Saranac Lake High School
The Saranac Lake Central School District may change its email system from Microsoft to Gmail in the coming year.
District computer coordinator Caroleigh Meserole gave School Board members a presentation on the email conversion at their March 21 meeting in the Petrova library.
“This is a big deal,” Meserole said. “I think we’ll benefit from it. I think the students will benefit from it mostly.”
The school district currently uses Microsoft Exchange 2003 software, and it is faced with upgrading to the 2010 version. That would be a lot more expensive than switching to Gmail — Google Mail and Google Docs — which is widely used throughout the U.S. and by about 600 school districts in New York state.
Meserole cited two reasons for choosing Gmail: cost and ease of use. She recently saw a demonstration of the Gmail software.
“We were thoroughly impressed,” she said.
The conversion from Microsoft to Gmail would cost about $7,000, and Assistant Superintendent for Business Dan Bower said that would be reflected in an updated version of the budget once School Board members approve the switch. That’s a one-time cost; otherwise, Gmail is free.
With Gmail, the district would not have to update software, as they currently have to do with Microsoft; Google takes care of that. It would cost $4,325 a year with the Microsoft email system.
Students would each have 25 GB of memory in their Gmail accounts and an additional 1 GB of memory using Google Docs. They would also be able to use the Google calendar, which is part of the package. Plus, Gmail synchs with smart phones and iPads, so that is a plus, according to Meserole.
While the district would continue to maintain servers, Gmail users would essentially have their work online, in “the cloud,” as technology experts call it.
“When students have documents in the cloud … we can take advantage of scanning to PC,” Meserole said, adding that the conversion would save space on the district’s server.
Switching to Gmail would also standardize the user experience for all students, as not all students have Microsoft products at home. With Gmail, they can check their email from anywhere they get an Internet connection.
“Wherever they go, the documents will be,” Meserole said.
Contemplating an email conversion is not without worry.
“Security, that’s a big question,” Meserole said. “I have faith that they will keep it private.”
Gmail features spam control and encryption for security purposes.
“It’s hard to keep up with the spam,” Meserole said, adding that with Gmail, spam is almost non-existent.
Meserole told board members that she will follow up on Gmail references from other school districts and report back to them at a future meeting.
School Board members are getting closer to making a decision on the 2012-13 district spending plan and could adopt it on April 17 after the spring break.
Bower presented board members with a possible way to trim $1.4 million in order to stay within the state-mandated tax levy cap. The district aims to stay within the maximum allowable tax levy increase — $392,693 — above the current tax levy of $18,295,387.
At this stage in the budget process, there is an estimated $28,394,257 in expenses for 2012-13 and an estimated $26,749,049 in revenue, including a tax levy of $18,688,080. That means school officials are left with a $1,445,178 revenue shortfall.
There are a number of ways Bower plans to close that gap. The following cuts would realize a $783,000 savings.
•Attempt to eliminate positions without layoffs where possible.
•Health insurance rates are lower than expected.
•Eliminate UPK mid-day transportation.
•Reduce field trips.
•Eliminate one business office clerical position.
•Eliminate indoor track cut.
•Reduce in-house projects.
•Reduce facilities substitute budget by 50 percent.
•Revise the amount budgeted for special education purchases.
•Don’t replace five positions held by people who are retiring or have resigned. The district has received 17 notices thus far.
There could be another $228,000 in savings by eliminating additional positions where people are retiring or resigning (of the 17 people mentioned above); and by considering further reductions in programs without creating layoffs.
There is also potential for $360,000 in additional revenue, according to Bower. If the district can save money in the current budget, that may be able to be rolled over as part of the fund balance.
“We’re still trying to save every cent,” Bower said.
The district is negotiating contracts and could find savings there. Plus, there may be extra state aid.
“How much is in question,” Bower said.
The school district has until April 20 to adopt a budget. The School Board meets again on April 17.