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Group Fights Computer Switch —
Carteret Schools Plan Move to PCs


BY JANNETTE PIPPIN, DAILY NEWS STAFF

[On 4/20/01, the following article appeared in the local Jacksonville (NC) Daily News newspaper (and on its internet site). Since it has since been removed from it’s original site ("http://www.jdnews.com/stories/2001/04/29/news01.shtml"), it is being reposted here, verbatim.]

BEAUFORT -- Mac vs. PC: It’s a debate computer users wage every day. Now the battle line has moved to Carteret County.

John Droz Jr. of Emerald Isle, a spokesman for a citizens group, took the issue before the Board of Commissioners last week. He questioned a plan to switch Carteret County schools from Macintosh computers to PCs and Microsoft Windows.

He called it a move that would hurt students and teachers at a cost to taxpayers.

Droz, who worked in the computer field for more than 30 years and has volunteered thousands of hours of computer assistance to students and teachers, said there are three main reasons his group opposes the change.

He said studies indicate that students are more creative and more productive when using Macintosh equipment. Droz also said teachers he knows prefer the Mac.

“This computer decision will make their already demanding jobs unnecessarily more difficult,” he told commissioners.

Another concern is the financial impact, Droz said. “When this change gets consummated, the school budget will increase by approximately $1 million a year,” he said.

Factoring in a number of variables, including the initial purchase cost, setup and software, training costs, ongoing maintenance and the life of the computers, Droz estimated it will cost the schools $400 more per year per computer for PCs.

It’s a claim backed by a number of studies found by the group, including one by International Data Corporation.

When looking at the total cost of ownership, schools surveyed in the study gave Macintosh a higher rating than PCs for overall effectiveness.

The study looked beyond initial purchase costs for computers, and noted the savings of the Macintosh, which doesn’t have to be replaced as often, is used longer before an upgrade is needed, requires less technical support, and provides for easy and quick training.

Although Droz said he finds it difficult to place himself in a controversial situation, he believes he has the technical knowledge to assess the issue. And he feels it’s “just the right thing to do.”

A retiree who splits his time between homes here and in New York, Droz said he has a strong interest in education. In addition to his volunteer time providing computer assistance in the schools, he has served on a New York school board. And though he has been a Macintosh consultant, he has no current affiliation with Apple.

“This change is financially flawed and very harmful business,” he told commissioners.

Others also asked the board to give careful consideration to the computer change.

Bob Stone of Cape Carteret said the estimated $1 million additional cost is money that could be better spent elsewhere. “With $1 million, certainly we could get some good teachers,” he said.

Larry LaBrie of Pine Knoll Shores said although the county board does not have line-item control over the school system budget, it does have approval over the county’s overall spending. And he hopes the board will halt what they consider unnecessary spending.

“We’re hoping this is where the buck stops,” he said.

Droz asked that the county reactivate its Citizens Technical Advisory Committee, a group which was formed after the $29 million school bond referendum was passed in 1994. The bond provided funds to modernize the school system’s technology program.

It was recommended at that time that the school system standardize on Macintosh computers, which are now in use.