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School system returns to Office
Board approves move back to Microsoft
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Forsyth County News
It’s unusual for a school board decision to garner applause and shouts of “woohoo,” but that’s exactly what happened at a meeting Thursday.

Forsyth County’s board of education unanimously approved the systemwide switch from Productivity Suite to Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007.

“I appreciate you trying to get us to do other things that save us a lot of money, but I know it’s been a nightmare for so many people,” said Board Chairwoman Ann Crow. “We tried, and it didn’t work.”

Thursday’s approval was for the purchase of 13,378 Microsoft Office licenses at a cost of about $660,472. The money, said system Chief Technology and Information Officer Bailey Mitchell “will be a combination of pretty much everything that’s left.”

About $391,400 will come from bond funding and about $110,100 will come from the system’s one-cent sales tax.

In addition, each of the system’s 35 schools will contribute a portion of $137,000 from their activity funds.

OpenOffice was designed to be a free way for people to have access to word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, graphics and other programs similar to those offered by Microsoft.

Forsyth’s school system made the switch from Microsoft to OpenOffice in late 2008, but ran into a host of problems and complications.

Lissa Pijanowski, associate superintendent, was among those cheering after the vote.

“Our technology department, they’re always kind of being teased because they’re always trying to be on the cutting edge. But this was the bleeding edge,” she said. “[OpenOffice] just limited our productivity. Our staff, our teaching staff and our students were very frustrated with the compatibility issues and the documents not opening.

“Time is always of the essence and we need our teachers to be able to create, design and not get frustrated.”

Mitchell said the change back to Microsoft will take a few months to complete. In the meantime, training will be offered to update teachers on new features since the 2003 version of Microsoft Office last used by the school system.

But the training and change back will be well worth it, said Pijanowski.

“Our technology department tried something innovative and new [in] trying to save our district money, but they’ve now stepped back and they’ve listened to our customers and our staff and we’ve made the adjustment,” she said.

“This is going to be huge.”