Continuous training is vital to the success of any district information technology plan, because, unlike large corporations, districts don’t have specialized information technology personnel, says Dwayne Alton, director of information technology support at Lee County Public Schools in Florida.
“You really have to have the appropriate skill level” to put storage solutions in place, set up a wireless network or move resources to the cloud, he says. “You can’t just throw these solutions in place. You have to have people who understand the system. That’s a big challenge in school districts. … You have a small number of people doing everything. The Catch-22 is, when do you get these people time to train? Because they’re always supporting systems.”
Alton estimates that Lee County spent $120,000 to provide everyone in IT between 80 and 160 hours of training when they first created their major data center move more than three years ago. The costs and time have been about $28,000 and 120 hours per year since then, Alton says. “If you don’t invest in the training and use professional services to transfer the knowledge, you end up buying a big, shiny box that doesn’t really help you,” he says. “For the most part, if you invest in training and have staff to deal with your systems, it’s a huge money-saver.”
The exact amount can be hard to quantify, Alton adds, since it amounts to things like increased user downtime and decreased use of systems, because they are considered unreliable. “We tend to invest in equipment but not training,” he says. “IT people all agree on this; it’s how you sell it in tight budgetary times.”