Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Howard County School Grading Software

Posted by David Keelan on Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Howard County School system installed a software program to track high school grades in July 2005 as an upgrade to a previous system that is still in use at middle and elementary schools.

Current cost: $805,000 up from an initial cost of $650,000.

The PTA is in an uproar over this issue.


  • Staff at county high schools have spent between three and 25 minutes printing a single report card and six and 20 minutes attempting to enter a student’s course selections into the system.
  • The system generated 1,700 inaccurate report cards in November [2005], but was corrected before the second marking period grades were issued earlier this month
  • Led to $53,000 in overtime pay for staff to correct its errors
  • Although most of the software issues have been addressed, officials are still experiencing trouble with a slow local computer network, which causes significant delays for staff members trying to access student data
  • Some of the system’s errors are linked to problems with the software. Other problems occur because computer hardware at some schools is not compatible with the software.,
  • In February 2006 began installing a “grade transporter” system at each high school, which will allow staff to work on report cards offline of the slower system-wide server
  • Have hired two additional part-time liaisons to help further train high school staff on the new software
  • The PTA wants it scrapped

I don’t know who was responsible for evaluating this software upgrade or who was responsible for developing a project plan to understand the impact to current systems, servers, Local Area Networks, Wide Area Networks, training, etc.  Did they run a pilot program before rolling it out?

Among the responsibilities of the school board are:

  • Exercising leadership for the operation of schools.
  • Allocating money for school operational needs and building programs.
  • Authorizing specific expenditures from county, state, and federal sources.

My question is this.  What over sight was the board of education providing to the school system regarding this implementation.  What are current board members Courtney Watson and Mary Kay Sigaty (now County Council candidates) doing relative to this mess?  To the best of my knowledge this “purchase” was approved in 2004 during Ms. Watson tenure as Board Chairperson.

I know many people involved in the implementation of new software systems.  The planning process is rather extensive and is project managed very carefully.  I would think that by approving such an important purchase (regardless of the cost) that the BoEd would have requested a project plan.

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12 Responses to “Howard County School Grading Software”

  1. Bubba said

    Should we contact the Howard County Fraud Reporting Hotline about Ms. Watson’s apparent waste of county taxpayers dollars?

  2. formsmi said

    If this is any indication of how tax money is wasted by Courtney Watson, I don’t want her representing me.

  3. Jen said

    Oh for Pete’s sake. Let’s contact the Blog hotline and report an overreach of creative writing, or maybe a desperate act of spinning to find something, anything in attempt to discredit two of the five BOE members. (Both of whom are above approach and who are true public servants. Heck, they even show up at council meetings and zoning board meetings and budget meetings- unlike their republican counterparts). If you want to talk about waste of tax payer money, I think you should like a little harder. Perhaps all that Program Open Space money that Ehrlich has squandered. Or maybe the money we lost when Ehrlich put sweetheart deals together with certain developers? Now those are big bucks and we don’t even have to work hard to link them directly to the candidate, do we? Just ONE degree of separation.

  4. hocomd said

    Jen, that is certainly your opinion and you are entitled to it. If you don’t think this is a problem then that speaks only for you and the candidates you support. Perhaps CW and MKS should spend more time helping to fix this problem and less time observing the County Council and waxing philosphic about sitting among their numbers.

    It may only be $805k to you, but it is wreaking havoc on staff effeciency and productivity.  If they want to convince voters of their sincerety then they need to sit down and exercise their influence over the school system and get this fixed.  If they do that then I will certainly write about it, and praise them for it.  However, they are silent on the issue.

    So Jen, tell me where do their responsibilities end?  Is it a stretch to write about an issue when hundereds of school employees are left frustrated, truants walk the streets and their parents are not held accountable, when grades are screwed up, you can’t pull a report, you call the IT support team for help and they have to do everyone’s jobs.  (Highly skilled techs are doing clerical work).  YOU DON’T THINK THAT IS A PROBLEM! 

    Is it over reaching on my part to write about the only two members of the board bailing out of the BOE without addressing the issue to the public.  The candidates running for the office are certainly talking about it –  why not CW and MKS?

    I have no doubt about their sincerety to aspire to higher office, but lets take care of the business they were hired to do in the first place.  They shouldn’t get a free pass – address the issue and tell us what they plan to do about it.  Convince the voters that when a similiar issue comes up on County Council they won’t go silent on us either.

    You have something to say about a waste of tax dollars lets here it.

  5. Bubba said

    Jen conveniently forgets about the two billion dollar hole the DEMOCRATS left in the state budget for Ehrlich’s first year with something called Thornton! Governor Ehrlich got rid of Courtney’s party waste and actually spent more on Education last year that Spendenning! Jen needs to get her story straight…..

  6. Jen said

    See, this is it exactly. Let’s waste all of our time and attention going through the budget mistakes and misappropriations of both parties over the last four years and obfuscate what is really important. There was an interesting article in the Post today about Partisan Brains. I’d encourage you all to read it. Open your minds. Instead of creating data and stories to support your predetermination. Open your minds. What are the most important issues facing us in the next four years? Development and zoning. Who has the experience to deal with that? Salazar who never went to a Planning Board meeting, or a zoning meeting, or even a Council meeting before he decided to run? Being a ‘nice guy’ just won’t do it for the upcoming four years. We need intelligent, experienced and prepared candidates that can hit the ground running. And Watson is more of a republican than some of our republican candidates. Transfer taxes are NOT property taxes. You didn’t even make an effort to explain that one. Transfer taxes are taxes on new construction. And why shouldn’t the costs of our new school construction be borne in part by our new home construction- instead of by the existing residents? Why do you favor taxing existing residents to bear those costs? I can’t believe Salazar believes in that, I think you are misrepresenting him. And, why not use a surplus to once again cover the severe shortfall in school capacity- instead of creating new taxes based on property? It seems pretty smart to me to figure out a way for the people creating the load- to pay for the load. Now if we could just put some of those transfer taxes into new road construction- or maybe add a gasoline tax to cover that, we’d be in good shape. OR, we could stop building houses. We certainly can’t stop building schools, though. Which means we have to pay for them. I just don’t like Salazar’s idea of creating new property or income taxes to do it. There has to be a better way.

  7. hocomd said

    Salazar is proposing new property and income taxes? Show me where and when he said that.

    Statistics show that the vast majority of children coming into the school system are doing so through purchases of existing homes (my neighborhood is a prime example) not new construction. It wouldn’t be fair to shift the burden to simply new construction. Also, what about existing residents who decide to build a new home. Is the tranfer tax fair to them?

    The Post article is interesting. It doesn’t plow any new ground (for me anyway). I have my preconceived notions and they are obvious (aren’t they).

    We are only talking about one issue here. Their are many more to discuss. We as voters (or partisans) still deserve to ask the question and request an answer. The other side can go into “Partisan Brain Freeze” because the other side is obviously in “Partisan Brain Freeze” too, or they can provide an reasonable answer.

    Watson is more Republican than some of “our” republican candidates. Hmmm. Well I can agree at least in one limited case.

    BTW: Why do you and Molly have the same IP address?

  8. Jen said

    See? We DO agree! Watson is more conservative than some of the republican candidates for office. See how productive an open mind can be?!

    I didn’t say Salazar wanted higher property taxes. I thought you did!? You said he didn’t want to pay for school construction with transfer taxes from incoming residents, or from surplus funds. What else is left? What is Salazar’s position on funding for schools? Now you are confusing me. I was sure you said Salazar wanted to raise taxes. Can you tell me what his postion actually is?

    (You know, Molly isn’t as nice, but she’s a lot smarter!)

  9. hocomd said

    I never said Watson was more conservative. I said more Republican than one candidate (maybe two). That makes them RINOs. Republican In Name Only.

    I never said Salazar wanted higher taxes either.  You keep mentioning Salazar, not me.

    The tranfer tax is taking in way more money than it was intended to take in. We could have funded new construction the way we always have through bonds which would be paid off. The transfer tax increase was estimated to bring in $30M (a $10M increase). In 2007 it is estimated to bring in $44M. $14M more than estimated and budgeted for at that time of proposal and enactment, a boon to County revenues.

    I can’t speak for Salazar but if I were running for County Council District One I would propose cutting the tranfer tax.

    Additionally, County revenues in terms of property taxes continue to increase because of phased in assessments and re-assessments tri-annually. The County has new revenue coming in every year without having to raise taxes. They consistently exceed revenue projections.

    So you are saying Watson really doesn’t want to consider returning surplus funds to voters?

  10. hocomd said

    How did the tranfer tax issue come up on this post anyway? I don’t see any mention of it here until Jen/Molly brought it up on comment 6. I am getting a headache trying to figure out what you are talking about Jen/Molly.

  11. […] You can call my last post on this issue spin or anything else you want as long as our elected officials step up and deal with these problems.  This has been going on for a year and the only response we get is “SPIN”.  Come on.  Tell them to quit going to County Council meetings and other board meetings so they have more time to see that this problem is fixed.  If you think Ehrlich can fix this problem then by all means bring him in – otherwise keep him out of it. […]

  12. […] […]

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