Purchase facilitated by changes implemented with Proposition 123
By Dana Trumbull
The agenda for the September 11, 2018, Apache Junction Unified School District Governing Board meeting was short, but critical. The one key action item was approved unanimously by the Board: IT infrastructure replacement and improvement, at a cost of $107,660.
The new system will be a “hyperconverged solution” – an all-in-one system with all components converged into one unit. In addition to being easier to troubleshoot, the solution provides system redundancy, so if one unit fails, another will take over the workload.
The price tag includes system and support for three years, provided by the low bid vendor, Nutanix. According to Director of Technology Renee Jackson, who joined AJUSD at the start of the current school year, Nutanix is an established leader in hyperconverged technology. They have worked extensively with school districts throughout the United States, including Arizona, and they have a reputation for excellent service.
The average life expectancy of a technology infrastructure system is five years. The infrastructure at AJUSD is now ten years old. With the shortage of capital funds available to schools (for several years, Arizona has provided capital funding at 15% of the amount specified by state law), AJUSD has been unable to replace critical components, leaving district technicians responsible for extensive and time consuming maintenance and management to keep systems running. The district has now reached a point where no replacement parts are available, no technical support is provided, and the system is out of storage capacity.
Fortunately, one of the lesser known components of Proposition 123, which passed in 2016, removed the fiscal year limitations on carryover funds, allowing districts to save for major purchases. Previously, school districts were very limited in the amount of money they could save from one fiscal year to the next, and funds left unspent were subject to forfeiture – being “swept” back into the state coffers.
“Now you can carry over whatever amount you want…which helps,” explained AJUSD Director of Finance Cindy Reichert. “It means we can plan ahead for things like this. We knew that we were going to have to do something about the technology infrastructure; we have been looking at this for a couple of years. So we’ve tried to set aside money each year, allocated to technology so that they could spend it specifically on this. We’ve been just kind of band-aiding things together and hoping that it would last.
“We tried to go the most cost effective way possible, because we don’t have a lot of money, as we all know; but it is just at the point where we can’t do it anymore. If we go down, we’re down, and there’s no coming back from it – everything is online now.”
District systems that depend on the technology infrastructure include: Synergy (attendance, grades, student records, parent vue, etc.); Versatrans (bus routing and transportation functions); Destiny (library functions); accounting systems; active directory (network management); network printers and internet access.