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Chapter 9
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

D. INFRASTRUCTURE

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 wide area network (WAN) and through a series of local area networks (LANs).

FINDING

DISD has built a strong technical infrastructure. The infrastructure has been made possible by multimillion-dollar grants over several consecutive years, primarily from the Federal E-rate program and the state Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund. It is unusual for school districts of any size to have several full T-1 connections to the Internet. DISD has 40 T-1 lines. Exhibit 9-26 describes DISD's network overview, including the primary connections to the Internet through Southwestern Bell.

Exhibit 9-26
DISD Network Overview

 DISD Network Overview
Source: DISD Technology Services Division, Network Services Department, August 15, 2000.

As Exhibit 9-26 shows, the central administration building at 3700 Ross Avenue is also the primary distribution point for the technical infrastructure. The architecture uses an Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) network to provide for increased capacity, volume of communications traffic and growth needs, and simultaneously offers an increase in system response time for voice, data and video communications. The icons for Skyline, North Dallas, Lincoln and SOC refer to individual high schools, each with a DS-3 connection, a capability that enables them to transmit 5,625,000 characters per second. This is nearly 30 times faster than a T-1 connection.

Exhibit 9-26 also illustrates that the district uses Optical Carrier (OC-3 and OC-48) connections that are faster than the DS-3.

Exhibit 9-27 shows DISD's distance learning network at 10 of its high schools. While the technology is kept at these high schools, they in turn are feeders to approximately 20 other schools each for distance learning capability. Distance learning installations require large capacity to transmit voice, video and data, and the diagram shows DISD uses fiber optic OC-3 distribution. It also shows the district has a system of both primary T-1 connections and secondary T-1 connections that route to another distribution point, in the event that the primary connections are interrupted.

Exhibit 9-27
DISD Distance Learning Architecture
Using Fiber Optic and Other High-Speed Connections

 DISD Distance Learning Architecture Department, August 15, 2000.
 DISD Distance Learning Architecture Department, August 15, 2000.
Source: DISD Technology Services Division, Network Services Department, August 15, 2000

Exhibit 9-28 shows that the district's mainframe computer is working nearly 100 percent of the time. While it is a reliable system, it does not necessarily meet users' needs.

Exhibit 9-28
Percentage of Time Computing Systems
Were Operable, First Quarter, 2000-01
Week Unisys Financial Application Series System Unisys-Delta Student System Mainframe System Work Order Tracking System Library System Weekly Average for All Systems Represented
09/04/00-09/10/00 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
09/11/00-09/17/00 100.00% 100.00% 99.98% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
09/18/00-09/24/00 100.00% 99.96% 99.98% 100.00% 100.00% 99.99%
09/25/00-10/01/00 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
10/02/00-10/08/00 99.98% 99.94% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 99.98%
10/09/00-10/15/00 100.00% 100.00% 99.98% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
10/16/00-10/22/00 99.94% 100.00% 99.96% 100.00% 100.00% 99.98%
10/23/00-10/29/00 99.96% 100.00% 99.95% 100.00% 100.00% 99.98%
10/30/00-11/05/00 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
11/06/00-11/12/00 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
11/13/00-11/19/00 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
11/20/00-11/26/00 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
11/27/00-12/03/00 100.00% 100.00% 99.89% 100.00% 100.00% 99.98%
Quarterly Average of System Operability 99.99% 99.99% 99.98% 100.00% 100.00% 99.99%
Source: DISD Technology Services Division, Computer Resources Department, January 2001.

COMMENDATION

DISD has created an effective technical infrastructure for supporting its computing operations.

FINDING

DISD does not have a comprehensive, written and tested disaster recovery plan or a disaster recovery services center. If something were to happen to the district's hardware and software, the district would not be able to use its backup data. Lack of such a site could leave the district unable to process payroll, recreate student records or access other information in the event of a disaster.

Recommendation 155:

Secure a contract for a disaster recovery services center.

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The CTO brings a viable disaster recovery services center contract to the superintendent for approval. August 2001
2. The superintendent approves the contract offer and recommends it to the board. September 2001
3. The board approves the contract offer. October 2001
4. The district receives disaster recovery services. November 2001

FISCAL IMPACT

The district has issued an RFP for disaster recovery. Proposals received indicate that disaster recovery services will cost from $120,000 to $150,000 a year.

Recommendation 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06
Secure a contract for a disaster recovery services center. ($150,000) ($150,000) ($150,000) ($150,000) ($150,000)