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Atlanta Public School Systems

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The Atlanta Public School System

The thought of putting together a project for a major corporation, seems a bit daunting at first glance. Perhaps this is because we tend to naturally overwhelm ourselves if a task is larger than anything we have accomplished in the past. After considering all the areas of the project at hand; I decided to use as a project the Atlanta Public School system.

The Atlanta Public School system is similar to those found in any large corporation. There is an organizational structure in place, a huge budget, vast resources, literally dozens of ongoing projects, and of course office politics. The one distinguishing different between APS and a publicly trade corporation is the fact that it is a local government regulated and controlled system.

The APS system consist of approximately one hundred and twenty six schools covering elementary, middle school and high school grade levels. These schools are treated as independent branch offices since each school operates with its own staff and budget. The schools are grouped into five different zones, which are viewed as regions (north, south, east and west). Each region is managed by a zone manager who reports to a department head or director. The directors in term report directly to the superintendent of APS school systems. The duties of the superintendent are the same as those of the CEO of any large corporation. However, profit and organizational success are measured in terms of student success.

It is the purpose of this paper to illustrate how improper resource management and poor organization has indirectly impacted the success of students in the APS system. This goal will be accomplished by examining the APS decision making process over the past two years and pointing out how possibly better decisions could have been made had proper attention been given to a few major economic indicators.

Economic indicators are specific areas of growth and decline which are observed in the economic ecosystem. Through careful observation and studying of these indicators we can spot trends and make decisions based on these trends. In other words the economic indicators are the tools used to help us sample the economic stability of the nation. To give some ideal how important these indicators are, consider the following: The chairman of the Federal Reserve (Greenspan) solely uses these to set the Feds prime lending rate. This one simple rate has the effect of trickling down throughout our whole economic system and impacts every financial institution in the country. The economic indicators we shall look at include the Gross domestic product (GDP), the unemployment rate, the inflation rate, construction put in place, Manufacturer's Shipments of Orders and Inventories, Advance Retail Sales, Housing Starts and Building Permits, Advance Report on Durable Goods Manufactures' Shipments and Orders, New One-Family Houses Sold and For Sale, and Housing Vacancies.

Now that we have defined economic indicators and their importance in the prediction of economic trends; let's take a look at the underling APS economic system to determine how proper use of the mentioned indicators above may have saved the APS school system money and helped them better achieve their success for all objectives. The driving force behind APS is the success for all students. In other words this is how profit is measured in the school system. A large number of students passing basic literacy and a math skills test are deemed a success. A large number of students failing the basic literacy and math test are deemed a failure (a year of declining profits). APS just like most inner city school systems has struggled in the past to meet these objectives. Although numerous factors can be identified which contribute to the low success achievement rate the school system has experienced, one major factor was singled out, technology. The school made the decision to implement technology in the classrooms to aid in the instruction process. Although this was an excellent decision, the implementation and timetable were terribly flawed from the very beginning.

When the APS school system made the decision to revamp the technology infrastructure in the school system, some interesting things were occurring in the economy. We were closing out the Democratic administration, and the dot com bubble had long since started its metamorphism into the dot gone industry. Keep in mind that during the dot com time frame we had enjoyed continuous years of economic prosperity. This is evidenced by observing US Census Bureau data of leading economic indicators during the time period which show continued and steady constant growth of the Gross domestic product (GDP), new housing starts and inflation rate which remained somewhat flat during this time period. However, during the fourth quarter of the 1999 fiscal year and the first two quarters of the 2000 fiscal year the signs were already beginning to show an undermining future. The employment index had slightly risen .01 percent and new housing starts were on the decline. Also, retail sales had remained flat for three consecutive quarters. What all this meant was a shrinking GDP was right around the corner. Of course all of this came to bear at the conclusion of the 2000 Presidential election; we were fast headed towards a recession. It proved unfortunate and costly that the APS plan was implemented in the mist of these severe economic changes. The argument can be made that one can never wait for the right time to implement a plan, because everything will never be perfect for planning purposes. This is a perfectly valid argument; however it must be taken with some prudence. Implementation of any major economic plan should always be backed up by supporting research found from observing at least the major economic indicators. APS did not follow this strategy, and as a result their vast technology implementation failed on a large scale.

In what could be compared to a venture capital first round of funding, APS pumped over twenty three million dollars into technology hardware for the school systems. They then followed this with yet another large cash infusion into technology, approximately forty nine million into more technology and related resources. When all the chips were tallied APS had spent over seventy three million dollars to build a technology infrastructure whose functionality at best has been described as substandard. The million dollars question here with the ten cents answer is; how can an organization spend over seventy three million dollars and not achieve its technology objective? The answer is in the details of the project planning and the use of available data. An interesting situation can be observed in nation, state and local government agencies, that of indifference.

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