School-developed software could earn district $800 K

Three top officials from New York State’s Niagara Falls City School District have formed their own company to market an information management program the district helped develop. The venture, if successful, could yield the Niagara Falls school system more than $800,000 in profit.

Superintendent Carmen A. Granto, business services administrator Roy W. Rogers, and information services chief Guy Rizzuto have launched an enterprise called “Integrated Educational Services” as part of an agreement they reached with Vision Associates of White Plains, N.Y., to become an authorized reseller of the data-warehousing program eScholar.

The school system opted out of its ownership interest in eScholar, for which it served as prototype, thereby protecting itself from any liability if something goes wrong with the software. However, the district can still collect up to $1.1 million in royalties on future sales of the program—a potential profit of some $825,000 after figuring in its $275,000 original investment.

The Niagara Falls school board approved the agreement Aug. 26.

The district had paid Vision Associates $230 an hour and provided numerous staff hours to help the company develop eScholar, a data-warehousing solution designed for the K-12 market.

eScholar pulls information from existing electronic systems and puts it in a form that is easy to analyze. The program helps administrators track student and staff attributes such as grades, attendance, discipline, test scores, demographic information, and teacher certification.

Using the software, officials can look for patterns that will help them make better decisions, such as the relationship between grades and attendance or between standardized test scores and teacher preparation.

Under its original arrangement, Niagara Falls would have been entitled to collect half the royalties on all sales of the software with no cap. Considering that Vision Associates predicts worldwide sales of as much $200 million, it might sound as if the district is giving up a potential windfall.

But being a co-developer of the program also would have left the district open to any lawsuits filed as a result of a software glitch or malfunction.

With the reworked deal in place, “If a future version of eScholar ‘crashed,’ no one could sue Niagara Falls, with its supposedly deep pockets,” Vision Associates President Shawn Bay told the Buffalo News.

Under the new agreement, the district will continue to reap a 50-percent royalty on sales of eScholar—including sales conducted by Integrated Educational Services—but only up to the $1.1 million cap.

Beyond protecting itself from potential lawsuits, the district also has been released from any obligation to continually update eScholar.

That responsibility—and a certain amount of liability—will now fall to Integrated Educational Services, the private firm launched by Granto and two other district officials.

Not everyone in the community is behind the move, however. In an editorial published in the Buffalo News, resident Lynn A. Garcia speculated on the potential conflict of interest posed by the arrangement.

“In the real world of business, a group of employees establishing a new business for themselves based upon technology or the business relationship of their employer would be in serious conflict of interest . . .” Garcia wrote.

But school board attorney Angelo Massaro believes the parties have sufficiently addressed the conflict-of-interest questions.

Integrated Educational Services will not have a direct relationship with the district. Instead, it will pay a royalty on its sales to Vision Associates, which will then forward the district’s cut to the school board. Furthermore, the new company will use private resources to upgrade eScholar and the district will enjoy future versions at no cost.

“Now, if [Integrated Educational Services] were to sell to the district, that would be a conflict of interest on the part of those employees,” Massaro told the Buffalo News.

Granto told the school board he would be happy to forgo the venture if the board sees a conflict.

On the other hand, Granto reminded the board, “If we do this, the more we sell, the more the board gets. And if the district receives $1 million, that’s a million less from the tax rolls.”


Integrated Educational Services

Niagara Falls City School District

Vision Associates Inc.


New software could help educators recognize the warning signs of violence

School administrators who are concerned about tracking and predicting potentially violent behavior in their students may soon have access to a new software program that promises to help keep kids safe.

The software, MOSAIC-2000, will be installed as a pilot program in 25 schools nationwide. It was developed by nationally-known violence prediction expert Gavin de Becker.

de Becker, who lives in Los Angeles, provides high-level protection for celebrities and public figures and has written two best-selling books on personal safety.

The result of more than ten years of research on violence and personal safety, MOSAIC-2000 is an advanced computer-aided assessment system that provides guidance in the evaluation of situations that might escalate to violence.

According to the product’s web site, the program works by drawing on research, expert opinion, and the study of more than 350,000 communications and 24,000 cases. Once new information is compared against this huge database, the program codes and assigns value to interrelated aspects of a case. The case screening results tell evaluators to what degree a case is similar to those that involve violence.

MOSAIC-2000 was developed for schools on the premise that every administrator has a method for evaluating students who make threats of violence, but no method for recording and analyzing these threats in an organized fashion for long-term examination. The program was designed to bring uniformity, structure, expert opinion, and validity to high-stakes evaluations such as these.

According to de Becker, MOSAIC-2000 allows educators to receive answers to questions such as:

• What is most important for me to learn about this situation?

• What information will most inform my evaluation?

• How can I organize all the information I gather to weigh it most effectively?

• What factors and warning signs are most relevant to future behavior?

• How can I express and document my conclusions?

For educational purposes, the system works like this:

• An administrator or counselor sits down with a student who has crossed a disciplinary line of some sort, such as making a threat.

• The student must answer questions about his behavior, which include information about movies and music the child favors; history of family problems or abuse; and behavioral indicators, like animal abuse.

• The software then compares these answers with the other recorded cases in the database to determine the possibility of future violence for that student.

Different versions of the MOSAIC software currently are being used for violence assessment by the California Highway Patrol, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the CIA, and the U.S. Marshal’s Office.

The program has received enthusiastic responses from law enforcement and government security agencies alike, de Becker said.

Ohio is one of the states with schools participating in the MOSIAC-2000 pilot program, thanks to the endorsements of Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery and State Schools Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman.

Montgomery will consider funding the software for Ohio schools if the pilot program is successful, said Chris Davey, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office. Indicators that the program is working to counteract violence could include decreases in student suspensions or expulsions or a documented intervention that prevented violence, Davey said.

Interest in school safety software and other violence prevention measures has increased as a result of the recent rash of school violence, most notably the school shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. Davey added that he believes that society is reaching a threshold for its toleration of such violence.

“We’ve tried getting tough, banning book bags, putting cameras in schools—sometimes you feel you’ve tried everything,” he said. “Here’s a guy who says we can predict it and stop it before it ever happens. If someone is stepping up to the plate, we need to take notice of it.”

The estimated cost of installing MOSAIC-2000 is $1,000 per district.

Gavin de Becker Inc.

Ohio Attorney General’s Office

tags serves up high school contests via the webParticipating schools get free video equipment in exchange for broadcasting their games

A new, free internet service for high schools can give your sports teams newfound exposure and give out-of-town fans unprecedented access to your school’s events. The program, called, also provides you with free video equipment and can make money for your school.

A national demonstration of was held Sept. 17, when a football game at a small Midwestern high school kicked off the fledgling service—one that soon might span every state and spread to other hometown sports and events.

Schools sign up for the program at no cost and, in return, get free video equipment and a part of the income from the sale of the games, said Michael Paolucci, president of

For those who want to tune in, games will be available on a pay-per-view basis, complete with individual player capsules, highlights, statistics, and audio voice-overs by nationally known broadcasters. Single game tapes, available on VHS or online, cost $19.95. But fans can buy a season pass and pay as little as $9.95 per game.

How much of that money goes to the school depends on how many teams the school has in the program and how many tapes they sell, Paolucci said.

Paolucci, a 29-year-old New York entrepreneur who has made his fortune on the internet, said offers a video-on-demand service on the internet for the first time for high school sports.

His first venture into the internet was in 1995 as cofounder of 24/7 Media Inc., an internet advertising firm that went public in 1998.

“Internet advertising was an important step, but at the end of the day there is nothing noble in selling advertising,” Paolucci said. “The product we are creating here is good for everybody.”

The program is good for the coach, good for recruiting athletes, and good for the school, he said.

Sterling High School in Kansas is the first to sign on for the service and hosted the demonstration game. The school plans to form a class where students can learn to utilize the technology not just for football games, but for other sports and concerts, said Principal Mike Berlinger.

“It is positive publicity. It gets some of our students’ pictures and stories out,” Berlinger said. “It also is getting us some equipment that will be used, really, by the whole school once this preliminary kickoff is done with.”

Students learn to tape the game, edit the highlights, and upload it all to the firm’s server.

“It brings groups of people together who wouldn’t necessarily associate with each other in a high school: the jocks and the techies,” Paolucci said.

Quarterback Daniel Smith produced the first player capsule from his home, where already has installed a satellite dish to speed communications.

The first half of the game was on the internet before the end of the half-time show, with the rest of the game posted shortly after the finish. Smith was to edit a game highlight for his capsule later that night.

“It’s a great opportunity to try to show what you can do,” Smith said.

His uncle in Yakima, Wash., planned to watch him play on the internet.

Cameron Zaid, 17, hopes his grandparents in Israel will finally get to watch him play football as well.

“I’ve only seen them twice, and I don’t speak Arabic and they don’t speak English,” Zaid said.

Meanwhile, the company does not have to pay a professional camera crew. Paolucci said he expects to turn a profit by 2001.

With more than 20,000 high schools across the country, the company already has received more interest than it can handle. And then there are the middle schools, Little League teams, school concerts, and graduation ceremonies.

“Once we prove this concept can work, and the quality is good enough over the internet, we will expand into these other things,” Paolucci said.

The school in Sterling was chosen to kick off the demonstration because it is a “quintessential small town” located in the heartland, far from the big cities out on the coast, Paolucci said. And, of course, it just happened to be the hometown of one of the publicists for the venture.

The central Kansas town, home to 2,500 people, is typical of other small towns, in that the community revolves around the school’s activities, Berlinger said.

Coach Monte Ball hopes the internet will help his players get more exposure to college recruiters.

“It’s neat for the kids to have the opportunity to see themselves on the internet and for people worldwide to see them,” Ball said.

Paolucci grew up the youngest of six boys who played lots of sports. His father was dedicated to his sons, he said, but could not attend all their games.

He said he wishes he could have a video today of that home run he hit when he was 12 years old against his archnemesis.

“That’s what got me motivated about this,” Paolucci said. “Video is right on the cusp. It is about to explode . . . I am not sure this concept would have been feasible without the internet.”


New Jersey districts to get broadband digital video network’Access New Jersey’ will bring live and stored video resources to schools throughout the state

Access New Jersey, a partnership between Bell Atlantic-New Jersey and FVC.COM, soon will give New Jersey’s students access to a $55 million, broadband digital video network. Representatives of the two companies have been busy touring the state to demonstrate how the new network will work.

“The students of New Jersey are really going to reap the advantages of video technology faster than students in other states,” said Rich Beyer, president and chief executive officer of FVC.COM.

The Access New Jersey network comes in response to Gov. Christine Todd Whitman’s promise to “deliver high-speed access to every classroom in New Jersey by 2002.” The system will use FVC.COM video networking equipment to deliver live and stored video resources to schools throughout the state, reaching more than 600,000 students by the end of this year.

“By working with Bell Atlantic and FVC.COM to video-enable our classrooms, we are leveling the playing field for New Jersey’s students by delivering the finest quality educational resources to all schools, regardless of geographic or socioeconomic boundaries,” Whitman said.

Through Access New Jersey, which will be funded by the state, classroom sessions can be broadcast live to multiple sites, maximizing the impact of guest speakers or subject matter experts.

For example, several video classrooms can participate in a real-time interactive interview with a senator or the curator of a museum. This interview can then be broadcast live to classrooms throughout the state, while being recorded for replay at a later time as part of another class session.

The network’s video capabilities are accessed through FVC.COM’s new web-based video portal interface, bringing unprecedented ease-of-use to video applications in the classroom, the company said. Through the video portal, users can place a live video call, broadcast the call to multiple sites, record material, and view it later on demand.

These services are delivered over Bell Atlantic’s broadband network, using video networking products from FVC.COM and private backbone networking products from Cisco Systems. Bell Atlantic’s Data Solutions Group will provide all on-site network monitoring and support to schools using the network.

So far, more than half of New Jersey’s school districts have signed on for the service, said Peter Ventimiglia, vice president of external affairs for Bell Atlantic-New Jersey. He said schools that had been using Bell Atlantic’s Interactive Distance Learning service, the company’s previous video offering, will automatically be switched to the Access New Jersey network.

“Bell Atlantic is the first RBOC [regional Bell operating company] to deliver broadband video services on a large scale to its customers. Now they have raised the bar for telecommunications carriers around the country,” said FVC.COM’s Beyer. “Through our continuing partnership, we look forward to delivering broadband video services to other parts of the Bell Atlantic region as well.”

Bell Atlantic


Cisco Systems Inc.


After-hours computer program sparks Fort Lauderdale students’ interests

Educators and law enforcement officials in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., believe they have found the answer to poor educational performance, student truancy, and high rates of suspension: They have teamed up on a project that gets kids interested in learning through computers and an online instructional program that is accessible outside of school as well.

Eleven Fort Lauderdale sites—including area schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and churches—are hooking students up to the online curriculum resource NovaNET. By the end of 1999, Fort Lauderdale expects 15 schools to be brought online, according to the program’s founder, Bob Cooke.

Cooke, the grant coordinator for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, said the program marks a unique partnership between the schools and the local law enforcement community. Funding for the project comes primarily from the U.S. Department of Justice through a local law enforcement block grant, with additional funding from the Broward County School Board.

“This combination of resources and caring people is what is needed to keep students’ academic fires lit outside of school hours,” Cooke said.

NovaNET, which recently was acquired by the Minneapolis-based company NCS Inc., is an interactive electronic curriculum that offers online classes in more than 100 subject areas. The program is designed to act like a personal tutor for each student and can be adjusted for different levels of instructional need.

The lessons use color and graphics to engage students’ imaginations, according to NovaNET. They are structured to accept original student answers to the questions they pose, so students develop critical thinking and analysis skills as well as general content knowledge.

All of NovaNET’s packaged curricula are organized into units consisting of a pre-test, NovaNET lessons, and a post-test. Because instructors are able to join in the learning process, they can override the system at any point to modify the prescription, re-assign tests, or advance students to the next unit, the company said.

With the many different sites, documentation for the program was critical, Cooke said. Students needed to be tracked as they moved from one site to another. NovaNET’s management system provides seamless recordkeeping, including remote monitoring and the ability to track a student’s complete progress. All NovaNET documentation is stored centrally and student records can be transferred from any NovaNET site in the country.

The system is customizable to meet very specific needs, according to NovaNET, so the curriculum in Fort Lauderdale has been designed to fully correlate with the Florida Sunshine Standards. NovaNET also provides students with access to practice versions of standardized tests such as the ACT/SAT, the GED, and the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills. In addition, preparation for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test was to be added to the program’s curriculum this fall.

Cooke said he expects the NovaNET program to enhance and support existing community programs designed to keep kids off the streets and interested in learning after-hours, such as the Youth Motivation Program, Weed and Seed Safe Haven, and the Community Development’s Welfare to Work program.

So far, the outcome of the program has been greater than expected, Cooke said. For the first time, many struggling teens are taking a whole new attitude toward learning, he said, adding that they are energized and eager to make more of their lives. “Students have control over their learning,” he said. “They can work at their own pace” and level.

Deborah Stubbs, principal of Dillard High School—one of the participating schools—agrees. “Students are diving right into the compelling, challenging, and interactive lessons,” she said.

Summed Cooke: “I want people involved to remember that NovaNET is an important component of the bigger project,” he said, “[which is] to maximize educational capabilities, increase the number of graduates with marketable and college applicable skills, revitalize interest in schools, and provide the tools essential to being positive and productive citizens.”

Broward County Public Schools

Fort Lauderdale Police Department

NovaNET Learning Inc.

U.S. Department of Justice


‘Principal Cam’ earns superintendent a felony conviction

A jury has convicted a northern California superintendent of felony eavesdropping for installing a hidden video recorder in a principal’s office. The case highlights the legal ambiguities brought on by an increased use of electronic surveillance in the workplace.

Craig Drennan, superintendent of the Modoc Joint Unified School District, was charged by Modoc County District Attorney Tom Buckwalter May 11 after police discovered the video camera in a fake smoke detector in former Modoc High School Principal Dewey Pasquini’s office (see eSchool News, July).

The jury took less than hour to find Drennan guilty of those charges Sept. 8. He faces up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $27,000, though Buckwalter said he would be surprised if the sentence involves prison time.

Superior Court Judge Larry Dryer scheduled a sentencing hearing for Oct. 12.

Drennan, who remains on paid administrative leave, said he installed the camera under the guidelines of the school district’s lawyer in an effort catch someone who had apparently rifled through personnel files in Pasquini’s office. The school board president also was aware of the camera.

Drennan told eSchool News last spring that he didn’t think he was acting illegally, because the camera recorded only video images and not sound.

“I don’t understand the charge,” Drennan said at the time. “As I understand the (penal) code and the case law, eavesdropping has to involve sound and it has to involve intent. There was no sound and there was no intent.”

Eavesdropping laws vary by state. In California, the penal code refers to the recording of “confidential communication,” and does not specifically mention or exclude videotaping or audiovisual surveillance.

After the verdict, Drennan told reporters that he was surprised by the jury’s decision and that he planned to appeal.

Assumption of privacy

Acting on a tip from an unnamed citizen, police discovered the camera on May 5. Chief of Police Larry Pickett said he learned the school district spent $4,500 to have the camera installed by a Redding, Calif., alarm company.

The camera was connected to a videotape recorder in the attic above the boys’ restroom, where the district’s maintenance chief testified he installed a new tape at 5 a.m. every day and delivered the previous day’s tape to Drennan’s office.

Pickett said Drennan told him that the tapes contained no evidence of wrongdoing in Pasquini’s office and that he had ordered the tapes destroyed.

When reached at his home last spring, Drennan said he didn’t inform the principal because he wanted to ensure that as few people knew about the camera as possible.

“When you put in a surveillance camera, you only want to tell the people that need to know,” he said. “I believe that by telling him, the surveillance would have been ineffective.

“It’s pretty standard procedure in lots of industries that when you think there’s a security problem, you have a secret camera installed,” he added.

Legal or not, however, the idea didn’t sit well with Principal Pasquini.

“I feel especially betrayed. It never occurred to me that anybody would do this. It caught me by surprise,” Pasquini said after the charges were filed.

“It’s always been considered a place where people could have privacy,” he said, referring to his private office. “The superintendent and I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, which is probably a reason for the video.”

Bill Hall, who was president of the district’s board of trustees when the camera was installed, said he didn’t have a problem with the superintendent’s plan, because Drennan told him he had spoken with the school district’s attorney and had been given the OK to install it.

But eSchool News ethics and law columnist David Splitt had this view: Although there is no mention of videotaping or “visual” surveillance in the California law, the statute is so broadly worded that even “silent surveillance” might be unlawful.

“On the other hand, the introductory language in the statute specifically mentions ‘listening devices,'” Splitt said. “The appellate court will have to consider whether the law is limited to eavesdropping on ‘sounds,’ or whether any type of communication is covered.”

If the court finds that the law covers sign language and lip reading, as well as other nonverbal communication, the conviction could stand, Splitt said.

Drennan has been on administrative leave with full pay since May 13. At press time, Interim Superintendent Don Demsher said the district board had made no move to seek Drennan’s dismissal or to find a regular replacement.

Modoc High School


Business Briefs: News from the companies that supply your schools’ technology solutions

ZapMe!, Dell ink alliance

ZapMe! Corp. and Dell Computer Corp. on Aug. 23 announced an alliance to bring Dell’s OptiPlex PCs and PowerEdge servers to ZapMe!-installed schools.

Under the agreement, Dell becomes the principal supplier of PCs and servers for the ZapMe! network. Through Dell’s custom factory integration service, DellPlus, the systems will be pre-configured with software for both internet connectivity and classroom instruction.

In addition, Dell has made an equity investment in ZapMe!, and the two companies will collaborate in both product development and joint marketing programs.

ZapMe! also appointed a new chief executive officer, Rick Inatome, on Sept. 20. Inatome was founder and served as CEO of Inacomp Computer Centers and is chairman of its successor company, Inacom Corp., a global Fortune 500 technology services provider. In addition, he co-founded Computer City, one of the country’s leading computer superstore chains, and is co-chairman of American Speedy Printing Centers Inc., the nation’s fourth largest quick-printing chain.

ZapMe! founder Lance Mortensen will remain actively involved as chairman and devote his efforts to business development and creative strategies, the company said.

Lightspan acquires Global Schoolhouse

The Lightspan Partnership Inc., developers of comprehensive educational software and web-based tools and activities for classroom learning, on Sept. 8 announced the acquisition of Global Schoolhouse, a leading web site for classroom-to-classroom communication.

With this acquisition, Lightspan is well positioned to bring the best in collaborative learning activities to more teachers and to extend its mission of improving student achievement, the company said in a press release.

“Global Schoolhouse and Lightspan are a natural fit,” said Winnie Wechsler, senior vice president and general manager of Lightspan’s internet services. “Our mission is to use technology to help kids learn, and Global Schoolhouse, a true pioneer in using the internet for exchanging ideas and information, will enhance Lightspan’s growing online community for teachers, kids, and parents.”

Proceeds from the purchase of Global Schoolhouse will serve as an endowment for the non-profit Global SchoolNet Foundation. “As a result of this endowment, the foundation will be able to provide grants to teachers for expanding classroom use of the internet,” said Yvonne Marie Andres, co-founder of Global Schoolhouse and a new vice president at Lightspan.

“The goal is to reward those forward-thinking teachers and organizations—and help them put in place great online curriculum projects for their students,” Andres continued. The first grants will be awarded early next year, she said.

College Board to create for-profit web site

Pressure from the rapidly expanding online industry that helps students prepare for and select colleges has motivated the College Board, the non-profit organization that administers the SAT, to create its first for-profit subsidiary in a move to establish a full-service web site of its own.

The decision marks a radical shift for the century-old organization best known as the objective overseer of college entrance exams. The move follows a host of other advertisement-driven online ventures, including an upgrade of the Princeton Review’s web site, that focus on the lucrative high school and college market—a trend that has raised concerns among many about the commercialization of education.

The College Board’s plan for a web site to cater to a college applicant’s every need, from financial aid forms to SAT tutoring, marks the convergence of two major trends in education in the 1990s: the expansion of for-profit enterprises and the large number of electronic endeavors.

“We’re living in a world of piranha economics in regard to education,” Arthur Levine, president of the Teacher’s College at Columbia University, told the New York Times. “Every Wall Street firm, seemingly, has an education department. Venture capitalists are moving into this very quickly. Any nonprofit that fails to recognize both the opportunities and the challenges that come from the digital world is destined for extinction.”

Cisco gets into fiber optics with $7.4 billion acquisitions

Shoring up an iron grip on the market for internet equipment, Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., is paying $7.4 billion for two companies with expertise in the fiber-optic technology needed to carry telephone calls and TV over data networks.

The acquisitions of Cerent and Monterey Networks, announced Aug. 26, put Cisco in direct competition with Lucent Technologies, Nortel Networks, and Alcatel in a market that analysts expect to grow to $10 billion during the next three years.

The Cerent purchase is the biggest ever for Cisco, which today controls roughly 85 percent of the world’s market for the routers and switches that direct data around computer networks.

“The size of this deal really surprised me, but Cisco had a clear hole in their product portfolio, and they simply had to fill it,” said Chandan Sarkar, an analyst at Soundview Financial. “I think these guys had Cisco over a barrel.”

Cerent, based in Petaluma, Calif., makes a microwave-sized device that can be used by providers of cable, phone, and internet service to ease bottlenecks between the speedy fiber-optic “backbones” that make up the internet and older, slower telephone networks made with copper.

Monterey, based in Richardson, Texas, makes technology used to increase capacity at the core of an optical network.

“The internet is going optical fiber, no doubt, and Cisco just wasn’t in on it yet,” said Gina Socklow, an analyst at Brean Murray & Co. “Now they’re back in the race.”

Mike Volpi, Cisco’s vice president of business development, said the deals will enable it to help customers such as internet service providers make the transition from “old world networks—voice networks” to multimedia networks carrying data, voice, and video together.

Analysts say CEO departure will hurt Iomega

Stock analysts say the departure of Iomega’s chief executive officer, Jodie Glore, will hurt the struggle to right greater stability to the company.

Glore was the second CEO to leave the company in 10 months. He was temporarily replaced by David J. Dunn, who said he plans to return the company to “profitable growth.”

“The fact that Jodie is leaving is a significant impediment to the return to profitability of Iomega,” said analyst Stan Corker of Pennsylvania-based Emerald Research, during a round-table discussion of analysts carried over the internet.

Officials at the Roy, Utah-based company, which makes disk drives for computer data storage, said they don’t understand the pessimism.

“We’re puzzled here at some of the reaction,” said spokeswoman Janet Kacskos. “Some of the comments have got the employees scratching their heads.” She said the company has new hardware and software hitting the market and “we’re full steam ahead.”

Reasons for Glore’s Aug. 19 resignation are unclear. He joined the company last October, and said he was leaving to spend time with his family. But there was speculation that Glore may have been asked to leave the company.

When Glore was hired, his job was to right a company whose stock price had fallen from $40 per share in 1995 and had fallen to $9 when he took over. But analysts were critical of Glore’s performance, including layoffs and plant closures in California, billed as cost-cutting moves.

In all, seven top executives, not including the CEOs, have left in the past two years, which Corker said made it tough to turn the company around. That’s bad news for a company pinning its future on a strong fourth quarter, Corker said.

Western Digital recalls 400,000 computer hard drives

A defective computer chip has forced Western Digital Corp., of Orange County, Calif., to recall 400,000 hard disk drives.

Western Digital officials said it was unclear how many of the affected hard drives actually were in consumer hands or how much the recall would cost.

The company, which supplies equipment to Gateway Inc. and Compaq Computer Corp., said many of the disk drives were still in the hands of manufacturers and sellers.

The defect can cause the hard drives to fail to power up after six to 12 months of use, company officials said Sept. 27.

“No data has been lost, and none is in danger of being lost,” said Charles Haggerty, Western Digital’s chief executive.

The recall is the latest in a string of problems for the company, including recent layoffs and a plunging stock price.

The hard drives being recalled are part of the WD Cavair series. They were made between Aug. 27 and Sept. 24 and have drive capacities between 6.4 gigabytes and 20.5 gigabytes, the company said.

Consumers who purchased computers in the past month can check specification sheets on their machines to see if they include a Western Digital drive, officials said. The company’s web site,, offers a software program that can be downloaded to identify affected products.


Technology Champion: Lake Washington’s Chip Kimball isleading a four-part plan for successInfrastructure, access, culture, and information are keys to his approach

Chip Kimball is well on his way to achieving the goal he has set for himself and the Lake Washington School District.

“My charter was to create the most information-rich school district in the country,” he said. “Ideally, we want to use technology for the betterment of the whole system.”

Kimball, the assistant superintendent for Lake Washington, is a former science teacher and technology coordinator for Madera School District and has held positions as a private-sector technology consultant and Technology Center Fellow.

He recently led his district to the largest funding measure in its history ($260 million), including $30 million for technology. A successful grant writer and public speaker, Kimball also has published numerous works on funding, technology planning, and implementation.

Lake Washington, located in Redmond, Wash., consists of 42 schools and an estimated 25,000 students

If one glance at Lake Washington’s impressive web site is not enough to convince browsers that this is one tech-savvy school district, then the ambitious technology plan outlined by Kimball no doubt would convert them.

“We have created four areas of focus, in order of priority: infrastructure, access, culture, and information resources,” Kimball explained.

Kimball believes the first two aspects of his four-part technology plan are key to paving a school district’s way to the information superhighway: In order to harness technology’s true potential, leaders must first pay attention to infrastructure and access, he said.

Lake Washington has already achieved a large portion of its hardware and software goals. “We have rewired our whole school district with fiber optic cables at all levels,” Kimball stated. “We have fiber optics direct to our classrooms.”

High-bandwidth technology provided through fiber-optics is especially impressive, considering there are school systems nationwide still waiting for any kind of internet access.

In addition to very high-speed internet access for Lake Washington’s students, Kimball has helped the district achieve one of the best student to computer ratios in the nation, with four students to every multimedia computer district-wide.

But Kimball and his district are not just committed to providing their students with computers and internet access. As part of its infrastructure initiatives, the district has pledged that none of its equipment will be any older than five years.

“That means that in any given year, we upgrade 20 percent of our equipment,” Kimball noted, and added that Lake Washington students are learning how to use very current equipment.

Culture of technology

The district is currently focusing its energies on the third part of the four-fold technology plan by trying to create a culture of technology at Lake Washington.

In order to ensure that teachers are provided with the training they need to utilize Lake Washington’s high-level technology for teaching and learning, district leaders have implemented a four-step professional development program.

The first step helps turn computer-illiterate educators into “information navigators.” Kimball defined the information navigator as a staff member who “can demonstrate basic skills.” These teachers and administrators should be able to use and apply software such as Word, Excel, and Access, use search engines to find information on the world wide web, and feel comfortable with Windows-based architecture.

The district has set teacher standards to be proficiency-based rather than “seat-time” based, according to Kimball, which means teachers must demonstrate an actual cache of computer knowledge, not just an attendance at computer training sessions.

The second level that educators are encouraged to attain is the “information integrator.” Kimball defines this type of staff member as one who “can integrate technology into a student-centered, project-based curriculum.” Integrators attempt to facilitate a technology-rich environment at their school, Kimball said, and Lake Washington plans to foster this philosophy by sending all 13,000 teachers in the district to a six-day summer institute on the subject.

The third level that tech-culture leaders in the district hope to achieve is the “information synthesizer.” This is a person who can use computer data effectively in order to assess statistics, look at patterns, and understand demographics to better serve students.

Kimball hopes that many educators will reach the highest level of technology culture and become what Lake Washington calls an “information mentor.” Mentors have the capabilities necessary to teach other colleagues how to use technology effectively.

He estimates that 50 percent of the staff is now up to the “navigator” level, and about 250 educators are “integrators” as of last summer’s training institute. In order to ensure that the district is not supplying untrained teachers with high-tech equipment, schools only become eligible for computer upgrades after a certain number of educators have completed integrator training. The district expects 500 educators to attend the institute next summer and another 500 to attend in 2001.

Kimball’s philosophy on staff development in schools indicates his commitment to providing Lake Washington students with a technology-rich learning environment: “We have high expectations of our staff. We don’t want you to work here unless you are comfortable with and able to use technology.”

The emphasis on computer learning is also demonstrated by the fact that the only way to get a job at Lake Washington School District is through the web.

The fourth and final stage of Kimball’s technology plan—the information resource component—is a wide-reaching goal for all educational activities to be accessible electronically. For example, if students are studying the Civil War, they could log on to the district’s network; receive a list of all appropriate sites, texts, and sources; find their assignment; and receive instruction and feedback. Lake Washington already has its card catalogs, encyclopedias, and other sources online.

Kimball said that Lake Washington is working on this final goal in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Education, and the district hopes to have this component operational by next fall. But, he added, “We’ve had problems finding adequate products. We may have to develop this [component] ourselves.”

Lake Washington School District


Newslines–ACLU attacks New Mexico internet censorship law

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the New Mexico Attorney General’s office wrapped up their arguments Sept. 21 over the validity of a New Mexico law that seeks to prevent children from viewing “harmful material” online.

In June, Federal District Court Judge C. LeRoy Hansen issued a temporary injunction against the state law, which is similar to the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), after hearing arguments that it would have a “chilling effect” on internet speech.

The state appealed the lower court ruling, asking the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the legislation, which was signed into law by New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson in March. Observers expected the appeals court to render its decision sometime in the next six months.

Most of the CDA’s provisions were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court following the law’s passage. But in addition to First Amendment arguments, the ACLU is challenging the New Mexico law on the grounds that it violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“New Mexico can’t pass a law that affects people in other states,” ACLU attorney Ann Beeson said.

Experts expect the ACLU to use this case as a stepping stone on the way to an all-out battle set to commence in November over the federal Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which has been dubbed CDA II by some of its opponents.


Ethics & Law: This legal loophole just might cover your Y2K prep

As the days until the year 2000 (Y2K) tick off into double digits, the concern about the impact of the date change in data processing seems to be diminishing (unless you are taking a midnight plane to Pakistan), but another lurking concern is just beginning to blossom.

What could be a worse Y2K nightmare than programmers without a firm grip on their date digits? Lawyers! The active and creative minds of the legal community have been churning the Y2K possibilities for several years now. Even though fewer than 100 Y2K lawsuits have actually been filed across the country, the potential for Y2K litigation becoming a growth industry is serious.

A couple of recent lawsuits between major high-tech companies and their insurance carriers highlight the two major reasons why Y2K lawsuits are inevitable. First, there is the money: Companies have spent big dollars fixing their hardware and software so that business will continue uninterrupted into the new year. They understandably would like to spread the spending pain around a bit.

Second, there is the money: Lawyers representing the parties fighting over the Y2K dollars will take a big chunk for themselves. The more creative the legal theories used to justify these claims, the longer it will take for the courts to sort it out. All the while, the clock on legal fees is ticking and the costs go up.

The case of Xerox Corp. v. American Guarantee & Liability Insurance Co. was filed just one day after the case of American Guarantee & Liability Insurance Co. v. Xerox Corp. Xerox, of course, has spent more than $180 million to fix its Y2K problems. It wants the insurance company to cover some of those costs. The insurance company, in turn, does not want to share the pain for expenses it did not anticipate covering when it established the rates for premiums.

Although most large insurance companies are selling policies that specifically cover Y2K-related losses, the litigation brought by Xerox (as well as Unisys and GTE against their insurance carriers) is not based on Y2K policy claims. It is brought under a rather obscure provision of the plaintiffs’ property insurance coverage.

The concept is simple. For centuries, insurance companies have included a simple cost-reduction provision in their property insurance policies. Generically known as “Sue and Labor” clauses, these provisions require policyholders to reduce the potential damage from pending calamities by taking steps to get their property out of harm’s way or shielding their property from even greater damage.

For example, if you had property insurance coverage that would repair your roof if a big tree fell on it, and a lightning strike or flood weakened the tree and it was about to fall on your house, the “Sue and Labor” clause would require you to cut the tree down. The insurance company would then reimburse you for the expense. The clause benefits both parties, because it is cheaper to cut down a tree than fix a smashed roof, and far less inconvenient for the policyholder to have to wait until the disaster actually occurs.

In the Y2K lawsuits, the plaintiffs point to “loss or damages” provisions in their policies that cover “destruction, distortion, or corruption of computer data, coding, programs, or software.” Then they cite the “Sue and Labor” clause, which reads (somewhat arcanely, because these clauses have been around since the 17th century), “in case of actual or imminent loss or damage by a peril insured against, it shall, without prejudice to this insurance, be lawful and necessary for the Insured to sue, labor, and travel for, in and about the defense, the safeguard, and the recovery of the property or any part of the property insured.”

It will be an interesting court battle, with the insurance companies claiming that the Y2K fixes were ordinary business expenses that otherwise did not fit the “impending disaster” scenario of the “Sue and Labor” clause. Insurers will also cite the notice requirements of the clauses, and they’ll point out that public statements by the big companies (in SEC stock disclosures, for example) may contradict their claims.

It will be very tough for large, sophisticated technology companies to prevail on these claims—but, as the lawyers say, nothing ventured…

So, what does all of this have to do with you? The legal theory of Y2K coverage under “Sue and Labor” clauses may actually be more useful to smaller and less technically sophisticated policyholders such as school districts, and even more useful to those of you who have waited too long to address Y2K problems.

In your case, the looming Y2K peril may be more real. If your district’s property insurance contains the key language on coverage of “computers and software” (many do) and the “Sue and Labor” clause (most do), and you have incurred expenses to keep from having a Y2K disaster, and there are no specific exclusions in your property insurance policy, you might want to give your legal counsel a jingle to discuss filing a claim.

If your lawyer believes you have a case, he or she might even pursue the claim on a contingent fee basis. Hey—nothing ventured…