COS getting into the tech business

Paul Palfini
Board members Barry Ohlund and Penny Heilman discuss a new tech support agreement between COS and Big Springs Elementary School.

Due to massive budget cuts, the College of the Siskiyous board of trustees has called upon every department head for ways to cut spending, save money and create revenue.

At its meeting on May 3, the Board of Trustees voted to approve a plan from the information technology department to provide technical support for Big Springs Elementary School.

Opposition from Cael Weston from Acme Computers and one COS board member raised concerns over its effects on Acme and other technical support businesses in Siskiyou County, as well as the overall ethical nature of the endeavor.

"My interests are obvious." said Weston in his letter to the board. "Acme Computer provides technology support to most of the municipalities and many of the school districts in Siskiyou County. The success of our business is based largely upon our ability to provide professional service at a reasonable cost... I believe this adventure into the private market is well-intentioned but ill-advised."

The agreement with Big Springs Elementary School will provide a base of $6,000 per the nine month school year in revenue to COS, according to the proposal. Additional hours of technical support will be provided at a rate of $45 per hour.

Weston claims the most basic financial analysis will show that COS’s IT's cost for providing technology services far exceeds the $45 per hour proposed in the agreement.

According to the agreement, the sum of $6,000 will be based on 15 service hours per month and an annual total of 133 hours. It is agreed that this amount includes all costs and expenses, including travel expenses, mileage, per diem, etc. The sum of allotted hours per month may be exceeded only upon written consent of Big Springs Union Elementary School and COS.

"I just can't buy into this," said board member Barry Ohlund, who represented the only vote against the program. When talking about the project's possible effects on small business, Ohlund noted, "COS is funded by taxpayers. We'd actually be competing with ourselves. I think it's morally and ethically wrong."

According to Jim Pindell, Principal of Big Springs Elementary, the school would have to heavily curtail its services if not for this agreement with COS.

Acme Computer charges twice the college's rate, but feels it might be possible to tailor its services around Big Springs' budget.

Services provided by COS will include network systems support and maintenance, technical support for BSE databases, staff and student network accounts, software maintenance and upgrades, hardware maintenance, technical purchasing recommendations and infrastructure design recommendations.

"I think this looks like a pretty good deal for Big Springs Elementary and COS," said board member Penny Heilman. "If the economy wasn't the way it was, we wouldn't be having this discussion."

According to the report submitted to the board, the volume of support required by Big Springs is relatively small, and with available resources, the COS IT department could manage their technical needs.

COS currently has no further plans to extend its services to other schools or businesses. Technical support for Big Springs Elementary is planned to begin this fall, at the start of the 2011/2012 school year.