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You’ve got Mail: West transitions to Gmail

By Daphne Thompson
posted May 26, 2011

In light of the district-wide budget crisis, Oshkosh schools are being asked to cut back in any way possible. Because of this, the West staff began the transition from Microsoft Outlook email service to Google’s Gmail and Google Apps on May 9. The conversion, facilitated by staff members Beth Helm, Mark Bazata, and Jason Lasee, will save the school large sums of money by avoiding a pricey Microsoft update.

“Our current system needs to be upgraded, and it would have taken a lot of money,” said Media Specialist Beth Helm. “You know our district doesn’t have any money, and Gmail is free.”

Created in 2004, Gmail is notable for its large storage capacity and calendar features. West staff members join 193.3 million other users of the Google run website. Since Gmail is provided as a service, not a software product, staff members can log on from any computer or mobile device in the world.

“Everything will be out on the web so we can access it anytime, from anywhere,” said Helm.

While students will not experience any immediate effects of the switch, a long-term goal of the Gmail committee is to integrate student email addresses into the staff system.

“Eventually, we’d like to see all the students have a district-issued email account so we can communicate with you via e-mail,” said Helm. “We want to have better communication between students and teachers.”

The long-standing Microsoft system had been a source of technical issues for the district and the Gmail committee felt that a change was needed.

“We’re required by law to keep our emails for seven years, and Outlook isn’t doing that correctly,” said Helm. “I don’t know who would want to go back seven years and find something, but that’s what the law states.”

Staff members have been undergoing training sessions to prepare for the transition, and many seem to be taking the change in stride. All teachers will retain their old email addresses and be able to utilize the Google Apps, which includes Google Docs, Sites, and Calendar. Staff members will also be able to instant message by way of the Google Talk App.

“I’m okay with it; it’s just another way to email,” said math teacher Doris Bailey. “They keep asking us if we have questions, but I haven’t seen any problem with it yet.”

Help has been available in the Media Center for issues regarding the new system, although Helm feels that the differences will be negligible.

“Essentially an email system is an email system,” she said. “If you use Yahoo! Mail you can use AOL, or Hotmail. Things are in different places, so there’s a little learning curve for people. But those are just nuances of difference.”

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