Sound Off

Sound Off: I was wondering why the Lawrence public school district does not have any computer-equipment inventory tracking system in place. How can they justify that?

The school district uses Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager to track all of its inventory, including projectors, tablets, printers and computers, said Chantel Nicolay, USD 497’s division director of technology and library media services.


hujiko 5 years, 11 months ago

Ignorant blind assertion from out of left field. Snide inquisition.

Boom, smack down.

NotRelated 5 years, 11 months ago

Sounds like someone who is rightfully concerned about an 11 million dollars tech inventory being handled by children.

Wait I take that back, an 11 million dollar inventory that could be better handled by children.

Actually, honestly, you'd be very surprised.

kthxbi 5 years, 11 months ago

If your name didn't so obviously mark you as USD IT I would assume you'd never met the staff.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 11 months ago

Sounds good...if MS SCCM was actually developed for this purpose. It wasn't.
It might have a small area in the GUI with very limited capabilities, but it is not an inventory tracking system.

ClassifiedPeonTechie 5 years, 11 months ago

If you were to click on the capabilities link near the bottom of the linked page, this is what you would see:

Asset Intelligence Configuration Manager includes asset intelligence technologies that provide administrators with continuous visibility into hardware and software assets and usage. Asset Intelligence translates inventory data into information, providing rich reports that help administrators with software purchasing decisions, upgrade plans, and license reporting.

Inventory Configuration Manager can inventory hardware and software in your organization to help give you a view into what resources you have. The new release helps you enable custom hardware inventory more easily, along with extending the inventory schema.

Cody Ochs 5 years, 11 months ago

The school district needs to start looking at using more free and open source software to free up money for other things. Asset management would be a good place to start.

Chris Phillips 5 years, 11 months ago

Free and Open Source software is a good idea. Unfortunately, people with the skill set and certifications to manage an inventory of that size are not widely available to work for the pay scale that a school system is willing to pay. Those that are willing to work for that pay don't have the skills and those that have the skills can make better money in a commercial environment.

Another issue, is compatability with existing systems requiring yet another level of skills adding another level of complexity. Free and Open Source are good for small environments, but larger implementations require a bit more thought on how you want to do that. You can not just get free software and expect it to do the same thing with the same level of integration and security you have already in place.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 11 months ago

Open Source is great, but oftentimes the cost savings of "free" software gets offset by having to pay someone who knows how to run, diagnose, fix and troubleshoot it.

Unfortunately, training administrators is one of the things Microsoft does very, very well.

A better use of F/OSS in the school system would be for technology students in a lab situation, rather than as production servers and workstations.

sayitstraight 5 years, 11 months ago

It is amazing the drama that can be created by one negative attitude in the work place. High school girls create less drama than a man with no future because of a lack of motivation to just WORK HARD. If you don't like your job, do yourself and everyone else a favor and find another one! Good luck with that!

KSManimal 5 years, 11 months ago

Endless spending and demand for more? Hmm.... USD 497 actually CUT spending by about 10 million over the past few years.

And, I bet you can't tell us the last time USD 497 raised your taxes, and by how much. We're waiting......

a34123h9038419 5 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

ClassifiedPeonTechie 5 years, 11 months ago

Ok, I take back my first post. This is the scorned lover.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 11 months ago

Only thing worse than a scorned lover is a scorned employee.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 11 months ago

Awww too bad you got my comment removed. It was a good'un too.

Now nobody will ever know that the USD IT employees were allowed to play World of Warcraft all day in the office, on publicly funded computers.

ClassifiedPeonTechie 5 years, 11 months ago

And you are making this assumption based on..........???

NotRelated 5 years, 11 months ago

Too bad the highest paid members of the school district prefer to hide these facts. What a bunch of swindlers, but I guess after they get a projector installed in their basement they don't really want to call out their underlings.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 11 months ago

I always thought it was really odd that bars all over town picked the same projector model as the USD. shrug

sugarpii 5 years, 11 months ago

It is amazing when this is brought up to the administrators attention about missing projectors and seeing them in local bars, they turn a blind eye. They have no idea what their inventory contains and where they are stored. I wouldn't put it past them that they are getting kick backs too.

sugarpii 5 years, 11 months ago

It is amazing when this is brought up to the administrators attention about missing projectors and seeing them in local bars, they turn a blind eye. They have no idea what their inventory contains and where they are stored. I wouldn't put it past them that they are getting kick backs too.

Aiko 5 years, 11 months ago

Microsoft provides that software free for Academic Environment.

Steve Bunch 5 years, 11 months ago

On this issue, as on most others large and small, people believe what they want to believe.

aRobot 5 years, 11 months ago

I have worked in the IT industry for many years and I have serious concerns about the answer given by Mrs. Nicolay.

First of all, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager is primarily used for software deployment and device management. It has a very limited amount of "inventory" features, and is only capable of monitoring networked inventory (this can be easily verified by going to the Microsoft SCCM website and researching the intended use of the product and it's key features). Every piece of technology mentioned in Mrs. Nicolay's response is a networked device. Essentially these devices are reporting themselves (once connected to the network) so they can be managed remotely. This is NOT an inventory database system, and Microsoft doesn't claim it to be. If Mrs. Nicolay truly believes that SCCM is an inventory database then she should also believe that a wireless router is an inventory database because it shows every device connected to it, and allows each device to be given a unique name or identifier. I don't think anyone would call a router an inventory database, and I do not accept Microsoft SCCM as an inventory database either.

What is the inventory database system for non-networked equipment? Computer monitors, network cables, external hard drives, computer memory, digital cameras, video cameras, document cameras, webcams, laptop power bricks, DVD drives, projector bulbs, expensive network tools, etc. In an organization as large as USD497 there have to be millions of dollars worth of non-networked technology. How is all of that tracked?

Test equipment (items that are not mainstream and may or may not be entered into SCCM) - How is that equipment tracked? If I asked for a list of all test equipment purchased in the last 3 years and where it is currently located could the USD497 tech department provide that information? I previously worked in an organization that had a big problem with "test equipment" never being entered into the inventory database, and then disappearing within a year or two. Can the school district show that it has an inventory system in place that prevents this type of situation from occurring?

aRobot 5 years, 11 months ago

Also, what is the school district's procedure for making sure that the equipment (including network-capable equipment like computers) makes it from the warehouse to the classroom? Do employees help themselves to stacks of computers with the assumption they will deliver it to the classroom rather than sell it on ebay? If this is the case then it means there will be no record of who removed equipment from the warehouse, and, therefore, it would be impossible to hold anyone accountable for missing equipment. Surely this cannot be how technology inventory is managed at USD497 so how are employees held accountable for equipment they remove from the warehouse?

I'm sure someone from the USD497 Technology Department can answer my questions. If not then it might be time to start moving toward an actual inventory system.

Oh, and as for the troll posts above which seem to be attacking people voicing a perfectly legitimate concern - If you trolls have any relevant information about USD497's technology inventory system then please share with the rest of us. If not then please go back under your bridge and wait for a goat while the adults discuss grownup topics. The school district easily has $10,000,000 worth of technology equipment. It is completely reasonable for the public to expect some accountability for that inventory.

Tony Kisner 5 years, 11 months ago

An inventory tracking system will confirm that yes the computer that was here yesterday is no longer here.

aRobot 5 years, 11 months ago

Exactly the point I was trying to make with the warehouse scenario. How is equipment tracked when it leaves the warehouse, but is not yet connected to the network? What kind of accountability is built into USD497s inventory system that prevents items from going from warehouse to ebay?

pace 5 years, 11 months ago

School administration when asked the tough questions, stand up and explain, I sit in meetings where they just lied through their teeth. They have neither the means nor the will to teach and administrate in the twenty first century.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 11 months ago

As a former employee of USD 497 IT, I would like to corroborate just about everything said by the Sound Off submitter. The best analogy of the IT department's funding would be the Oklahoma Land Rush. Employees got their hands on the technology far, far before inventory tracking began. The misappropriation of publicly funded technology was so commonplace that you could casually talk about it in the office.

So yes, MS-SCCM may have recorded which workstations actually hit the network, but some never hit the enterprise network at all. This is not even taking into consideration things that can't be tracked by a LAN manager -- external hard drives, projectors, network equipment, monitors, video cards, etc. It made me sick to my stomach. I could barely sleep at night. I don't know how anybody could. It was a very unhealthy and dishonest work environment.

I did what I thought was the right thing and reported it to the (former) IT director. The issue was swept under the carpet. When nothing happened there, I felt obligated to report it to the administrative staff at ESDC. I was laughed out of the room. To me, this was the real crux of the problem -- nobody in the head office would take a stand and do the right thing.

This post sounds to me like an employee who was in the same shoes as me a few years ago. I rattled all the cages I could but got no response. I was very fortunate to find another tech job and still remain in Lawrence, so I took my skills and good work ethic elsewhere. Lawrence isn't exactly a booming tech metropolis; I am very, very fortunate I could get out and still live here. Maybe this person is going to take a stand and make things better. Or maybe they are just a concerned citizen or parent. They could be a classified teacher who is fed up with their service as well.

Whoever you are, I'm glad you are standing up and making your concerns public. I have long since moved on, but I couldn't sit aside and not throw some support behind you.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 11 months ago

One more point:

What is really missing from this whole scenario is public oversight. The IT department is has one of the largest bankrolls for the USD, but has the least oversight. The public should be demanding routine external, 3rd-party audits.

aRobot 5 years, 11 months ago

+1 on the third party audits. Before the tech department receives any more giant chunks of cash I think the public deserves to see the receipts for at least the last few years.

Whatever happened to the $8,000,000 technology bond? We should probably ask to see a detailed report of how those funds were used before discussing future technology funding.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 11 months ago

I was hired just as the bond was passed. The money was gone in the blink of an eye with no sustainability plan. The bond was Powerball money. And, like most Powerball winners, the USD blew it all on a binge.

aRobot 5 years, 11 months ago

LJW Staff - There definitely seems to be some interest in this particular topic, and I would love to see someone do a little investigative reporting on USD497's technology inventory system. If there is a solid inventory system I can see no reason why the school district would be resistant to the idea. Sometimes a little public oversight goes a long way.

USD497 Staff - Can someone please provide more information about this topic? Inventory systems are usually well-defined, are capable of tracking all equipment and supplies, and have the ability to associate user IDs or names with equipment to insure maximum accountability. Does the school district have a comprehensive technology inventory system or doesn't it? I think we have covered the fact that SCCM is definitely NOT adequate as the sole inventory system for $10,000,000 worth of technology.

I can use cinder blocks to prop up my car, but that doesn't make them jack stands.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 11 months ago

As a parent who is about to send kids into the school system, I'd love to see some investigating done as well. Also, as a former journalist, my instincts are telling me it could be a great story. Or a crapstorm. (lol LJW censor)

Either way, it will bring some readers in!

sayitstraight 5 years, 11 months ago

I want an audit of how much time school district employees spend posting comments on ljworld. My tax dollars should not be paying for opinion chat time on the internet. Maybe the district could afford a really great inventory tracking system if they were rid of negative attitudes and more time was spent coming up with solutions rather than whining and drama.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 11 months ago

... said the school district employee from his workstation at 1:45pm!

sayitstraight 5 years, 11 months ago

Ha ha! I have never worked for the school district. However, I do pay plenty of taxes. I have hired many negative employees in my life but I was smart enough to recognize them and be rid of them.

NotRelated 5 years, 11 months ago

Well then you have a lot in common with those that are the most guilty of thievery @ USD497. They have never "worked" for the district either. They just take a paycheck, with no interest in supporting those who are trying to educate our kids.

sayitstraight 5 years, 11 months ago

Speaking of thievery, aren't you stealing from your employer if you are using your time at work to post your personal opinion on the internet? Stealing is wrong no matter how big or small. Check yourself!

sayitstraight 5 years, 11 months ago

And I hate to disappoint your already sad life but I do not work at the district and I don't receive a paycheck from the district. I have an opinion about people who post about their employers on the internet and I am expressing that opinion.

aRobot 5 years, 11 months ago

sayitstraight has offered no information about inventory, and decides instead to rant about USD497 employees rather than engage in adult conversation about $10,000,000 worth of equipment that may or may not be accounted for. He claims he is concerned about his tax dollars being wasted in one way, but has zero concern for it being wasted another way. This makes no logical sense unless sayitstraight has a vested interest in this particular topic.

So, sayitstraight, why be concerned about wasted wages, but not about the lack of accountability in a department that manages $10,000,000 worth of equipment?

Actually, don't answer that. (Your tactic of attempting to take focus off the real issue here almost worked!)

Back on track - Does USD497 have a comprehensive inventory system for technology or not?

(Trolls PLEASE remain under your bridges this time).

sayitstraight 5 years, 11 months ago

The great thing about America is I can write about anything I want and if someone takes it personally it is their problem. I never said I didn't have a problem with the "thought" of a lack of accoutability for district equipment. I like to focus more on what I know to be true. District employees are posting to this site right now and I am paying their wages with my tax dollars. It is only rumor that there may not be a system in place for inventory. Now get on your training wheels and go look for another job.

a34123h9038419 5 years, 11 months ago

"District employees are posting to this site right now" -- The only factual thing you have said so far today. Anybody who has worked at USD497 IT knows who this posting right now.

"It is only rumor that there may not be a system in place for inventory" -- When I worked there, not long ago at all, the "inventory system" was an Excel spreadsheet that was kept on an administrative assistant's laptop. She lost the laptop. slowclap for your inventory system

aRobot 5 years, 11 months ago

You know how we dispel rumors? With facts. If you have any facts related to the technology inventory system then please share.

Believe it or not this exchange of ideas (sometimes called communication) is seeking to disprove the idea that there is NOT a comprehensive inventory system for the tech department at USD497. You have repeatedly attempted to derail the conversation. This contributes nothing, and makes me think that there is a lonely bridge somewhere longing for a troll.

You claim to have facts regarding USD497 employees posting on this topic. Please share. Then we can validate your statements, and people might take you seriously for a moment.

By the way, I'm glad you live in America because I do too. We tolerate everyone here. Even the trolls ;)

kernal 5 years, 11 months ago

Or, can USD 497 account for the location of all it's computer inventory, including computers shipped to out-of-town virtual school students?

pagano 5 years, 11 months ago

Chantel Nicolay really needs to provide a better answer. I have to give this person the benefit of the doubt; perhaps she was misquoted. SCCM is not an asset management tool.

sugarpii 5 years, 11 months ago

It is amazing how the administrators over look when employees bring to their attention inventory issues as well as other dishonest and questionable activities. They are allowed to go on and be swept under the rug. This district shows too much of a buddy system and allows for these wrongful kinds of activities to be tolerated. There is a huge problem with that department., more than is stated in this question that has been brought to the attention of those in higher power. They seem to do a lot of sweeping under the rug. If the taxpayers knew the truth about this department, they would be asking for justice. Those in the department who have asked for assistance, are not taken serious or suffer for their honesty.

aRobot 5 years, 11 months ago

I really cannot believe that no one from USD497 has shared any additional information about the Tech Department's inventory system. Why consent to a Sound Off question, give a completely unacceptable answer, and then ignore requests for more info?

We, the citizens of Lawrence, MUST start holding the school district accountable for their actions. There is a huge problem with the lack of transparency, and I believe this topic is a perfect example. Are we really going to allow a one sentence response to a question about $10,000,000 worth of technology equipment? As taxpayers we should all consider ourselves shareholders of USD497. We should make it clear that a one sentence response that fails to fully answer a perfectly reasonable question about fiscal responsibility is NOT acceptable. A business owner would expect much more from their leadership, and so should we.

I strongly suggest that links to this discussion be emailed to all members of the school board along with requests to have the board address this issue during a public board meeting. Do not allow district leadership to offer insufficient information about the functions of a department and then ignore requests for clarification.

USD497 has made it very clear that accountability will not come from within.

bornon7 5 years, 11 months ago

Corruption, funds going to the wrong places, a few bad educators per school, awful school leaders, hiring friends and family within the district....that is USD497. We need a Watergate type of investigation that would really rock the entire district. Couldn't the LJW reporters use a new story?! I'd be very interested in what they find, or what they are ALLOWED to find.....hmmmm....

Oversight 5 years, 11 months ago

Board members were emailed yesterday and were encouraged to read this Sound Off and the comments that follow. I indicated in the email that Microsoft SCCM is not a comprehensive inventory database, and it is not capable of tracking any non-networked technology. I will post any responses that I receive.

Here is the first:

"I believe the sound off question was answered adequately. The district does have an inventory system in place.

If you have further concerns about the system we use, you are welcome to provide public comments at any board meeting. Early in the agenda, time is allotted to any member of the public to share comments or concerns with the board. Everyone is asked to limit their comments to 3 minutes. "

Oversight 5 years, 11 months ago

I requested that this board member provide additional information about the inventory system since they were so quick to assert that the district does have an inventory system in place. This indicates knowledge of the system so I'm hoping this knowledge will be shared with the public. I will post the reply if and when I receive it.

aRobot 5 years, 11 months ago

Answered adequately?!

"The school district uses Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager to track all of its inventory... said Chantel Nicolay"

Mrs. Nicolay clearly stated that Microsoft SCCM is used to track ALL of its inventory. ALL of it. THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE.

Microsoft SCCM is not capable of tracking non-networked equipment. How can this board member consider an answer to be adequate when the answer itself isn't even truthful?

aRobot 5 years, 11 months ago

Once again, can a single employee of USD497 give a detailed explanation of the Technology Department's inventory system?

I don't understand this. The lack of both information and communication is starting to make me think there is no inventory system, and the district leadership is hoping to ignore this issue until it goes away.

If there is a comprehensive inventory system in place then perhaps someone from the IT Dept. at USD497 could create a document detailing the system, post it on the USD497 website, and then post a link to the information here in the comments section. Is that asking the impossible?

Where is the accountability? Something is starting to smell a rotten...

NotRelated 5 years, 11 months ago

I'm not surprised the board would blindly agree with what they are told by admins. This seems to be the norm. I also don't see how bringing this up at a board meeting will be given anymore thought than a direct email asking the same questions. Are we to believe they would actually pursue any claims that the district does something wrong, especially at the Administration building? We have constantly been failed by our public school system. They seem to be of the mentality of this is how they do things, like it or leave it.

I also agree that them failing to address these concerns on this site or on their own shows they don't feel they ever need answer to the public. They should remember they are not a private industry, therefore they should take the public's concerns seriously.

kthxbi 5 years, 11 months ago

There is no inventory system. Implementing one would mean the "six pack" in the back would have to set down their mt. dew and actually stand up and move. Never going to happen.

kthxbi 5 years, 11 months ago

Wasn't one of the employees running an adult website from the office?

Ken Garner 5 years, 11 months ago

So....what can we do about this? We seriously have to just accept this answer knowing full well just how inaccurate it is. I agree with above, I would like to see ljw staff or reporters do a full story on this subject and maybe some more answers. I know one way of getting the ljw staffs attention is by continually discussing this matter, or at least the matter of why are we paying for the IT department employee to run a porn site, I can see the staff being way more excited about that subject.

aRobot 5 years, 11 months ago

Adult website? Wow. I would LOVE to see some more info on that. (Although if you can't even account for the millions of dollars of equipment you're responsible for then who would expect you to be responsible for the conduct of your employees.)

It seems there have been several current or former employees commenting on here with some fairly disturbing information. Is this stuff legit? Might seriously be time for a little investigative journalism...

aRobot 5 years, 11 months ago

And why hasn't a single person from the school district offered any additional information about the inventory system? Seriously people, we're not talking about a few thousand dollars worth of stuff here. We're talking about 10+ million dollars worth of taxpayer funded technology with probably at least one million dollars per year in additional spending. How is this equipment tracked? Who is accountable?

Oversight 5 years, 11 months ago

To my knowledge no further info has been offered by the school board either...

kthxbi 5 years, 11 months ago

I would like to apologize for one of the things I have posted. Diet Dr Pepper has replaced the mt dew in the IT department. Let there be no misunderstanding.

NotRelated 5 years, 11 months ago

Bigotry and fundamentalism remains. Oops add laziness and incompetence to that.

kthxbi 5 years, 11 months ago

No, it's now been replaced with diet bigotry and fundamentalism. Can you tast the difference?

NotRelated 5 years, 11 months ago

No but I can sense the anger in the air thank goodness for "scripts"

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