Monday, May 19, 2014

Technology, playgrounds on CMS 'opportunity' list

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools budget plan that district leaders and county officials will review today includes a $46.2 million increase in county spending.  But there's also a page detailing almost $69 million in additional  "one-time funding opportunities"  should the county find itself with money left over.

Superintendent Heath Morrison says County Manager Dena Diorio asked the district to list such projects,  which wouldn't be an ongoing annual expense,  for consideration based on the county fund balance.  The list  (on p. 72 of the budget book) includes:

$1 million would get playground upgrades

*$28.9 million in environmental upgrades,  most of that to be spent improving indoor air quality at schools  --  work such as increasing fresh air flow or cleaning ducts.

*$22.8 million for technology,  most of it for  "devices/cases and charging trays"  for  middle school students.

*$9.8 million for  "general deferred maintenance."

*$3.5 million for bus video cameras and vehicle replacement.

*$2.6 million for roof replacements.

*$1 million for playground upgrades.

County commissioners will hear from CMS and CPCC officials at a special budget meeting at 3 p.m. Monday,  May 19.  It's in Room 267 of the Government Center and it's open to the public.  But Commissioner Bill James wants to discourage the massive turnout and testimonials that have marked meetings to discuss teacher raises --  and a recent commissioners' meeting that wasn't about the budget.

"Given the disturbance at the last County Commission meeting it might be a good idea to outline to the public and CMS that this is NOT a public hearing,"  James emailed Diorio and other county officials last week.  "The meeting is for the Boards to talk to each other, not listen to prepared speeches from students, presentations from MeckEd or other groups (PTA or teachers)."

I'm guessing the mid-afternoon timing will discourage a crowd.  But based on the email and social media traffic I've seen already,  we can count on another big mobilization for the county's June 11 public budget hearing.


Anonymous said...

mr. James your 15 minutes are up. Introduce term limits for county commissioners.

Wiley Coyote said...

I almost spit out my Raisin Bran laughing when I read this line:

County Manager Dena Diorio asked the district to list such projects, which wouldn't be an ongoing annual expense

$400,00 for "teacher growth - devices"... What the heck is that?

$21,400,000 for "devices/cases/charging trays"..for what? Technology is disposable. It changes rapidly so this is supposed to be a one time money grab that will satisfy technology three, five years down the road?

$42,330,000 of this request is for infrastructure wants - or needs depending on how you look at it - so why weren't these needs in the last bond referendum? How much of this funding request will go into schools we closed but reopened?

Buckets of money...Buckets of money...buckets of money.

Larry said...

Oh is this finally the day they get the magic amount they need to educate the children?

So many times we have provided what they asked, but sadly it was never enough.

But forget that definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different outcome.

We know for a fact this is the time when they will start doing what they have promised all the decades.

After all it is just the many futures of so many children we have wasted so far.

Larry said...

6;36 I agree, Bill James is no longer needed in Government.

We have media which no longer investigates, voters who vote as they are told, and elected officials using offices like they are cash cows.

Bill James is only a couple of elected officials I would expect to return my wallet if I dropped it in the Government Center.

So yes, he is apparently no longer needed by us as honesty, integrity and the like is just not needed to be an elected official anymore.

Anonymous said...

Wrong, if Bill James found a wallet in the Government Center he'd keep it for himself. It's the GOP way.

Anonymous said...

is there anything about CMS that you like?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 9:13, you activist dems are soooooooo clever. Same canned comments over and over and over. You are why I will go to the polls and pull the lever against every local dim candidate.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:13am.

Ex-mayor Cannon, was that you?

Anonymous said...

Liar. James is a good Christian.
He would give it back since a wallet would have a name and address.

Larry said...

9:34 Yes, the fact they are a great example of what government can do with unlimited taxpayer resources and man power.

Second the enclave schools which actually work.

Oh and the fact we know it is not money, teachers, administration or any other thing which is the problem, and it is the elected officials like Bill James which are the real problem.

Anonymous said...

When did budgets become this vague? What exactly do the "teacher devices" and "data operations" categories encompass? I can't imagine a corporate division getting away with this...what devices, how many, and approximately how much per device? We're talking tax payer money and we have the right to see the details before CMS is granted funding.

Ann, have you seen a breakdown of the costs for adding 6th grade at MIE for 2014-15? You published a general number, but I can't find any details.

Anonymous said...

like a democrat wallet would have money in it? ...

Anonymous said...

so if you lost your wallet or purse who would you rather find it?

Mr Bill James or "Dr" Vilma Leake?

Anonymous said...

Bill James is not a concern of mine, I could care less about the Dem/GOP debate either. I was merely curious if there is anything about CMS that you think is a positive.

Anonymous said...

"Teaching devices= stun guns at CMS.

Anonymous said...

What takes more money out of the people of Charlottes wallet

" In the name of God "


" Its for the children "

So much waste from MOrrison , the BofE and the County Comm. What a shame TAXPAYERS.

Anonymous said...

This joke of a money grab by Heath will get zero traction. Unfortunate for teachers , but he cannot drum up the support. When he leads with a tax increase the door is closed. Poor guy he just cannot get out from in front of himself. Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

As a's my thought on this: CMS gave all of us HP Revolves this year. Google Drive and other app type entities provide a plethora of options to incorporate tech in the classroom and at home on the part of kids. I kinda' consider it part of my job to read and research on my own and to learn how to use these sorts of things. I'm also kinda' a tech geek so I have lots of my own tech gadgets that I bring with me. Where the BIGGEST need is would be in computer lab access that can accommodate our VERY LARGE classes at the high school level and machines that don't take 30-40 minutes to boot up. You can update every computer in the system to Windows 7, but doing so on older machines (and PCs at that) that upgrade is going to grind them to a practical functional halt. I don't need someone to come tell me to use Apps or whatever...that stuff changes so fast...we need access to the use of computers because believe it or not, there are LOTS of kids without consistent computer, internet, printer access in their homes...It's really challenging to teach how to high schoolers how to properly type an MLA paper or how to construct an argument with credible sources, etc. when you have 37 in a class and 28 working computers that take 40 minutes to log on. Some of it is likely server/network infrastructure, etc. But aside from upping the allotments so we don't have such GINORMOUS classes, etc. we need to have basic gear that works. I can get my own "teacher devices"...even though I shouldn't have to...instead of all the "new fangled"...let's just get the basics that WORK and let's not have our classes bursting at the seams so I don't have so many kids doubled up at computers and we don't have to fight for lab time.

Jeff Wise said...

@ 7:38p - what you're really describing is a system of virtual PCs, or VDI's (virtual desktop interfaces).

While it'd be a significant initial investment, CMS could set up VDI's such that students and teachers could log into them from anywhere. They'd be locked down so they could only access certain resources and set up to save files to a cloud-like storage device. When rebooted they'd revert back to a first-use clean state.

Updating the OS, apps and other software would be managed centrally (and simply). It solves most of the BYOT issue and allows for older physical equipment to be used to stretch budget dollars as computing speed will be inside the VDI and independent of the client.

It'd be a huge project, but once it's in place it would solve a bunch of headaches for administration, students and teachers

Anonymous said...

Ann, I'm curious why some of the PTA's aren't covering a lot of these costs. Our south charlotte elementary school PTA has so much money they don't know what to do with it all.

Shamash said...

Anon 7:38pm.

Your computer situation sounds pretty sad. Having been in IT support for years, I understand.

Most management does not consider the ongoing cost of keeping computers up to date.

Unfortunately, many computers are obsolete in the sense of being "underpowered" within about 4 years unless you keep upgrading them with faster disks, processors, more memory, etc.

An HP Revolve, though, is a pretty nice laptop. Those things typically run around $1500 last time I checked.

Which means the teachers computer is probably A LOT nicer than what the rest of the class has.

Having said that, more than 3 minutes to boot a typical Windows PC is PATHOLOGICAL even on an older machine built within the last three to five years.

Anything older than that probably needs to be retired or "repurposed" to handle simple tasks only and should probably have a different operating system.

These older computers may not even work well for Web browsing unless you put a very light operating system on them.

My slowest home machine runs Vista and STILL boots in under 2 minutes.

I can get a faster boot using a Unix-based OS like Ubuntu (but I know schools probably can't use that because it is free and reliable and they're probably all hooked on Windows).

Sometimes simple things can speed up computer boot times, but you need to see the computer to tell.

Today a $59 Android tablet can probably outperform the typical Windows PC from 5 years ago for Web browsing.

Of course, since no one (or at least very few folks) profit(s) from selling $59 Android tablets, you are probably stuck with more expensive options or none at all.

It's so odd when you consider that only a few years ago, a sub-$100 "computer" was considered the key to spreading computing throughout third world countries.

Now cheap Android tablets can do this.

And putting a lighter OS on an old PC can about do the same for web browsing.

Other possibilities include using a good server and several lightweight client machines running remote desktop software (see Citrix for an example) per classroom for other software.

But, then you get into the licensing and such which run those costs up again.

Shamash said...


One problem with "sharing" systems like that (VDI) is usually the software licensing costs.

(Well, that and the cost of a good, reliable server(s)).

I know it's probably the most sensible solution, but there are always hidden costs like that which make it less desirable.

I'd just make sure they aren't locked into buying Windows licenses for each client, too.

A lot of schools seem to be locked into particular proprietary OS's, usually Apple or MS.

Anonymous said...

At my kids' elementary school, it's not that the PC's in the computer lab boot slowly, it's the logon script they use when they connect to the CMS servers. I've seen it take 5 minutes or more.

Anonymous said...

I do not agree with CMS policy of having kids bring iphones to school. It just increases the cyberbullying and distractions in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ May 20, 2014, 7:10 AM

If your PTA has so much money they don't know what to do with it, I have a suggestion:

Find a school with greater unmet needs than yours to which to donate.

Anonymous said...

CMS schools don't need more computer technology; they need more computer science education.

I'd argue that $100 Raspberry Pi's with coding courses in Scratch or Python, even in elementary school, would do far more for technology literacy than all the Windows PCs and iPad tablets you could fit into a whole school.

It's laughable that in 1979, I got a better and more complete elementary school computer science curriculum on Apple II computers than what we can consistently achieve in 2014.