Skip Maine state header navigation

Agencies | Online Services | Help

 

INFORMATIONAL LETTER # 68

POLICY CODE: IJJA-R

To:            All Superintendents, Technology Coordinators, and Middle School Principals

From:        J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner

Date:        March 19, 2002

Re:           Maine Learning Technology Initiative and the Issue of Local Cost

                Please share this information with Technology Coordinators and Middle School Principals

        The Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI -- the “laptop initiative”) is moving closer to becoming a reality for Maine’s seventh graders in the Fall of 2002. A contract is in place with Apple Computer, and we are proceeding forward with the deployment of the nine regional exploration school sites across the State. Planning for initial professional development for all seventh grade teachers is underway, and will be provided from state resources and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Within the next few days, we should know with some finality whether the Legislature has preserved sufficient funds to move ahead. At this point, we are optimistic that policymakers will recognize that it is possible to address other critical needs in the state budget - including GPA and state agency clients - while also proceeding with this investment in the state’s educational future.

        Recently, a number of concerns have been raised in various communities regarding possible costs to local school units for the implementation of the MLTI project. In many cases, following discussion between school staff and staff here at the Department working on the learning technology project, the concerns have proven to be unfounded or overstated. Therefore, it is important that we take an opportunity to clarify some of these issues.

        This update is to inform you about the elements of the Apple contract and to address how certain cost items may be implicated in the contract, or in the expectations for successful implementation of the laptop program. The State’s contract with Apple is extraordinarily comprehensive and covers many areas of technical support, networking, servers, training, and other issues that are not typically addressed in a technology purchase. In conjunction with the other provisions made to fund professional development for teachers, the State contract largely covers the known costs of deployment in full. You can reference a summary of the contract on the web at <http://www.maine.gov/mlte/projectstatus.html>.

        Local costs that are not covered by the State contract include: additional electrical wiring, if any, for wireless access points (typically minimal or none); construction, if any, to accommodate installation (typically there will be none); and the cost of electricity for the wireless hubs and for recharging the computer devices. These costs should be minimal and will vary for each school. The electrical costs were clearly indicated on the Opt-In form that you submitted to participate in the program.

        This is not to say that there will be no impact locally to this initiative - we all know there will be time and effort associated with preparing our teachers and facilities; however, many specific items that are being anticipated by schools are simply not necessary to participate successfully in the initiative.

        To be specific, local schools are NOT expected to absorb the following specific costs:

        Insurance or Repair of Laptop Breakage or Damage: We expect no local cost for insurance or repair on the laptops, except perhaps in the case of intentional or reckless misuse by students or staff. The Apple contract includes extensive warranty and restoration-of-service provisions to ensure that no student is without a laptop for more than one day. For major device failures beyond warranty (including the screen), the Apple contract includes a “buffer pool” and spare devices - some of which will be kept on-site in each school - that can be substituted for damaged devices. This buffer pool and spares consists of a total of 900 devices initially, with any unused devices due to declining school enrollments used to replenish the buffer pool in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006. Experience data in existing laptop deployments in Guilford and elsewhere suggests a 1% failure rate, well within the allowance made. There has been considerable discussion and concern regarding insurance; after more in-depth conversations with Apple about warranty issues, and an analysis of the buffer pool and spare devices within the contract, we now believe that the purchase of the optional insurance of $50 per unit offered by Apple is just that - optional. The Department will be developing policies governing the provision of substitute devices, but at this point we expect that replacement will occur except in the case of intentional or reckless damage. In those cases, the Department - and, we hope, the school -- would want the person(s) responsible for the damage to participate in replacement costs in some fashion. Additionally, you may wish to include the equipment in your comprehensive property casualty insurance policy in the event that a building-wide loss should occur; our inquiries indicate the costs of this additional coverage should be minimal.

        Storage, Security, and Recharging Costs: We expect no, or minimal, local cost. The Apple contract provides for battery life that will last the entire school day; if the demonstration schools show a single battery is inadequate for day-long use, spare batteries and/or sufficient capacity for quick mid-day recharging must be provided under the contract. Although we understand that some schools may choose to acquire more sophisticated storage units and/or recharging stations, after-school recharging could be done in a variety of configurations with minimal impact. For example, devices can be plugged into surge protectors in any area of the school with up to 20 devices per 20-amp circuit. Storage carts and recharging stations are not required. Generally, storage and security sufficient to comply with Apple’s minimum requirements can be provided in existing school facilities, without additional costs.

        Licenses for Microsoft Office: In our view, the Microsoft software bundle is not necessary. The contract provides a full suite of Apple software, including Word Processing, Spreadsheet, Database, Paint, Presentation, and Movie editing functionalities. Files created in either Apple or MS will readily translate into, and be readable by, the other. Acquisition of MS software is truly a local option enhancement and not necessary to the implementation of this initiative.

        Security/filtering software: We expect no local cost. The devices and network provided under the Apple contract include the necessary security precautions, both hardwired and software-based. Security concerns due to connection to existing school networks are different for each school and at local option, therefore cannot be addressed by the Apple contract. Anti-virus protection software is provided. Filtering would be provided, at no local cost, by the University of Maine’s UNET at the point where the network connects to the Internet via the MSLN.

        Wireless Networking: We expect no local cost. The installation of the wireless network is provided under the Apple contract. This wireless installation includes a network switch and the installation of CAT 5 cabling necessary for the wireless access points.

I hope that this provides clarification on this important issue, and corrects some of the misunderstandings about local costs that may be circulating. We will continue to learn from the experience of the nine regional demonstration schools that are now in early deployment, and we will share the findings and best practices with you.

There are, of course, many desirable - but optional - supports and enhancements that can be locally selected. I request that you be careful in characterizing the local supports that are anticipated - including distinguishing whether the items in question are necessary for implementation, or simply desirable enhancements.

It is also important to put any claims of indirect or unanticipated costs in context: we estimate that the market value of the equipment and services provided by the State contract is in the range of $1500 to $2000 per student. For example, a middle school with 125 students would receive over $200,000 worth of equipment and services from the State-funded contract, as well as professional development. Moreover, the network, technical support, and professional development, as well as the software and hardware provided through the MLTI program should in fact save some current technology expenditures at the middle school level, and perhaps make possible local enhancements that are not now feasible.

The Department’s Technology Coordinator, Kim Quinn, an experienced technology coordinator and educator in public schools, and John Lunt, Technology Coordinator at Freeport Middle School and president of the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine (ACTEM), have both offered to assist with any questions or concerns you may have about potential local costs of participation. Please do not hesitate to contact Kim at kimberly.quinn@state.me.us <mailto:kimberly.quinn@state.me.us> or 624-6784, or John at john_lunt@coconetme.org <mailto:john_lunt@coconetme.org>.