[K12OSN] Just about ready to make a purchase

Jim Kronebusch jim at winonacotter.org
Tue May 8 18:49:20 UTC 2007

On Tue, 8 May 2007 12:51:18 -0500, Shawn Maggard wrote
> Hi, sounds like you are going to have a nice setup.  This is a bit off
> subject, but I want to ask you something. How did you convince the school to
> go Linux and spend only $40,000 instead of $135,000? What I am fighting with
> here in this county is right now they are trying to come up with a
> technology budget (they don't even have one currently). They are thinking
> that they need to replace 700 computers initially and then replace 300 per
> year and budget $700 per machine and that doesn't even include learning
> software! Instead of fighting the County, would it be better to go to the
> actual schools and show them what LTSP is all about? When I go to open
> community forums about this and mention Linux it's like everyone shudders,
> and the response is that we need nice multimedia workstations for our kids
> to learn and they will get bored with DOS. DOS is not Linux and Linux is not
> DOS!!

We will still have 2 OSX multimedia labs with 25 machines each.  These labs will be for
application specific training and for those who are scared of Linux.  That will help
with the transition.

As far as convincing the school, it helps that I am the tech guy for 9 schools in our
area.  The school that this purchase will be for I am full time employed by.  This will
be for our High School and Junior High school which are on the same campus.  The other
schools will follow in years to come.  Also I installed a K12LTSP in a new startup
school in town about 3 years ago (maybe 4 now).  They use Linux and FOSS 100% throughout
the school.  All student, teacher and staff machines run off of the terminal server.  I
go there once every summer to update the server.  Having this school as a reference helps.  

But as far as convincing the staff, teachers, and administration, this has been about a
5 year total effort.  I started by just telling them about the software and
possibilities.  Then I slowly moved into some demos and a small lab (I never formally
told the staff that they had a new lab, I just built it and left the doors unlocked, it
was their decision if they wanted to wait for the mac lab or try this new thing out) to
show what things looked like.  Every time budget shortfalls came up in discussion I
mentioned FOSS and how it could save money.  But I think the most important part is I
never told anyone that we had to switch.  I just kept throwing the bone out and then as
they asked more and more about it I gave them needed information but told them that we
wouldn't make the change because I didn't think they were ready.  Finally this year the
President of the school told me we had $50,000 to update teacher machines and he would
like to switch from Macs to Windows.  I gave him the usual lines about how Windows is
subject to spyware and viruses and tough to manage... yadda, yadda, yadda.  I told him
that if we went to Windows we might have to hire another person part time.  I said as
much as I don't like Macs (flame away :-) I thought that at this point Macs were the
best option as they didn't put too much change on the teachers and staff, and that if we
were willing to move to Windows we may as well go Linux.  Then explained how much each
option would cost but said again, I don't think our staff and teachers can handle the
change yet.  I told him if I had my choice of what to do, I would upgrade all the lab
and media center machines for less than the budgeted $50,000 this year (which would only
have updated a portion of teacher machines), let students and teachers adjust to that
change for a year (I would put Firefox and OpenOffice on the Teacher Macs for a little
compatibility but not too much change).  Then the following year convert the teachers
for a fraction of the cost of going with Windows or Mac.  But then said that I didn't
think we should go that way because it would put too much stress on the staff/teachers
to make the change and it could cause some small curriculum hiccups which would require
change.  Long story short the President finally said "I want to go with this Linux open
source stuff, if we can offer hundreds more applications, save money on administration
costs, money on power consumption, and offer more computers for less money, then the
teachers and staff can deal with a little change".  I still tried to be hesitant instead
of leaping for joy and said that we should consult with the teachers and staff before
making such a change instead of blindsiding them over the summer.  Surprisingly when
presented to them they seemed to realize that even though this may be some work, we need
to make the changes.

Now everyone wants to make this a big deal publicly.  They now see that this is
something they can present to the public to show how "advanced" our school will be and
how we are environmentally conscious by using a lower power thin client solution and
machines with longer life cycles.  They now see this is a positive thing to show parents
who pay tuition how we are getting the biggest band for their buck in the area of
technology.  They will tout our increased application offerings and higher computer to
student ratio for less money.  We will also be offering connectivity to work from home
via FreeNX or VNC for students who are home sick or for doing homework at night.  They
will be able to provide the same software available at school to students for free.  It
seemed taking the not so pushy approach and just offering the facts in this case paid
off.  Our school President has now met with the administrators of all other private
schools in our Hiawatha Valley Conference (who our school competes with in sports) and
is preaching to them that Open Source is the future and this can help them overcome
their budgetary shortcomings while offering more computers and applications.  He is
trying to convince them to attend the North Central Linux Symposium (www.nclinux.net)
and is distributing our fliers to them for us now.

Now I just need to be sure it works :-)  This is a private school system, and once this
is successful and publicly released, the community will put the pressure on our public
school system.

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