Jim Ley: One of Government Technology's 25 Doers Dreamers & Drivers

New vision for schools and the county

by / March 8, 2006
This is an excerpt from the 2006 "Government Technology's 25 Doers Dreamers & Drivers" an annual tribute to those individuals who are redefining and advancing technology's role in government and society.

Jim Ley, Sarasota County, Fla., administrator is half of the duo that penned a new chapter in the book of government consolidation.

Ley started consolidating some processes that Sarasota County and the Sarasota County Schools performed separately prior to the appointment of Dr. Gary Norris as superintendent of the Sarasota County Public Schools.

After Norris' appointment, the two hit it off and became a team that would see to fruition the development of a single CIO for both branches of government. As a result, the county and the school district share IT functions, saving taxpayer dollars and allowing both operations to run more efficiently.

"You get to share the value of the investments, avoiding costs being absorbed by any one organization," Ley said.

For years, Ley attempted to work out joint operations with the previous superintendent, with little success. "Frankly I think the superintendent at that time was playing to community desires, seeking not to create any rock-the-boat scenarios, and not much happened," he said.

Then Norris arrived.

"We have a similar administrative view. We are both trusting people, and we hold the same values personally and about the purpose of government," Ley said. "Gary was disturbed to see that during our cable franchise negotiations, the school administrators at the time [in 1997] had failed to work with us to require connection of all schools."

With a new vision for schools and the county, Ley and Norris renegotiated the county's franchise agreement with the cable company, and included the construction of a community fiber-optic network and consolidation of the CIO position.

The schoolroom experience today is an interactive one, Ley said. "Electronic boards, teachers with microphones, and soon, cameras that will allow parents to drop into their children's experience."