Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 28, 2014

Editorial: College, school district learn efficiency lessons

Like talking about the weather, just about everyone in the public sector has something to say about cutting fat and reducing overhead. But almost nobody does anything about it.

When they do, taxpayers should be happy. And want more.

Northwestern Michigan College and Traverse City Area Public Schools have taken the first steps in what could prove to be a profitable tech venture.

Last summer NMC decided that instead of filling a vacancy for an executive director for learning resources and technology, they would contract with Todd Neibauer, TCAPS’ director of educational and administrative technology. They split his $113,000 annual salary and both saved some money.

The district and the college then created a fiber optic connection between them that should save up to $6,000 on fiber costs.

That opened the door to the next step, a “virtual desktop” project slated for fiscal year 2015. Neibauer said it will allow information technology staffers to troubleshoot individual district and college computers and update software changes from a single central location.

Those of us who work in an office with computers know there are never enough IT types to go around.

Being able to troubleshoot problems and do upgrades on individual computers spread out over a couple dozen buildings miles apart could be a big deal indeed.

That project will cost about $500,000, $300,000 from NMC and $200,000 from TCAPS. In addition to saving travel time to service computers and reduce computer downtime, the desktop system will allow shared purchasing and technological expertise.

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

Librarians from NMC and TCAPS recently met to discuss how to better prepare high school students for college-level research. That’s a classroom benefit that helps students better prepare for their next step.

There are no doubt dozens of other applications.

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