School district uses computer to keep track of its computers

Brian Miller, technology supervisor for the South Whidbey School District, tags and labels equipment for the inventory of computers and other equipment. - Gayle Saran
Brian Miller, technology supervisor for the South Whidbey School District, tags and labels equipment for the inventory of computers and other equipment.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

Brian Miller is a numbers guy for the South Whidbey School District.

Rather than counting dollars -- like the district's other Miller -- Brian Miller is counting equipment.

As the district's technology supervisor, Miller is taking a complete inventory of the district's technological equipment to make certain every television, VCR and computer is where it should be. To date there are 2,425 items in the inventory, and Miller is still counting.

"This process is useful and important," Miller said. "It's part of the whole accountability picture for the district."

The Washington State Auditor's Office performs a spot check each year of every school district's inventory. In 2001 it found found everything where it should be at Langley Middle School . But now the district wants to do something more thorough, so all the equipment is going on a database.

Asset tracking has been an elusive goal of the district for some time.

The process began four years ago when Miller developed a service request database for use by the technical support staff. He wrote the inventory program to use with existing service data.

"We realized that incorporating the equipment inventory with our existing service database would really provide useful information," Miller said. "The program provides a method for controlling equipment and monitoring its service history."

The inventory will offer a complete picture of all the equipment the district owns -- including iMacs, printers, digital cameras, overhead projectors and television sets. When personnel from the state auditor's office visited last year, they liked the system.

"The auditor was impressed with the system we were beginning to put in place and seemed pleased with our efforts," Miller said.

With a couple of strokes on the computer keyboard in any classroom, Miller can access the network and the database to keep track of technology equipment.

"We are light years ahead of where we have been in controlling equipment, verifying what we have and its service history."

The district has always kept an inventory of equipment, but some of it was handwritten. That system did not track equipment well as it was passed from classroom to classroom. The new inventory process confirms Miller's theory that some of these inanimate objects move.

"It's just a fact that equipment like overhead projectors and televisions and VCRs are mobile," he said. "They move from class to class."

Miller and his staff, Joani Nelson and Jenny Sankey, are completing a total sweep of the buildings and existing equipment. Each piece of equipment is given an identification number -- on a tag in the back or underneath -- and also written in a more visible location. The double marking makes it easier for teachers to see the number and harder for students remove the permanent tag.

Miller said he hopes teachers will begin using the tag numbers not only for identification, but when requesting service.

"If we are called to a classroom to service a computer and there are seven or eight there, it will save time if we know which computer needs service," he said.

Once everything is in the database, maintaining it for new items will be a matter of recording purchase order numbers before they are delivered to the user.

Each item can be cross referenced by equipment type, school and classroom number, teacher and district tag number.

Miller and his staff will do a twice-a-year sweep through the classrooms to determine the location of district equipment.

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