures of the district, as well as to its peers, for 1999-2000.
Exhibit 9-3Source: Texas Education Agency (TEA) Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS), 1999-2000.
DISD and Peer District Expenditure Data
District Total Operating
Expenditures (Percent of Total)
Number of Students Number of
Teachers in Classroom
Dallas ISD $915,112,190 $19,133,122 (2.1%) 160,477 9,957 Austin ISD $579,025,991 $5,920,091 (1.0%) 77,723 5,100 El Paso ISD $328,165,721 $3,288,924 (1.0%) 62,306 3,785 Fort Worth ISD $474,039,805 $3,678,728 (0.8%) 78,654 4,596 Houston ISD $1,232,142,040 $20,140,653 (1.6%) 209,716 11,638
Exhibit 9-4 and Exhibit 9-5 present comparative data processing expenditures on a per-student basis, for the 1999-2000 and 1998-99 school years, respectively.
Exhibit 9-4Source: TEA, AEIS 1999-2000.
DISD's Data Processing Expenditures Per Student
as Compared to Peer Districts
Dallas Fort Worth El Paso Houston Austin San Antonio Total Expenditures $19,133,122 $3,678,728 $3,288,924 $20,140,653 $5,920,091 $2,311,131 Enrollment 160,477 78,654 62,306 209,716 77,723 57,565 Per Student $119.23 $46.77 $52.79 $96.04 $76.17 $40.14 Exhibit 9-5Source: TEA, AEIS, 1998-99.
DISD's Data Processing Expenditures Per Student
as Compared to Peer Districts
Dallas Fort Worth El Paso Houston Austin San Antonio Total Expenditures $25,940,195 $4,241,638 $4,304,442 $18,101,464 $5,735,218 $5,063,352 Enrollment 159,908 77,956 62,945 210,179 79,496 59,080 Per Student $162.22 $54.41 $68.38 $86.12 $72.14 $85.70
These figures show DISD's technology spending was comparable to Houston ISD in 1999-2000, but not in 1998-99. They also show DISD has a higher per-student expenditure than any district, including Houston ISD, which has 31 percent more students than DISD. The district's per-student expenditures for technology in 1998-99 were $162.22 (Exhibit 9-5), based on expenditures reported to the state's AEIS.
Some school districts, such as Houston ISD, had an unusually large expenditure for an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)system during this period. Yet the data also show a $6 million decrease in DISD technology expenditures from 1998-99 to 1999-2000. According to DISD, the difference is due to a $4 million budget cut for the Technology Services Division, and the transfer of two departments from the Technology Services Division to different organizations. The departments, Library Services and Campus Data Support, had budgets of about $1 million each. DISD also includes funds for classroom computers and service in functional codes that other districts may not use for classroom spending.
Exhibit 9-6 presents a comparative analysis of DISD's new salary structure compared to two other public sector entities in the Dallas area and Fort Worth ISD and Austin ISD, two of DISD's peer districts. Both those districts are located in cities with highly competitive technology wages.
Exhibit 9-6Sources: DISD Payroll information, January 2001. Fort Worth ISD and Austin ISD;. Survey information from City of Dallas and DART.
DISD Technology Services Division
Salary Structure and Comparison
Position District/Entity Average Actual Salary Average Difference in DISD Student Population** (ISDs Only) Salary/Student Population (ISDs Only) Chief Information/Technology Officer Fort Worth ISD $98,112 78,654 $1.25 Austin ISD $92,397 77,723 $1.19 DISD $130,000 $23,263 160,477 $0.81 City of Dallas $133,000 Assistant Vice President for Information Technology DART* $103,440 Director of Information Services Fort Worth ISD $85,817 78,654 $1.09 Austin ISD $77,703 77,723 $1.00 DISD $73,906 ($5,267) 160,477 $0.46 City of Dallas n/a Division Head DART $74,000 User Support Technician Fort Worth ISD $37,200 78,654 $0.47 Austin ISD $36,060 77,723 $0.46 DISD $32,202 ($7,170) 160,477 $0.20 City of Dallas $46,229 IT Analyst/Help Desk DART $38,000 Field Support Technician Fort Worth ISD $46,128 78,654 $0.59 Austin ISD $34,700 77,723 $0.45 DISD $30,987 ($11,970) 160,477 $0.19 City of Dallas $51,298 PC Technician DART $39,700 Computer Operator Fort Worth ISD $30,000 78,654 $0.38 Austin ISD $32,738 77,723 $0.42 DISD $29,235 ($5,580) 160,477 $0.18 City of Dallas $30,922 DART $45,600 Programmer/Analyst Fort Worth ISD $57,199 78,654 $0.73 Austin ISD $54,765 77,723 $0.70 DISD $45,190 ($12,301) 160,477 $0.28 City of Dallas $61,000 DART $57,000 Senior Systems Analyst Fort Worth ISD $66,718 78,654 $0.85 Austin ISD $63,330 77,723 $0.81 DISD $56,714 ($6,548) 160,477 $0.35 City of Dallas $65,000 Unix Jr. Admin. DART $58,000 Overall Average Salary Difference in DISD ($3,653) Overall Average Salary Difference, Excluding CTO position ($8,139)
*DART's titles for the positions above are slightly different, where noted.
**Student population figures are from 1999-2000.
DISD pays an average of $3,700 a year less for IT professionals than its peer districts and area employers. If the chief technology officer's (CTO) salary is not included, DISD's average salary is more than $8,000 a year less than the other organizations.
According to documentation in the Technology Initiatives chapter of DISD's strategic plan, Vision 2003, the district selected the Unisys-Delta system in 1994 and awarded bids for new payroll, personnel and financial system software to Unisys Corporation as the prime contractor. Exhibit 9-7 shows a chronology of events.
Exhibit 9-7Sources: Vision 2003, Technology Initiatives, historical background summary, June 1998,
Summary Chronology of Unisys-Delta System Purchases
Time Period Event 1994 Technology Migration Plan initiated; bids for payroll, personnel and finance systems awarded; Unisys and DISD sign contract. 1994 DISD issues request for proposal for Student Records Implementation. Jan. 1996 Date of scheduled production operation for Payroll and Human Resources. May 1996 Date of actual production operation for Payroll and Human Resources on the Delta System. May 1997 DISD begins implementing Purchasing, General Ledger and Accounts Payable modules. Aug. 1997 DISD also selects Unisys for Delta Student Records Contract; Unisys signs contract. 1998 DISD implements finance module and student records module on the Delta System. 1998 DISD purchases fixed assets module and warehouse module for Delta System. First Qtr 1998 DISD names acting CFO. May 1998 Entry of new Purchase Orders into Delta Finance System. June 1998 DISD budgets $150,000 for enhancements to Delta system, but money is not spent. Aug 1998 DISD implements nine pilot sites on Delta Student Records software. Third Quarter 1998 DISD names new CFO. Oct. 1998 Unisys sends memo to CFO regarding district priorities to implement remaining modules of Fixed Assets, Budget Development, Budget Maintenance and Warehouse. Jan. 1999 DISD identifies new Project Manager for system. May 1999 Unisys sends memo to CFO regarding lack of progress on implementation and the halting of Project Financial Migration meetings. July 1999 DISD names new CFO. Jan. 2000 DISD and Unisys implement all secondary schools on Delta Student Records software. Aug. 2000 Elementary school pilot sites implement Delta Student Records software. Jan. 2001 All schools implement Delta Student Records software.
and Unisys, April 2001.
The original bidders in 1994 were National Computer Systems; Educational Service Center Region 10; San Diego County Office of Education; J.D. Edwards and Company; Unisys/Delta Management Systems; Unisys/Systems Consultant, Inc.; and American Management Systems, Inc. (AMS).
In a January 1995 document titled Financial Systems Migration Project Selection Analysis Report, Unisys/Delta Management Systems and AMS emerged as the two finalists. Unisys-Delta was selected because, according to the district, users felt that it was the system that best fit their needs at the time and provided the best cost-benefit ratio. The report examined the various vendors in many different ways, including price, software fit, number of modifications that would be required, availability of the vendor's staff, references of current users and site visits. At the time, AMS did not have PEIMS reporting or Teacher Retirement System reporting, two elements that DISD considered critical. The Unisys/Delta Management Systems (DMS) offering did contain those elements.
The company that made the software product for the financial package, DMS, went bankrupt soon after DISD bought the package. Unisys then purchased the software, in part to support the DISD implementation. DISD anticipated this might occur, even during the original evaluation period in 1994.
The original contract called for one-time cost of $2.6 million and annual maintenance costs of $150,000 per year for a seven-year period, or $1.05 million. Therefore the initial total cost of the project, represented as Exhibit 9-8, was $3.791 million.
Exhibit 9-8Source: Unisys-Delta and DISD contract dated May 1995.
Cost Summary of One-Time and Annual Costs
In Original Contract of 1995
Cost Item Amount Non-Recurring Costs: Hardware and Operating System Software $ 677,032 Application Software and Modifications $730,586 Training $138,720 Implementation of System $1,052,950 Transportation and Installation $12,712 Total Nonrecurring Costs $2,612,000 Existing Payroll System Support-Temporary Contract $129,205 Recurring Costs, Each Year for 7 Years Application System Maintenance (included) Hardware/Operating System Maintenance (included) UPS Maintenance (2 Systems, included) Total, seven-year term cost of maintenance $1,050,000 Total Cost of Contract $3,791,205
In 2000, DISD formed a Technology Steering Committee (TSC) to address strategic needs and execute comprehensive and large-scale technology initiatives. Composed of high-level executives and managers at DISD, the TSC crosses departments and consists of key decision makers throughout the district. The TSC was also designed to make sure IT decisions are made only after considering the district's overall needs. For example, the CTO advises the TSC on technology issues, but does not get a vote.
Although the committee has only met five times, it gets high marks from participants and observers. Many view the creation of the TSC as a direct result of the district's collaborative strategic planning effort, Vision 2003, which documents the district's technology plan. The existence of the TSC represents follow-through, at the highest levels of the organization, on employee recommendations. The 1992 TSPR review of DISD also recommended the creation of a technology steering committee.
Exhibit 9-9 shows the membership of the committee by title.
Exhibit 9-9Source: DISD Technology Services Division, December 2000. The Director of Research and Evaluation is the committee chair.
Technology Steering Committee Membership
by Duties and Title
Departmental Duties Title Research and Evaluation Director Compliance Director Assessments Director Technology Chief Technology Officer Management Services Director Finance Chief Financial Officer Purchasing Executive Director Curriculum and Instruction Associate Superintendent Curriculum and Instruction Assistant Superintendent Area Superintendents District 6 Area Superintendents District 9 Student Support Associate Superintendent Math and Sciences Assistant Superintendent Human Resources Interim Associate Superintendent Parents, Teachers Association President
DISD's Technology Steering Committee ensures that information technology decisions are made only after considering districtwide needs.
In addition to the district's Web site, the Technology Services Division also maintains an Intranet, an Internet site available for internal use only by district employees and students. The main menu of the district's Intranet site includes:
- Board Policy;
- Acceptable Use Policy;
- Copyright Policy;
- Link to HMO Blue Texas Insurance;
- Link to Financial Operations;
- Link to Human Resources;
- Link to Safety and Security;
- Link to Technology Services;
- Curriculum Instruction and Academic Support;
- Facilities Support, providing maintenance services procedures;
- Service Center Catalog, for supplies and ordering information;
- Americans with Disabilities Act, Notice to Employees;
- Intranet Contacts; and
- Intranet Site Index.
The Intranet uses the efficiency of Web browser software to convey information of interest to DISD departmental employees and other internal users. For example, the entire directory of DISD employees, with their telephone and fax numbers, is available and searchable on the Intranet site. This information can be updated and made available to employees faster than printed copies. The Technology Services Division plans to add more information to the Intranet site. DISD does not track the number of people who visit the site.
The Intranet services manager maintains the DISD Intranet site, creates web pages, and coordinates with other departments and schools to create content for their pages on the site.
The Technology Services Division developed and maintains a useful Intranet site.