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Brandon District goes back in-house for tech



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February 19, 2014 - By Susan Bromley

Staff Writer

Brandon Twp.- Two years after outsourcing technology services, the school board is looking inward again.

The board voted 6-0 at their Feb. 17 meeting to terminate their contract with VARtek Services. Board Secretary Chris Yuchasz was absent.

"We outsourced technology two years ago— the first year went well, but the last several months, staffing has fallen apart," said Jan Meek, executive director of business services for the district. "We have spoken with them several times and it became clear they are not going to meet our needs."

Ending the contract, which the board approved for five years in December 2011 at a cost of $481,763 annually, will incur a hefty fee for the district. The board has selected to terminate for convenience rather than for cause, meaning they will pay VARtek a $72,264 fee. Meek explained that terminating for cause would have saved the district $24,000 in the fee cost; however, doing so could drag the process out over several months. VARtek would have an opportunity to resolve the contract issues and the district might disagree with the remedy and end up terminating anyway.

The contract with VARtek, a Dayton, Ohio based technology support company, was to cover all maintenance to existing technology equipment, including daily oversight ensuring that all technology runs smoothly. The contract was to expire June 30, 2017.

District administrators began researching privatization of techology support services in 2010. At the time, Superintendent Lorrie McMahon said that VARtek "brings expertise that we can't possibly have under the best circumstances within our district. They will maintain day-to-day operations, will offer a solid process for what to do with any breakdowns, and will guide us in using new technology and staying current. Our district has invested a lot in technology and we need to make sure we stay at the forefront."

The district's position of executive director of technology, held by Paul Spoor, was eliminated.

VARtek provided a director of technology for the district who was in the schools daily until October when he left the company to take another position. Since then, Meek said the district has been left with piecemeal staffing by VARtek.

"They claim they don't have to provide a minimum of staff," she said. "They said they have been unable to find a replacement for him. VARtek is located in Dayton, Ohio, so it probably makes it more difficult for them to recruit in this area... We have a list of issues, complaints, things have not been running smoothly and it's starting to build. It potentially affects students, we can't continue to go without that position and it affects our planning for future technology projects."

So it will be back to in-house technology staffing. Meek said she is unsure if the positions will be posted or if administrators will interview current or former technology staff.

"I believe there will be four or five technology positions, including a help desk position to answer phone calls and handle requests for service or repairs on computers and printers," she said. "After careful consideration, this will be the best solution in the interest of integrating technology with education going forward."

Board President Greg Allar said it was comforting to know the district has in-house capability.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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