Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


February 13, 2014

Laptop deal in question

Officials point fingers over school lease


“Why would we make that kind of change?” he asked. “Why make a unilateral decision ... without bringing it back to the boards to extend beyond the cable funds?”

Puzzanghera, who was in the audience, said that initially, it was determined 400 computers would be needed but that after an analysis of the school district’s needs, it was determined that an additional 160 computers were required for 560 staff members.

“That’s a 33 percent increase,” Major said, adding that “the remaining costs of the systems should come out of the school budget.”

Puzzanghera said it remained an “open question” how the latter years of the lease would be paid.

School Committee member David Birnbach agreed the money should come out of the school budget.

“That obligation should be through the entire life cycle of that asset,” he said. “It’s not fair or right that we cover year one, then go back to base camp and say, ‘How do we cover years two, three and four? I don’t think that’s cool.’”

McGrath disagreed, saying they should come out of the Information Technology budget because of a mistake made by the IT director.

“That was not the agreement,” McGrath said. “Those numbers were incorrect and I attempted to correct them along the way.”

While McGrath said she did get approval for the deal from School Committee members, Birnbach said, “This is news to me.”

A good cause

School Committee Chairman Dennis Forgue said that no matter what happened, the additional computers were for a good cause.

“It was an error in planning,” he said. “The decision for the children was for their teachers to have the equipment they needed for their kids. That’s the most important issue here.

“Was it the neatest thing in the world? Probably not. What prevailed at the end of the day was right for the students.”

He disputed Major’s contention that the matter represented a “disservice” to the community.

“A disservice is not doing the right thing for the community,” he said. “An error was made, the right thing was done for the kids, let’s move on.”

Forgue added, “We have to go back and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Mistakes get corrected.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Pictures of the Week