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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hunter Calls for More MHS-DSU Cooperation; What About Competition?

Madison Daily Leader master and commander Jon Hunter looks at Madison High School's part-time contract for technical services with Dakota State University instructor Rob Honomichl and sees a template for more MHS-DSU cooperation.

Quick review: MHS has lost both of its computer tech dudes at once, with tech coordinator Todd Beutler moving to Sioux Falls after 11 years of thankless toil and Honomichl taking the DSU instructor's position just a year and a half after assuming the new director of technology position at MHS. So suddenly left with no dedicated computer tech staff at the beginning of the school year, MHS swings a part-time deal with Honomichl to keep providing tech services on the side. Remarkably, rather than declaring this to be a purely temporary arrangement until we can find someone permanent (which shouldn't be hard in this recession), Superintendent Vince Schaefer appears to suggest in the print MDL that Honomichl's provisional, part-time position might become the norm, as the school sees how it goes.

I agree with Hunter that Madison is lucky to have a university with lots of tech-savvy staff and students available to freelance for our school district and other organizations. And I don't question Rob's ability to get the jobs done.

However, to think that our schools and businesses can meet their major tech needs on the cheap by coaxing full-time university staff to spend their evenings and weekends digging through the guts of other people's networks is a recipe for degraded quality in both workplaces. University staff have enough demands on their time with teaching, research, and service commitments on campus without an expectation in the community that they will make themselves available for side employment that warrants full-time staff. Provisional and part-time are not the proper adjectives for a technology services director at a facility like MHS with hundreds of machines and underage users to manage.

One can also wonder, if MHS thinks it can get the service it needs for $15,000 a year from a part-time employee, why it created the full-time technology services director position in 2008.

Of course, our man Hunter does get me thinking (as he always does): maybe DSU could play a bigger role in K-12 education in Madison. Remember good old General Beadle Campus School? We used to have a whole separate school educating 350 students right here in Madison, until that august old building burned down in 1963. We actually had school choice right here in town, two complete school systems, just a few blocks apart.

Perhaps DSU could promote K-12 education even more by competing again with the Madison Central School District. Let's rebuild the Campus Training School. Let's give our education majors a chance to work daily in a functioning elementary and high school right on their own campus. Let's give parents two options right here in town, two strong schools with competing science and math and athletics and and music and debate programs!

Good capitalist Jon Hunter should know that cooperation is for socialists. What Madison needs is some good old competition!


  1. The idea that a part-time tech person will be able to fill the shoes of two full-time computer people can only be temporary. As the laptops age and fail, staff will have to be added.

    Originally, MCSD had computer labs which allowed computer use on about a 1 to 3 basis. That alone kept Todd busy with breakdowns, software issues and teacher questions, all needed for continuation of classroom learning.

    Now, add 400 laptops in the high school, more computers at the Middle School and Grade School, rolling wireless labs. Rob Honomichl was to address integrating computer use into the curricullum side of education while Todd Beutler was hardware oriented.

    I'm surprised you would suggest more competition in K-12 Education when you know how the funding formula works. Bodies equal dollars. Less bodies, less dollars, less programs=weaker product at graduation.

    I'm also surprised you didn't scold the school board for backing out of the school funding lawsuit coalition of over 100 schools, which was originally supported by our district.

  2. Usually I do not comment on things, but I did want to set the record straight.

    The part-time tech person will NOT be filling the shoes of two full time computer people. I will remain on like you mentioned for integration and for some other aspects of the technology group. Todd's position has been posted on the internet since last Friday and will be filled, if you know of anyone have them go and apply. The district is aware of how much work Todd does and that that position has to be filled.

    Also there is a full time tech at the elementary school.

    And to address the situation of the recession. The moment Todd resigned I put somehting out on multiple listservs, to DSU faculty, people who had been laid off (put now found jobs), to the K-12 datacenter, and to friends that are IT managers around the state, and most told me they couldn't think of anyone, but we have had some inquire.


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