Traverse City Record-Eagle


May 24, 2014

NMC, TCAPS laud shared tech services

TRAVERSE CITY — A decision to share technology resources between Northwestern Michigan College and Traverse City Area Public Schools is paying off at the close of the 2013-14 academic year, and officials expect more gains in the partnership’s second year.

The partnership began last summer, when community college officials decided against filling a vacancy for an executive director for learning resources and technology, and instead contracted with Todd Neibauer, TCAPS’ director of educational and administrative technology. The two entities now split Neibauer’s $113,000 annual salary.

Paul Soma, TCAPS’ associate superintendent of finance and operations, said sharing that salary saved TCAPS money.

“That’s just a bottom-line fact,” Soma said.

The two institutions also connected across 12 strands of fiber network at the end of 2013. That should save up to $6,000 on leased fiber costs annually and it paves the way for more collaboration.

“Now that we have the physical connection in place, there are lots of different things we can look at,” Neibauer said. “The biggest one is the virtual desktop.”

The “virtual desktop” project is slated for fiscal year 2015, college records show, and Neibauer said it will allow information technology staffers to troubleshoot individual computers and update software changes at the college and district from a single central location.

Officials estimate the project will cost about $500,000, with $300,000 paid by NMC and $200,000 from TCAPS.

Neibauer said the virtual desktop system will cut time spent driving between buildings and walking between classrooms to service computers.

That increased efficiency will compound with shared purchasing power and shared technological expertise to help TCAPS and NMC save more money.

NMC also saved about $15,000 by housing the management system for a new, college-wide wireless network at TCAPS’ data center.

Vicki Cook, NMC’s vice president of finance and administration, said the partnership’s benefits extend further than sharing technology.

Librarians from NMC, for example, recently met with their counterparts at TCAPS and discussed how to better prepare high school students for college-level research, according to NMC documents. That, from a student services perspective, benefits the TCAPS students who will enroll in NMC after they graduate.

“We’re able to supply what they are used to here,” Cook said. “That’s another aspect of it.”

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