School district receives IT assessment

In this 2015 photo, Gov. Brian Sandoval visited Churchill County Middle School to see technolgy in action.From left are trustees Matt Hyde and Greg Koening, Sandoval and Supertintendent Dr. Sandra Sheldon.

In this 2015 photo, Gov. Brian Sandoval visited Churchill County Middle School to see technolgy in action.From left are trustees Matt Hyde and Greg Koening, Sandoval and Supertintendent Dr. Sandra Sheldon.

The Churchill County School Board trustees conducted a ribbon-cutting Thursday night for a new auxiliary gym at Churchill County High School (see related story in sports) and then tackled several agenda items involving technology and students fees collected at the high school.

John Endter, director of information technology for the Douglas County School District, had been asked by CCSD Superintendent, Dr. Sandra Sheldon, to assess the local IT operation in Churchill County.

According to Endter, he was asked to perform a high-level assessment that occurred during the first week of April. He examined the IT program at several schools and met with staff. Prior to meeting with the staff, he developed a list of questions.

“I needed to know where we stand today and where we’re going tomorrow,” he said.

Endter outlined five areas he reviewed.

First, he said CCSD should have a director or director-type person who will provide oversight to CCSD’s technology.

“There are many moving parts, and the director must have direct interaction with the superintendent,” he said.

Endter said the IT director must also know what’s going on inside the classrooms at every school.

Endter said the email system infrastructure needs revamping, and he had concerns that some staff members and students were using another email account. He said the email situation needs repair immediately before the district moves forward with any changes.

According to Endter, use said CCSD’s current Novella Platform does not integrate with the new technology, and he recommended the school district move into a different direction.

Under a new system, he said CCSD could disable an account immediately with one click.

Endter examined the number of servers in the district, his fourth area of the assessment. He said the school district should consolidate from many to several servers.

Finally, Endter said he was pleased to see students using the technology.

“I saw fifth graders who were excited to show how they use the Chrome book,” Endter said.

Overall, Endter said he didn’t see any major problems with CCSD’s technology setup except a few tweaks were needed.

“A few things need to happen, but you are in a good place,” he added.

During a question and answer period with the trustees, Endter said Microsoft would be a better domain for staff email, and he recommended student email go to Google. He said Google provides unlimited storage.

Trustee Carmen Schank asked Endter about cost. He said the cost is negligible in the actual migration.

“The cost in migration is probably two months of work full time to upload data and ensure function,” he said.

To accommodate the server that would have redundant storage would cost about $80,000.

“Some of your servers are over 10 years old,” he pointed out.” You have to do something with them.”

As for the system’s security, he said the school district needs to continue educating its staff.

Dan Slentz of Oasis Online said he has put together a timeline for improving the technology program. He said making the change from Novella to Microsoft must be completed during the summer. Slentz said making the migration to Microsoft would also require authenticating users who use CCSD computers.

At the next board meeting, Sheldon said she would like to extend a contract to Oasis.

The board also discussed the fee structure at the high school. While the school assesses fees for certain classes, the money goes into a student fund for disbursement.

Phyllys Dowd, director of Business Services, said the policy for collecting fees was updated in 2015.

“The policy was reviewed last year,” she told the board. “It is high for us (at the high school) to have $350,000 at the end of the school year. When students raise money, they should be able to spend their money.”

Sheldon said class fees and tuition help buy supplies for classroom projects.

The issue centers on whether the high school or school district should maintain the funds in an account. Sheldon favors school-district oversight, but further discussion revealed the switch could result in additional hours being spent by Dowd and the high-school office manager to maintain the funds.

Trustee Ron Evans said if the system is not broken why change it.

Ellena Marsh, who was speaking as both a teacher and parent, said more problems could arise with the account if more people have their hands in it.

“Those funds are specific,” she said.

Furthermore, Marsh said she feels like the staff is not trusted.

“Our students work hard for the fees and should be able to use them,” she added. “As a parent, I don’t want to see the fees I pay go to a general fund.”

Schank said she concurs with Evans.

CCHS Principal Kevin Lords said other school districts account for fees in a student account except Elko High School because it’s easier. If the district were to shift the fees to a general account, Dowd said her office issues checks on a weekly basis.


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