New York Daily News -

April 3, 2004


Schools' hi-tech blitz on the fritz


By Joe Williams, Daily News Staff Writer


City schools spend $328 million on information technology each year, but there are plenty of bugs in the system, City Council members charged yesterday.


Thousands of classroom computers don't work, and the Department of Education Web site doesn't even list its own phone number, they said.


"I think we have a very long way to go," Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz (D-Manhattan), who heads the Council's Education Committee, told educrats at a hearing on the use of computer technology in the school system.


Charles Niessner, the Education Department's chief information officer, said the city spent $2 million last summer to determine that 14,000 of the 178,000 computers in the system are broken. He admitted, however, that there could be many more because investigators assumed that equipment unplugged for the summer was working.


"The computers were not plugged in, so we didn't check them," Niessner said.


The city has an $85 million annual contract with Dell Marketing that includes computer repairs, but teachers must have a telephone in their classroom to contact the help desk.


"You have a contract that is dependent upon calling, but there aren't any phones," Moskowitz said.


So many classrooms don't have Internet access that a multimillion-dollar contract for practice tests in reading and math this year had to be increased because many kids could not take the tests online as originally planned. The extra cash paid for paper copies of the practice tests, records obtained by the Daily News show.


School officials referred to the department's Web site and the city's 311 system as high-tech ways to get better information to parents, but its Web site does not list a phone number for the administrative offices at the Tweed Courthouse, Moskowitz said. Calls by The News to 311 did not produce the number, either.


Copyright 2004 Daily News, L.P.



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