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Re: [school-discuss] OS4ED Release bAlert

First thing:  I don't want to burden the list with this extended
discussion.  Feel free to take this off line with me at
casey@xxxxxxxxxx  If you want to talk i person, just email me and I
will gladly give you my cell.

As a lead in to the novel I have written below: I am a former teacher,
technology coordinator and network admin from my life prior to IBM.
At IBM, I joined as a programmer and worked my way to a Education
Solutions Executive in the IBM national education practice.  I have
worked the K-12 and higher ed market extensively for the last 15 years
and am somewhat comfortable that my knowledge is pretty good.  I have
a bent towards instructional system design, instruction and the
classroom experience, where I believe the majority of education funds
should be going, not to costly administrative systems.  I believe that
teaching is an art, not a profession where you follow a cookie cutter
plan. I occasionally write extended blogs about my interests at
http://educationtalk.blogspot.com.  I am way behind in the blog and
life in general, because I work a full time job in a financial
services firm (50 hours a week) and try to do os4ed.com on the side.
I began os4ed because, while at IBM, I saw how schools and districts
were facing budget issues like never before and how open source could
help address that problem. I also saw no serious sustainable open
source efforts gaining mass market acceptance, except perhaps Centre
SIS.  I left IBM this summer, took a job that didn't conflict with my
interests and set up os4ed partnering with Jack Miller (Centre) and
Bob Ghosh (Methodologic, Inc) a friend who has a SW development shop
in India.  I invested $10,000 of my own personal money to get Centre
converted to openCentre and am investing more for Version 4.1, which
is going to be awesome!  I am a father of three, one who is 5 months,
and am severely sleep deprived.  Just some background on my wackiness.

I have answered your questions below underneath each one.  Just so
everyone is clear about Open Solutions for Education, here is our
mission statement:

Mission Statement

OS4ED provides world class open technology solutions to the K-12
education community that are economical, easy to use, compliant with
open standards and integrated in support of effective administration,
instruction and student achievement.

Please note the line economical to use.  We do not give everything
away for free, but do attempt to create a compelling total cost of
ownership model based on open source SW.  What you get from us,
whether free or for a cost, is yours and you get all of the source
code with it.  It is yours to modify as you wish.  We can save a
school or district over 50% TCO on similar SW and up to 75% if it is
Windows based SW.  Our base model is to give away  a few key
foundational products and then add additional functionality through
modules, customizations, etc. for a fee.  Everything we have is very
reasonably priced and our services rates are very low compared to say
a Pearson, who charges $225 an hour for custom work. We also provide
full Help Desk support for our products.  Phone, VM and email all
unlimited for unlimited users for a client.  We think that is another
key point to building the confidence of the mass market to use open
source solutions.

All customizations, whether paid for by clients, done free for clients
or just done by us are released back to the os4ed community for its
use.  We don't require fees, but have numerous ways to try and develop
a revenue stream to sustain our efforts and allow us to continue
adding functionality and features that will be useful. We may take an
angel investment in 2008 and completely rewrite openCentre into a
"pro" version with everything included that will be given away for
free, but requires an annual maintenance license. We are trying to
assess if that is appealing to our user community and beneficial to

As an example of giveback, we are currently customizing openCentre for
a small college.  In January, we will release a higher ed version,
OC4College that will be free for colleges to use and released under
GPL V2.  The college may also contract with us to do an Admissions
module, which will then be returned to the community of users as well.

Our goal is to gain mass acceptance of open source solutions in K-12
and Higher Ed  by doing three things:

1) Produce and distribute quality applications that are true feasible
alternatives to costly commercial applications
-- It must have nearly the same, equal or better functionality
-- It must look as good and have the same easy navigation
-- It must be easy to administer
2) Remove the barrier of price, giving some things away for free and
charging economical prices for others
-- If it as good, has the same su0pport mechanism and can be obtained
for up to 75% less, the decision should be easy for the client
3) Provide a support mechanism for clients so they can have  a comfort
level with choosing open source

According to a recent poll on our website, 43% of people felt that
open source solutions were not robust enough (Item #1 above).  23%
felt that they did not have the skills to manage open source (Item
#1).  If we can do the three things above, we can eliminate these
fears and misconceptions and get mass acceptance of the solutions.
Bottom line, we are trying to return operational dollars to the
instructional budget.  66% of a child's education comes from the
classroom experience and the more resources we can direct into that
arena, the better the education potential.  To have a serious impact
on K-12 and higher ed education, we have to get mass market

All that said, I think we are trying to do something good for
education and that doing good things for education is good business.

On Dec 6, 2007 6:24 PM, Stewart Ives <ivessm@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Casey,
> Now that you have raised your hand I have some questions about your openCentre software.
> I couldn't find this info on your site.
If you register, you will have access to the downloads section where
you can download numerous overview presentations that should give you
a good idea of the functionality of all of our products.  All we ask
for is an email address to help begin building a client base that we
can communicate with and get feedback from occasionally.  If you are
registered, you would have seen an email requesting development
suggestions for EasyCom Version 2 as an example.

> 1.  What exactly are the server system requirements to run openCentre?
openCentre will run on any server that will run:

--HTMLDoc (PDF generator)

We have had many requests for MySQL and sometime in 2008 will deliver
a version of openCentre that will run on any database, enabling you to
leverage your existing database SW and skills.  Actual server
specifications depend upon the amount of your data, but most of our
clients who are small schools easily run on single or dual Pentium
processors.  Storage is minimal and does not grow exponentially over
time.  To the best of our knowledge, openCentre will run on any OS or
HW platform that can run the above required SW.

We have an installer that works flawlessly on Windows and we are
working out the final bugs on Linux.  This means that you can unzip
the files to a directory, open your browser to that install directory
and we do all of the work for you assuming the required SW are
installed.  Another key component to mass market acceptance.

 We hope to have our SIS included in the openSuse CD next year.  We
also have approached and are having conversations with Canonical
(Ubuntu) to perhaps get bundled onto the Edubuntu CD.  We hope to also
work with Dell/Ubuntu to create an open source school ready server
with integrated solutions over the next few years.  Another mass
market approach.

> 2.  What tasks/functions/modules/etc are included in the "base" system?
How about what is not included?  The additional modules we sell are:
Discipline, Student Billing, Cafeteria, EasyCom and State Reporting.
We hope to release a module for Tests next year, that will allow you
to batch import test scores and generate numerous reports on those
scores.   We are working to incorporate the Centre modules into
openCentre, which has some architectural and code differences.  Any
module purchase will guarantee complete integration.  openCentre
includes: (you get all of the source code for openCentre under GPL V2)

--Portal Notes (Dynamic with expiration dates and the ability to
assign them to specific users and groups)
--Marking Periods
--Grade Levels
--Year End Roll Over
--Copy Schools for easy setup
--Address and Contacts
--Print mailing labels
--Print letters
--Associate Parents with Students (Then parents automatically see
their children in the portal with appropriate security)
--The ability to add any number of tabs and fields to suit your
specific needs.  Up to 2 million currently. Your SIS your way!
Parent Portal
--See everything about their specific students that is in the system
--Excellent functionality
--Classroom, final and marking period grades
--Just added extended comments for the Wooster School in Danbury, CT
to pilot.  16,000 characters to satisfy their state requirements
--GPA reports, classroom ranking reports, teacher completion reports
and many more
Report Cards
Numerous Standard Reports
Ad Hoc Reports
--You can add users and manage their security down to the field level
in openCentre
--Take attendance.  One period or multiple periods.  You choose.
--Attendance completion.  Monitor those teachers who have not entered
their attendance.
--Attendance reports
Activities and Eligibility
--Monitor and track student eligibility for various activities or sports.
--Group schedule
--Mass schedule
--Individual schedule
--Search schedules
--Print schedules
--Monitor incomplete schedules
--Schedule requests
--Unfilled requests
--Student pictures

> 3.  Can a K-8 school of about 500 students run completely on the free openCentre or do they need to purchase additional modules/parts to run effectively?
You can easily run your school with the free openCentre solution
listed in question number 2.  If you require additional functionality,
we have add-on modules.

> 4.  What additional tasks/functions/modules/etc are available for openCentre and how much does each cost?
I listed the modules above.  They each cost $2,500 except for
Cafeteria, which is $3,500 and EasyCom which has an annual
subscription rate.  State reporting may change based on the
requirements of your state.  Some states require extensive reporting,
like FL.  We are almost signed on a deal to produce FL state reporting
and expect to have that ready by early 2008.

We offer full Help Desk support for our modules, usually $1-$2 per
student depending upon the size of staff and student population.

When you purchase a module, we do consider that proprietary, but we
give you all of the source code and you are free to modify it as you
wish.  You just can't redistribute.
> 5.  About how many schools are currently running openCentre and can you release a list so we may contact the administrators for their comments?

I have no clue.  We give away openCentre and you are not required to
have maintenance, so your guess is as good as mine.  We have about 700
registered clients since June 2007 and openCentre has now been
downloaded over a 1,000 times.  I do know that we have been installed
multiple times because we keep getting questions that we try to answer
free of charge to get people started.

You can register and pose these questions in our forums, which are
seeing some regular conversation.  Some of the original Centre
developers are active in the forums as well.  We also count Centre
clients as our base and if you truly want to talk with some clients, I
can request Jack Miller to refer you to some clients using either
product.  I can tell you for sure, that multiple school districts,
faith based schools and charter school are using Centre/openCentre as
their SIS today, some for several years.  I now that Centre has
thousands of active installs around the world and in the US.

We are in talks with several schools and districts and expect to
announce pilots with some major US districts in 2008.

> I like the looks of your product but really don't have the full info on it.

Thank you!  I am very excited that we are producing a product that has
real potential for education.  I am also proud that I am doing a good

> ---------- Original Message -----------
>  From: "Casey Adams" <casey@xxxxxxxxx>
>  To: schoolforge-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>  Sent: Thu, 6 Dec 2007 13:42:00 -0500
>  Subject: [school-discuss] OS4ED Release bAlert
> > Hi All,
> >
> > OS4ED has just released its latest solution bAlert, a web based email and
> SMS text messaging system for K-12 and Higher Ed.  The announcement is
> below.  We are very excited about this solution and think it has many
> practical applications for education.  The solution will be offered on an
> annual subscription basis.  Feel free to direct any questions to my direct
> email:  casey@xxxxxxxxxx  Contact phone is below if you want to talk in
> person.  Thanks!
> > --
> > Casey Adams
> > 205.612.5489
> >
> > Message:
> > Open Solutions for Education
> > Thursday December 6, 2007
> > ------------------------------
> > -------------------------------------
> > OS4ED announces the release of bAlert, our web based email and SMS text
> messaging communication solution.  bAlert allows you to send unlimited
> emails and SMS text messages to any number of users or groups.   bAlert even
> works when traditional phone lines are down because it uses cellular modems
> completely bypassing POTS.
> >
> > bAlert Features include:
> >
> > 1) Email and Short Message Service (SMS)
> > --Deliver both or individually
> > --Deliver text messages to any SMS device
> > --Cell phone, PDA, Blackberry
> > 2) Deliver email to multiple devices
> > --Computer, cell phone, PDA, Blackberry
> > 3) SMS messaging works when phone lines are down or
> > capacity is exceeded
> > --Messages still delivered in crisis or storm situations when traditional
> phone lines are down or overloaded
> > --Messages delivered via cellular modems bypassing traditional phone lines
> >
> > bAlert has multiple uses.  Some examples include:
> >
> > 1) Notify parents of children who have:
> > --an unexcused absence
> > --an unexpected illness
> > 2) Important communications
> > --Report cards
> > --Required forms that need to be completed and returned
> > --Parent teacher conference reminders
> > 3) Weather related communications
> > --School closings
> > 4) Crisis related communications
> > --Notify emergency personnel
> > --Communicate emergency procedures in crisis situations
> >
> > 10 Reasons to try bAlert:
> >
> > 1) Easy to use web interface
> > 2) Quick implementation
> > 3) Message tracking and reporting
> > 4) Reliable and secure
> > 5) Web based data upload
> > 6) Low annual subscription rate
> > 7) Delivery to any device
> > 8) No hardware required
> > 9) Works when traditional phone lines are down
> > 10) Call center support included in maintenance fees
> >
> > Try bAlert free for two weeks at no cost!
> >
> > --Unlimited messages
> > --Unlimited emails
> > --Enjoy the entire functionality at no cost
> >
> > To get you trial user name and password send the following information to
> info@xxxxxxxxx :
> > --Name
> > --Contact Email
> > --Phone
> >
> > An OS4ED representative will contact you within 24 hours to get the
> information necessary to set up your trial account
> ------- End of Original Message -------

Casey Adams