I'm getting angry emails from folks telling me that CPS is going to go with the much-loathed FirstClass email system for another year, despite the need for (and apparent availability of) free Google versions of the same services. Here's what's purported to be an email from the folks at IT about the situation:
|From: Information & Technology Services
Sent: Friday, July 22, 2011 2:07 PMTo: Information & Technology Services
Subject: Email Replacement on Hold for New RFP
Dear CPS Colleagues:
We know you’ve been waiting a long time to hear what’s going on with Google@CPS, and we apologize for the delay. However, we will be issuing a new request for proposals (RFP) that will allow other interested vendors to participate in the process.
What this means to you is:
We know that many of you put a lot of your time and effort into the previous evaluation process, and we are grateful for your participation. Yet, we are confident that when the new process is complete and a decision is made, it will be the right one for the district.
We pledge to keep you informed throughout the new process, and we thank you for your patience and your interest.
Arshele Stevens, CIO
Here's an email from Eric Skalinder about the confused and frustrating situation (reprinted with permission):
I am sorry to say that, once again, CPS has wasted not only its money but the time and effort of its employees and students through its poor communication, ever-changing policies, inadequate planning, and careless decision making.
Earlier this year employees were informed that CPS would switch from its current outdated communication and collaboration system (FirstClass) to CPS@Google. After several months of evaluations, presentations, testing and approvals, CPS made the official announcement in February. 80% of volunteer evaluators – including high school and elementary teachers, central office staff, and citywide employees – chose GoogleApps over Windows Live. The CEO himself, Terry Mazany, sent out an email to every employee announcing the April switch as “a huge next step toward connecting each of you, whether you are a principal, teacher, student, or parent through low-cost access to 21st century educational tools”. According to a CPS survey, 90% of employees thought Google@CPS was a step in the right direction. CPS even encouraged teachers to sign up for the Google Teacher Academy in Seattle to receive training in Google technologies. The last communication on this matter came in April.
And now, as July closes, CPS has announced a cancellation of this improvement in communications and collaboration to “allow other interested vendors to participate in the process”. Forgive my cynicism but I can’t help but wonder who on the current Board of Education is connected to these “other interested vendors”.
When the move to Google@CPS was announced I took steps to lay the groundwork for that change. In addition to my belief that it is part of my professional duty to stay up to date on district supported technology integration, I also know that preparation and planning are essential to effective teaching and learning. As a proactive education professional who uses technology regularly in my coursework, I began the process of training myself in and prepping my returning students for the use of Google Docs and other Google tools. This prep work continued through the spring and summer. (Incidentally, my students love it.) I even purchased a netbook in anticipation of this switch to cloud computing, something I would not have otherwise done. I feel incredibly frustrated and disrespected as a professional by this whole ordeal.
CPS should not have announced the switch to Google@CPS unless they intended to follow through with these much needed improvements. They should have publicized the move away from Google@CPS long ago out of professional courtesy to their employees who often plan ahead months in advance. Given 90% employee approval of the switch, CPS should share publicly its rationale for its deselection of Google@CPS. And, CPS should apologize to not only its teachers, staff, and employees for wasting their time and effort but also to the city's taxpayers for wasting their money.