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School Committee approves merger between town and school IT depts.

Date: 1/11/2010

Jan. 11, 2010

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW -- At the Special Town Meeting in October 2007, voters accepted a proposed merger between the schools' information technology (IT) department and the town's. With a positive vote from the School Committee last Monday evening, that merger is essentially complete.

"The following steps now that the School Committee has accepted it are that the Annual Town Meeting now has to approve it, according to MGL [Massachusetts General Law] C71 S37M," IT Director Ryan Quimby explained.

He added that a Technology Merge Advisory Committee will also be created to oversee the progress of the merge and to discuss the financial transfer, which is slated to take place during fiscal year 2011.

The merger takes the two separate IT departments and combines them into one -- one office, one system.

"I believe that this merger is going to be beneficial for the town as a whole," Quimby said. "We are going to provide increased services to the school department, while reducing costs by consolidating technology town-wide. We have already consolidated all servers into a virtual environment, and put in a new network town-wide."

Members of the School Committee supported the merger but were still cautious. "A lot of good things can come out of this," member Angela Thorpe said, "... [but] we need to make sure everybody's needs are being met."

Those needs include those of the schools' two IT employees, whose contracts expire on June 30. Quimby said they would be kept on in the IT department, despite a preliminary budget he assembled that cuts five percent from the current fiscal year's numbers.

Those employees will need to go through a three-month probationary period, however, as they are town employees moving into positions within a bargaining unit.

"I feel this merger will result in the schools getting the best technology possible," School Committee Chair Bill Fonseca told Reminder Publications. "This will also result in savings for the town in the long run. As budgets get tighter we must continually look at way to eliminate the duplication that takes place."

Greg Thompson, School Committee member, noted that this merger could be as fruitful as the one between the school department and the Department of Public Works, who now work together on school building maintenance.