At the Select Board meeting on December 6 there will likely be a vote for the consolidation of Longmeadow's town wide IT resources under the auspices of the School Department and School Committee. There have been a couple of prior posts about this subject (see IT Consolidation- Part I, IT Consolidation- Part II) as well as a SB public hearing on November 15.
At this public hearing there were many comments from town residents both for and against the proposal. Some opposed the IT consolidation because it would require changing the Town Charter while other people objected that the school department should not be burdened with a broadening scope of their primary goals.
Tim Topitizer, a town resident and also a professional in the Information Technologies industry and with some prior involvement with the town's IT needs spoke against the proposed organization change. Mr. Topitizer asked why there was no strategic plan for the proposed consolidation and that there should be an assessment across all town and school departments looking at present and future needs before a consolidation takes place. I thought that his comments were right on target!
Below is a short video clip courtesy of LCTV with Mr. Topitizer's comments...
Consolidating the town's IT resources into a single function for a more effective use of our budget monies is a goal that most people agree is a good idea.
However, the town's IT effort has been under resourced for many years. Town Manager Robin Crosbie has managed to conduct town government business with only one full time IT employee + some occasional support from the School Department. With this proposed IT consolidation Ms. Crosbie will no longer have IT resources in the town government organization and will have to rely upon the School Superintendent and the new IT department to properly prioritize projects.
If this IT organization change occurs, I would still expect that the Town Manager to have IT goals and responsibilities even though the required resources will not be direct reports.
Our town has historically been financially limited in most budget areas and this is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. I am not concerned with line item transfers from the new IT dept for other school uses... but I am concerned that the business of our town and its residents may be compromised if the School Department and the School Committee must choose between educating our students (their primary mission) and all of the other IT needs for the town.
Rob Aseltine states that if this IT consolidation is to occur, it cannot be done under Town Government because of a recent Federal ruling by the US Dept of Education which prohibits IT consolidation of school dept resources outside the auspicies of the school dept. SB member Gold states that East Longmeadow has already completed their IT consolidation under town government. So it would appear that this issue is not clear.
I would urge the Select Board to defer this vote until a strategic plan and town/school wide assessment of needs is completed.