AASA School Solutions

Supporting Technology in an Era of Budget Cuts

by JOHN RAYMOND

I have a front-row seat in the swiftly changing world of school technology as the founder and president of PowerIT, a leading K-12 web applications provider and member of AASA’s School Solutions Center.

My company’s products are used in districts in more than 20 states to strengthen school-to-home communications, improve operational efficiency and lower administrative costs.

John Raymond



As a school system leader, you are well aware that a drop-off in school budgets has exposed a rift between heightened expectations for instructional technology services and products and what schools can deliver. Increasingly, IT staff find themselves stretched to the max and always behind, buried by the demands of setting up and servicing interactive whiteboards, projectors, laptops and document cameras, in addition to their regular job supporting the network and infrastructure.

Introducing Webware
One cost-effective solution is within our midst. It is “webware,” a term that describes a broad range of bundled products and services that are provided over the Internet. In our personal lives, webware allows us to do such things as online banking, e-mail or online purchasing. Now webware is finding a place in the K-12 sector.

The broad product category of K-12 webware includes everything from school website management to virtual learning environments to parent-teacher conference scheduling and beyond. The list of tools or platforms is growing. Webware eliminates overhead costs and frees technology staff to focus on mission-critical systems and on the all-important human side: directly supporting teaching and learning. And PowerIT’s webware tools offer districts a way to realize immediate returns on this investment.

Last fall’s H1N1 pandemic brought 1,996 confirmed cases and 10 deaths in Connecticut. At the New Fairfield Public Schools, staff used PowerIT’s teacher website platform to provide students and parents with 24/7 access to class materials as part of its H1N1 strategy. Once the pandemic scare died down, the staff continued to use the platform to support learning.

“Our teachers store lessons and units for student use at home,” says Superintendent Alicia Roy, adding, “It’s become the perfect means for students who are unable to attend school to stay abreast of their studies.”

The initiative involved a full overhaul of New Fairfield’s web communications. Yet it was accomplished with little involvement of district technology staff, who have plenty on their plates supporting the district network and other infrastructure. The teacher website tools’ annual cost is $9.95 per teacher; for New Fairfield Public Schools, with its 244 teachers, the expense comes to less than $2,500 per year.

Streamlined Management
Another area where webware excels is in streamlining common information management tasks, such as handling school forms. Webware tools called form builders enable nontechnical staff to put forms online in a way that eliminates paper, photo-copying, printing, postage costs, envelopes, mailings and data entry by staff. For districts that embrace this online form concept, cost savings are immediate and potentially significant.

Middle school staff in New Milford, Conn., used PowerIT’s form builder to replace a 20-page summer reading form mailed to hundreds of families. Based on various factors involved in the mailing, the district saved an estimated $6,000 in the process.

The Hillsborough County, Fla., Public Schools also found benefits. “Rather than [my IT department] developing separate online forms for each occasion from scratch, PowerIT’s Form Builder allows us to train the requesting department or individual to construct and manage their own forms,” says Larry Nanns, web communications manager for Hillsborough County. This allowed IT staff to focus on larger, more complicated projects, according to Nanns.

John Raymond is founder and president of PowerIT, based in Oakville, Conn. E-mail: john@poweritschools.com