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Technology topics dominate joint Wakefield/Milton school board meeting

Joint Wakefield/Milton school board OKs networking contract

May 08, 2014
WAKEFIELD The Joint Milton and Wakefield School Board met last week, April 30, at the Paul School where members reorganized, then spent much of the meeting discussing a web-based building maintenance program and the district's existing networking provider contract.

The first order of business, Wakefield School Board Chair Stephen Brown made a motion to name Bonnie Cyr as chair of the Wakefield Joint School Board. Milton School Board member Andy Crone was nominated as the chair of Milton's Joint School board. Both motions passed unanimously.

Early in the meeting, Brown brought up the subject of Wakefield withdrawing from the School Administrative Unit 64, which includes Milton Elementary School, the Nute Middle and High School, and the Paul School in Wakefield.

"I've been thinking about this for close to two years. I think it would be worthy for Wakefield to look into the possibility of doing SAU services on their own I believe we can do it for a lot less money than the $523,000 we're giving to Milton," said Brown. Wakefield School Board member Norma Joy said both school districts voted previously not to pursue the withdrawal, and that the request to pursue the matter did not make it in time for this year's ballot.

SAU 64 Superintendent Michael Tursi said the question would be asked to voters in both Wakefield and Milton and then if voters rejected the idea the board can move forward and form a planning committee that would put forth a ballot question for the following year.

Brown said even if the ballot question failed at a future March school district meeting, the board can ask the public again and if they can show voters can save a lot of money. He said the board didn't have a chance to look further into the idea.

School Dude web-based program

SAU 64 Facilities Director Bob Adams discussed the benefits of a web-based software program called School Dude that can help process, store and monitor maintenance services across all of the district's schools.

Adams said the program, which is used in some larger districts including Portsmouth, Somersworth and Concord, has been in use for 10 years. He explained that the program can log in maintenance requests, such as a request for new light bulbs or repairs to desks, plumbing or electrical problems, and, help track when the work order was completed and by whom and other details.

Adams said the program could help consolidate maintenance work. Currently, he takes in work order requests through email or in person, and he uses Excel software program to track maintenance work.

In response to a query from Wakefield School Board member Relf Fogg, who said he preferred a hands-on approach to maintenance rather than having a software program determine when work will be done, Adams said the program would help coordinate the work to be done and provide a better idea to the requestor as to when the work will be completed.

"This enhances communication it's not meant to replace communication," said Adams. School Dude would cost $6,369.29 the first year and then $3,535 annually.

"I don't see our cart as being this broke," said Fogg. "This seems to be another level of fluff, and unnecessary."

Superintendent Tursi then said the purchase of School Dude is a decision for each individual school board as it would have an impact on each school district's budgets. He suggested the topic be placed on the Facility Subcommittee's meeting agenda for continued discussion.

School Dude had at least one other fan among board members. Milton School Board member Anne Walsh said, "I kind of like it. It's a software program that facilitates efficiency in the [maintenance] department. The facility maintenance scheduling may not be a big at the Paul School, but with all the things we have going on at Nute, I think its great." She said if Adams could spend less time on paperwork, he would have more time to monitor what's going on at the schools.

"I just don't see the need for this at all" said Brown.

The joint board took no vote on the potential purchase of School Dude, and the consensus was to check out the web site [www.schooldude.com]; get more information and discuss it at the Facilities Subcommittee meetings at both boards.

Networking contract

In other business, Tursi said it was time for the board to consider renewing the three-year Back Bay Networks contract, as the contract is expiring. He said the company specifically works with the schools' networking systems and not on hardware. He said the company has worked well and that he is pleased with Back Bay Networks' performance. He said if a new company came in, that might affect momentum.

"It's running well at this point. Any type of problem that arise are addressed immediately," said Tursi.

Walsh noted that since Back Bay Networks came in, complaints have dropped dramatically. The contract renewal price is $133,600, reflecting no increase in price from its inception.

Brown and Fogg advocated putting the networking contract out to bid.

"I still think that for $133,000, information is always good to have and if we put this out to bid we'll have information to make a decision," said Brown. After additional discussion, Fogg withdrew a motion to put the network contract out to bid after considering Milton School District member Andy Crone concerns that it would be difficult to get a new network contract in place by June.

A motion to renew the Back Bay Networks contract passed, with Brown opposed.

The Wakefield School Board will meet on Wednersday, May 7, and on Wednesday, May 21, at the Paul School at 5 p.m.

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