What Glenda Ritz got from Tony Bennett — a $1.7 million boondoggle

Apr 15, 2013 by

con artistThe three window blinds, at nearly $1,500 each, are about all the Indiana Department of Education has to show for the $1.7 million it has shelled out for some of the most high-tech video conferencing equipment available.

Well, the blinds actually aren’t all. There also are two $6,500 high-definition desktop videoconferencing units, which, as of last week, didn’t mesh with the department’s broader telecommunications system and, so, were being used as what a department employee called “a very expensive computer monitor.”

The rest of the $1.7 million worth of equipment hasn’t been delivered, largely because the new education superintendent’s team says it can’t figure out why the former superintendent’s administration bought it.

“It’s frustrating,” said David Galvin, a top aide to first-year Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. “It’s just frustrating because it seems there wasn’t a lot of thought put into the purchase. A lot of tax dollars were spent on something that we don’t know how to use, and we don’t even know if it’s needed.”

The purchase was finalized last summer, about three months before former Superintendent Tony Bennett lost his re-election bid. A three-page sales agreement includes dozens of pieces of high-tech equipment, software and services sold by California-based Cisco Systems, which at the time of the purchase employed Bennett’s former chief of staff.

The idea behind the spending, Bennett’s team told me, was to better connect the Department of Education with educators from across the state, and to make possible meetings on equipment billed by Cisco as a “dynamic way for dispersed teams to connect .”

Ritz’s team, however, says the purchase was extravagant and has provided them with high-tech headaches. They say the department doesn’t currently have the bandwidth to host the equipment and that its information technology workers have struggled to determine how to integrate the new equipment with existing hardware. As such, most of the new technology remains in a Cisco warehouse — long after Hoosier taxpayers paid for it.

via Matthew Tully: What Glenda Ritz got from Tony Bennett — a $1.7 million boondoggle | Indianapolis Star | indystar.com.

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