William H. Magill on Sun, 7 Sep 2003 15:42:17 -0400

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Re: [PLUG] Microsoft Run High School?

On Friday, September 5, 2003, at 11:24 AM, Adam Turoff wrote:
On Fri, Sep 05, 2003 at 09:48:50AM -0400, Chris Mann wrote:

I don't know. It's a lot less half baked than some of the other ideas that have come from 21st Street. (Anyone remember Parkway HS?)

It's clearly an experiment. And it's on Microsoft's dime -- if not in
monetary contributions, then in materials and staff time (training, on-site
support). I'd rather see Microsoft spend the money and show that PDAs,
WiFi and Tablet PCs don't let students learn more.

Microsoft spends no dollars on these deals. They are "in-kind" contributions.

Microsoft (and other vendors who do this kind of thing as well) claim "list price" for goods and services provided "at cost." Were it not for the fact that the intent in Microsoft's case is purely PR, one could assume that the entire deal was structured for its tax benefit.

The end result is that Microsoft spends a couple of hundred thousand in salary money for Microsoft employees assigned to the school; and claims several million dollars in "benefits" to the press and the IRS.

The School Board has to pay for all of the wiring and infrastructure out of its pocket. It may get some "discounts" from various other partners, but they are probably no larger than they would have gotten if they had put out an RFP on their own.

The primary thing which the School Board gets is the same thing they got from the University of Pennsylvania for the Penn-Alexander school -- free consulting. This is not an insignificant contribution, and it DOES allow the school board to bypass "lowest bidder" RFP issues. Microsoft will provide a list of "compatible" products and services from other vendors, like cisco or Belkin or whoever, that have been "certified" as "integrated" with Microsoft's vision.

All in all it is not a "bad deal." It is just a very one-sided deal. But if the actual "other option" were pursued, the RFPs would be pathetic for the simple reason that the School Board does not have the in-house expertise to properly evaluate their options.

Could they have put out an RFP for "consultants?" Yeah, but that is not how the world of "Non-Profit" Gift Solicitation works. Sadly, "grantsmanship" is all about Who you know, not What you know.

William H. Magill
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