How the Grand Rapids Public Schools can save $3 to $5 Million in funds [an open letter]

GRPS logoHello,

Presently, Dr. Taylor and the Grand Rapids Public School Board are asking for parents and students to accept radical changes in the secondary teaching model for fall 2010. I would like to ask the GRPS administration to consider radical changes to the way it works as well. Below are 3 big picture ideas for cost containment and workplace cultural evolution. These are changes that will improve your productivity and save millions of dollars. Unless noted, all assumptions are for a 3,000 seat organization.

[1] Migrate entire GRPS staff from GroupWise to Google Apps and save $294,000 each year

Currently with GroupWise, you are probably paying $143.00/seat/year for 3 years of support and software. Google Apps costs $50.00/seat/year. That’s a savings of $98.00/seat or $294,000 each year. The City of Los Angeles is doing this now with an annual cost savings of comparable percentages.

LA Votes for Google Apps
Google Apps for Business
GroupWise TCO calculator

[2] Home-office the entire school administration and save $1,000,000 each year

It can cost an organization between $5,000and $20,000 a year to provide office space to staff. If we assume that GRPS has a 100 to 1 Administrative staff to student ratio as sited in the media, GRPS has 200 administrative positions.

By asking everyone to work from home, it could be a savings on the low-end of about $1,000,000/year. You would have to rely more on conference calls but there are free or low-cost solutions out there such as DimDim or Web-ex. Speaking form experience, working at home can be more productive in the long run. A 4 day work week could also have some benefits.

In instances where you need to hold board meetings or other large events, as you are tonight, do so in the education environment. Go to the schools. It will put you closer to you constituents: GRPS students.

Wikipedia overview on telecommuting
Debunking the Myths of the Telecommute
How to Implement a Four-Day Workweek
DimDIM web conferencing

[3] Divest your unused real estate holdings and save $3,000,000 one time

Based on a conversation I had with your one of your own staff,  GRPS has 5 to 10 properties that could be sold off. This includes recent closings, 2010 projected closings and eliminating the need for the Franklin Campus because you all work at home. In total, it conservatively amounts to $3,000,000, perhaps more. There is huge potential for converting these facilities into housing, offices or business incubators in the neighborhoods these facilities once served as schools.


By making these 3 changes, GRPS has the opportunity to save $4.3 million in the first year, with an ongoing cost savings of about $1.3 million:

$294,000 Move from GroupWise to Google Apps
$1,000,000 Home office administrative staff
$3,000,000 Sell off real estate holdings
$4,294,000 Total savings first year

Please, tap a few community members: citizens, creative professionals, specialists in these arenas to help you focus on the way the district functions administratively and see what you can sort out. If the GRPS leadership would reinvent its day-to-day operations and set an example for other districts to follow, you will build confidence in your community and with your constituents.

Thank you,

1 thought on “How the Grand Rapids Public Schools can save $3 to $5 Million in funds [an open letter]”

  1. drop Microsoft Office and switch to Google Docs (or even open source Open Office) to save much, much more. All students in the Allendale Public Schools (6-12) have a laptop that only contains open source software and teachers have assigned written and submitted with Open Office just like MS Office, except that Open Office and other open source tools are free. i have been using only open source tools in my teaching for nearly a decade. It can be done and it can save a lot of money.

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