Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

School Grading Software II

Posted by David Keelan on Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Looks like the problems continue.

Four months after giving the go-ahead to continued use of a problematic student data computer program, the Howard County school system has decided to revert to an older program in order to have 15,000 schedules ready for high school students before classes begin at the end of August.

The problem with SMS has delayed about 15,000 schedules that were supposed to have been mailed to students during the first two weeks of August.

Again, this looks like a case of poor planning and implementation.

“A school representative “…did not know how much, if any, the system has spent this summer on overtime associated with SMS-related issues. [the employee] also said she did not know if more work hours would be needed to prepare the schedules.”

Looks like they are digging a deeper hole.  I wonder if it is even possible to “roll back” the implementation of the new version of the SMS software.  I understand the older version of software won’t be supported much longer and the School system had to do something.  Given the amount of problems they are having it has to be less expensive for Chancery to continue to support the older software until this mess can be cleaned up.

Sadly our school board members/candidates for County Council (Sigaty and Watson) remain silent on the issue.  I have not heard either one comment nor have I heard them demand an accounting of the operation that led to these series of massive errors.  The only thing even remotely close to a response was this comment from a reader…

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.

Unfortunately this is about more than a “waste of taxpayer money”.  It is a source of friction between parents and the school system.  It doesn’t do much to help our school employees who have to work with this extremely frustrating software.  Rather than addressing this issue this reader/writer ignores it completely and tries to change the subject.

When my wife and I moved to Howard County we told our realtor it was because of schools.  Our realtor told us that Howard County had great schools, but to be careful.  A school system can change a lot in 5 years (we didn’t have kids at the time).  Well, if the reader/writers comments are any indication of our Board Members / current Council Candidates attitude then I think I understand where my realtor was coming from.

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.


4 Responses to “School Grading Software II”

  1. Mary Smith said

    See, this is what concerns me. It’s painfully obvious that something is amiss with the large-expenditure software, and yet people not only want to ignore the problem, but would silence others. If these two elected leaders are really above [reproach], then they will want to surface the issue and find a good solution for citizens. This kind of blind support prompts recall of darker times.

    Beyond that (which is huge), average folks don’t know how to talk to software developer companies. Software people aren’t performing magic here, the queues can and should come from the user community. If the company does not deliver a minimum of predictable functionality, you roll back to the old (which works), while the new version is completed. If the reasons for delay were confirmed to be out of their jurisdiction then you pay extra. If the delays were due in any part to inadequate development then, at the very least, a deep discount is granted.

  2. Here’s the deal on SMS. They bought a dream; there was no product and instead of getting paid to be the beta tester, (1) they paid Coventry to convert data; and (2) they failed to run fully redundant systems–turned off the old stuff before they were sure the new stuff worked. Now the software is producing big traffic jams in the network and the out put is unreliable. Not good.

    Plainly, BOE and Staff were over their heads when deciding to buy, failed to consult the community and were too close to Coventry (served on its advisory board, did business together for 15 or more years, etc.)

    Bob Glascock has taken over “damage control”. He changed leadership of IT, and setup a community advisory task force on technology. He’s on the right track. It’s tough to know whether to fish or cut the line, but I think they will eventually cut it loose. Coventry has alot to answer for and should be required to make the School District whole.

    Current Board of Ed was without sufficient expetise to evaluate contract when presented. They need some help.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I aim to help. Roger Lerner, Candidate for Howard County BOE

  3. hocomd said

    Roger, you may get my vote just for replying and giving some more background.

    Over their heads? I figured as much. On point 1. Nothing wrong with doing business with a long time reliable partner. 2. That is disturbing.

    I would hope you would, in your current campaign ask about the points I raise in this post. It appears as though they may be throwing another $600K at this problem.

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