FORT MYERS, Fla. - It's your money and it paid for dozens of laptops and computer hardware that are now missing from the Lee County School District. It poses both a financial problem and a privacy concern.
You pay for millions of dollars in property that the Lee County School District uses to educate your kids. Despite its best efforts, the district admits each year it loses thousands of dollars in property.
"It is a tremendous responsibility and challenge when you're talking about tens of thousands of pieces of equipment we have to monitor," said school district spokesman Joe Donzelli.
The district keeps a list of everything it has misplaced. The inventory list contains all sorts of things from missing golf carts to pizza ovens to tubas. However, we noticed computers show up often on this list.
"When you look at what is missing, and I did a spot check myself, the overwhelming amount of missing computer or computer related items. It's either obsolete or beyond economic repair," said Donzelli when we asked him about the frequency of computers showing up on the list.
The school district does write off hundreds of computers and computer related equipment that are no longer useful.
However, it also writes off dozens of laptops and computers that were lost or stolen.
Our investigation found since September 2011, the district has written off 77 missing computers
It also wrote off ten stolen laptops and one stolen iPad. Some of those were purchased as recently as 2011.
Currently, the district has 58 laptops and 103 desktop computers it is trying to locate. Those missing devices amount to thousands of dollars and leave lingering questions even for school district personnel.
"Who was using it and what is on it?" asked Donzelli.
"That was my concern. What data is on those computers?" asked Chief Investigator Melissa Yeager.
"The vast majority of the computers that go missing are ones from student stations, mobile labs, etc. There's very, very little if any information on there that is of use to anybody," answered Donzelli.
Computer expert John Benkert told us it's not that simple.
"Nobody can tell you that. Nobody can say this is all that is on my laptop because we don't know," said Benkert.
Benkert says he frequently sees organizations bring him laptops they think have no personal information on them only to find they were wrong.
"Most organizations reuse their computer equipment. They should," said Benkert. "The users don't know what the last user put on it. That user is gone. Doesn't care. And that is certainly something to be concerned about so you can never say there is nothing on that hard drive, there is nothing to be concerned about because you don't know that."
He thinks organizations should take the loss and theft of computers more seriously.
"The fact that nobody is concerned about it but you is definitely concerning," said Benkert.
The school district says it does know the risk and is already testing software on its iPads to make them unusable if lost or stolen.
A spokesman says they are particularly concerned because they are supposed to be transitioning students from books to tablets in the near future. However, the software costs more than just simply replacing the device. That makes it not really cost effective to install on all of the districts computers.