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After publicly questioning whether the school district was overpaying a consultant to maintain its computer networks, District 91 board members discussed swapping that contract for an in-house position – and possibly doing so for half the cost.

In paying a monthly flat-rate to Micro-T, a Cicero company that has been with the district for 10 years, Forest Park is shelling out $90,000 annually to maintain its computers. The network consists of roughly 600 computers and nine servers. Micro-T, which is operated by Mike Roti, determined the fee using a $75 per hour rate, according to Roti and district officials. District 91 Business Manager Ed Brophy said he became concerned with the billing when he realized Roti would have to provide 100 hours of service each month to justify the bill.

But a network assessment conducted by a Berwyn company determined the public school’s computers could be maintained with approximately 60 hours of work each month. After establishing a likely salary range of $45,000 to $59,000, school board members voted unanimously July 17 to try and hire a full-time employee to do the work.

According to Brophy, the work can be done for “significantly less” than what Roti is being paid.

Superintendent Lou Cavallo acknowledged that the process of vetting Roti’s work for the district was sometimes heated. Roti made clear that he felt he was being attacked on a personal level despite years of what both sides described as dedicated service.

“I have no doubt that the services Mike provided in the past were exactly what the district needed,” Cavallo said.

According to the system evaluation conducted by AX Computers, Forest Park Public Schools could maintain its networks with roughly 15 hours of work each week. School administrators, however, expect the new hire to also oversee another district employee while managing administrative and networking tasks.

Among the shortcomings cited in the assessment, AX found that some of the district’s newly installed fiber optic cables are in jeopardy. At the middle school the cables are within a maintenance closet, but have brooms and other items leaning against them. There is also a bundle of fiber optic cables in the boiler room at Grant-White Elementary that could be harmed by the heat, according to the report.

The district lacks an organized system to track software and technical repairs, many computers have unlicensed software and a wireless Internet network at the administration building is not secure, according to AX Computer’s report.

“There are areas of attention we need to focus on,” Cavallo said of the report’s findings.

In posting advertisements for the job, District 91 board members asked administrators to remove mention of any specific salary information, and to rely on the range discussed at the meeting.