DeKalb County District Goes Wireless from Border to Border

Our wireless news has attracted national attention! Let us know how it’s going at your schools — word is, the wireless is up and running and there is no more waiting for computers in the labs >>>

From T.H.E. Journal

After nearly a year of work, a Georgia school district with about 99,000 students has succeeded in going “100 percent wireless” in its 136 locations. The $4.5 million project at DeKalb County School District was put in place to support a number of wireless initiatives. The current hardware infrastructure supports 38,000 computers.

In 2011 voters passed a 60-month one-cent special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) to cover the expense of capital improvements, including building improvements, new schools, classroom additions, technology, and transportation needs.

On the technology front, in addition to providing wireless access for all classrooms, the district has been using the SPLOST funding to update hardware, provide interactive white boards, improve IT infrastructure, distribute digital content, and upgrade telecommunications infrastructure.

“District-wide wireless access allows us to maximize our investment in computers and smart boards,” said Melvin Johnson, chair of the county’s board of education. “We will be a more efficient school system as a result of this achievement, and our students will have access to more information and even greater opportunities to learn.”

Added Superintendent Michael Thurmond, “Achieving this major milestone brings us into the 21st century of technology and provides unprecedented access to information for our students… No longer must students take turns in a computer lab or rely solely on hard-wired technology. With this achievement, technology-based learning becomes part of the everyday classroom experience, broadening communication and learning across classrooms and schools for all of our students, teachers and administrators.”


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53 Responses to DeKalb County District Goes Wireless from Border to Border

  1. howdy1942 says:

    @Around the water cooler – I think all of us in Dekalb County appreciate teachers like you – no teacher should ever have had to take money out of his/her pocket to provide basic equipment, but I know that is done because you care.

    @Dekalbite2 – you make a great point! Those boards got installed most likely because the parents wanted them in the classroom. The point is that local communities would care more about classroom requirements and work to meet them. As it is now, Dekalb County is just too large geographically, its school system is too large, and the management is just not capable of meeting the basic needs. I also think that this point is the one that the Druid Hills community was seeking to address in its Petition for a school. Most likely, classroom requirement would be a top priority for them and other similar communities as opposed to the administrative priorities of the DCSS.

    I’d be delighted to assist in installing any new computers in the classroom and insuring that we do have a working wireless access system to the Internet and other learning facilities for those computers, but I want to start in my local community. Those kids and their parents are my neighbors. And my reward would be seeing them use those facilities and not in tooting my own horn.

  2. midvaledad says:

    According to Dr. Brantley, trailers get a different model, a portable one that isn’t hard wired through the ceiling. That is why there is a difference in costs between the two.

  3. Thanks for the clarification on the boards midvaledad. It’s a question I would have hoped a board member would have asked. But they don’t ask much. Thad is the only one. And Marshall- but only if it has to do with Druid Hills.

  4. midvaledad says:

    Well, it was Jim and John who really worked over the IT department to clarify the costs of the request for the Smart Boards. I wouldn’t have known without watching the meeting.

    Stan posted the video of the discussion here.

  5. midvaledad says:

    Bottom line, the trailers are getting Smart Boards and the county is not planning to get rid of the trailers.

  6. Fred in DeKalb says:

    “Bottom line, the trailers are getting Smart Boards and the county is not planning to get rid of the trailers.”

    It is good to hear that there is a solution to provide Smart Boards for those in trailers. Unfortunately, trailers will be here for quite a while. I saw on the news recently about a planned multi family development not far from Montgomery elementary school, in the I-285 and Ashford-Dunwoody corridor. That area is being bombarded with multi-family housing developments/proposals recently and will ultimately impact the schools in that area.

  7. Missed that midvale dad — good for Jim – he got Brantley to admit that the amount he asked for was far more than necessary (he admits they’ve done this three times and then took credit for creative ‘savings’…) The cost for the trailers Brantley now admits is the same as for classrooms. So when Jim did the math, it added up to $7 million. Brantley admitted that he was asking for the entire $9 million but didn’t think they’d spend it all (but we now see that his savings are not savings on the actual project bid – but on the amount placed in the original SPLOST budget). Thurmond defends Brantley and says that he has saved the district $7 million over the last two projects.

    Jim stated that (shockingly) there is a $2.3 million (39%) ‘cushion’. Brantley argues that it’s not for ‘unforseen’ costs – he just wants the whole budget. Thurmond asks the project manager to speak – and he says that there will be some ‘mobile’ units that will cost more and they don’t know where yet. Labs may want additional cables… yada yada.

    The actual thing is – Brantley — knew full well that the project will only cost a little over $7 million – yet he ASKED for the entire $9 million in the SPLOST budget allocated for this project. Thad states that the process needs to be accountable. On the back end, they are legally allowed to spend what was budgeted. But there is no process for accountability for overage or savings. So, the $9 million is legally available – but we have a fiduciary responsibility to the public. Thurmond says that due to the board’s oversight Brantley has saved the district $7 million. And you would expect him to continue right? Orson says it’s not prudent to approve $9 million when they are shown that the project only needs $7 million.

    Basically, they were caught presenting an inflated budget request and then tried to back pedal. It’s a matter of smoke and mirrors. He tried to cover up the over-sized request by fudging his budget and inflating numbers. He should have openly stated right up front – they are asking for the entire $9 million but expect costs to actually be around $7 million and look forward to placing the extra budget back into the SPLOST IV funds for other projects. It’s that old thing called trust and transparency.

    When you are honest, transparent and straightforward up front you never have to back pedal.

  8. Thad Mayfield is EXACTLY correct. This is the biggest problem in DeKalb schools. Budgets are set – be it general operations or SPLOST or whatever, but reports are never shared with exactly where spending is at any given time for individual budgets. Managers do not seem to be held accountable for their department budgets. They should be obsessed with their budget spending – and required to submit monthly reports. This is done in business all the time. Every purchase should be coded and held against a department budget – on an accrual basis (meaning you deduct for outstanding invoices even before they are paid so as to protect that money in the budget from being spent elsewhere in the interim). Those budget reports should be given to the Board every month. Are they? Maybe so – but we’ve never seen this kind of reporting in DeKalb. This is what people mean when they request business-like management.

  9. Is anyone familiar with the company E Bright mentioned by Brantley as the contractor? We can’t find out a thing.

  10. Teacher says:

    I teach in a fairly new school but have not had any access to a Promethean board. I am using wireless internet with a very old laptop that the school actually is not allowed to provide anymore.
    Bringing our own computers does not work because we do not get access to the internet password.
    We also have to sign up for computer lab use. There is only one computer lab for a school of 1000 students. The times I used the lab to access the textbook online — the access would not work anymore starting in 3rd period until 7th period when it would come back on. Continuous teaching using technology is not possible this way. During the middle of the day the strength of the internet just is too week to be able to use it.

  11. An aside: We not only need technology – but we desperately need to teach students life skills. Basic life skills.

    Here’s an article from On Common Ground News with a statement from the Labor Commissioner (which was Michael Thurmond’s old job, so he should ‘get’ this…)

    Georgia Labor Commissioner:Lack of ‘soft skills’ hurting job seekers

    CONYERS—Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said job seekers aren’t getting the jobs these days because they don’t exist. He said they’re not winning the nod of approval from employers because they lack “soft skills.”

    Butler said the lack of “soft skills”—dressing appropriately, showing up on time, using time wisely, getting along with co-workers and making appropriate posts on social media—are stopping job hopefuls from getting in the door and hindering new hires.

    “We might have referred to them as common sense or just being brought up right, but now they are considered soft skills,” said Butler. “We did a study that showed us about 67 percent of employers said because of a lack of soft skills, or the lack of the ability to express their technical skills, job seekers never got past the first interview.”

  12. midvaledad says:

    “Budgets are set – be it general operations or SPLOST or whatever, but reports are never shared with exactly where spending is at any given time for individual budgets.”
    You are correct except for SPLOST.

    URS is doing a very good job of tracking the money and making the information available. Some months there is a longer delay between the date of the report and it being posted, but everything is there.

  13. Dekalbite2 says:

    “We also have to sign up for computer lab use. There is only one computer lab for a school of 1000 students. The times I used the lab to access the textbook online — the access would not work anymore starting in 3rd period until 7th period when it would come back on.”

    Very common to have only one lab for the entire school in some of the elementary schools. How does Mr. Thurmond think this constitutes access for students?

    If teachers cannot depend on ALL of the computers in the lab to work, then they won’t even bother with the lab. If you spend time going to and from the lab and an hour in the lab and even 3 or 4 of the computers for your kids don’t work, then how do those kids complete the assignment – it’s not like those computers are vacant since others are signed up the other periods and even if there is a vacant period there is not an adult in the computer lab to watch make up the assignment. And how can the teacher let those 3 or 4 students miss his/her class while they try to make up the assignment? They will be missing other instruction. The unlucky kids who sat down in front of us working computers are like musical chairs – they are just out of luck. Pretty soon teachers just give up and don’t even bother with technology.

    At least the interactive boards only require one computer (the teacher computer) to work and the Board itself. That’s one reason teachers like them in addition to their flexibility and feedback with the student response. Most can at least depend on that board. But for students to put their hands on the technology and use it as an integral part of their class work, that continues to be problematic. Why is that so hard to get right? Abundant access for students to working technology should not be brain surgery. Many other school systems have had abundant access to technology for students for a decade.

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