Monday, August 26, 2013

Seattle Schools - A System that Struggles

 We've heard from many parents who are unhappy about enrollment issues like waitlists.  My understanding is that the district was switching technology systems.  Reading the Queen Anne Elementary principal's blog, it would seem that the whole system has been down,  in one form or another.

Principal Elliot's explains that on Back to School Night (an event they are having this week), parents would be able to learn their child's classroom assignment from the school secretary.  He then states that "our student information system is not functioning.   The old system was purchased by a new company and our district has had to transition to the new company, a formidable task.  Our tech department has been working very diligently and we hope to have the system up and running by early next week.  What this means is that we have not seen any new student changes at all for the summer and will not be able to make any necessary changes until the system is up and functioning.  All classroom assignments done previously are tentative until we are as close as we possibly can be to a final student roster."

This saddens me.  For families and for school staffs, it must be very frustrating.  I'm sure this transition to a new system is difficult but don't other school districts do this?  School is about to start and it almost sounds as if everything is being done manually.

I'll try to get a read on this from Tracy Libros and Communications.

What was also disturbing to read was about furniture for classrooms.  Principal Elliot lets parents know this is happening and says:

Hopefully every room will look ready for September 4th but the reality is the final pieces of that puzzle may be fitted in during the last hours before school starts.  Our district has had a struggle outfitting a significant number of new classrooms in many schools with even surplus furniture over the last few years and we are facing that again this year.  The truth is we will find a way and it will all be good.

I appreciate his positive outlook.  But again, our district knew it had capacity issues and that more children were going to get squeezed into more classrooms.  No one took quick inventory and ordered desks, etc. to be on-time?

I had reported previously about an organization - The Urban Schools Human Capital Academy - that helps "development of central office leaders with HR responsibilities."  It's going to cost the district about $150k to join and again, I'll find out where the money is coming from (meaning district money or somewhere else).

But honestly, if we don't have desks for kids versus spending for yet another initiative at Central, I just don't get it.  (And yes, this group is yet ANOTHER Gates Foundation initiative.)

One last thing - this being Queen Anne, there was also this about an event after a welcoming gathering after school starts:

After our conversation you are invited to participate in an item from our last auction.  A QAE family will be hosting a champagne brunch at her house just a short walk from school. 

The blurb goes on to say that the cost is $35 per person with all proceeds going to the PTSA.   That's an original way to raise money; I'm sure most PTAs hadn't thought of this before.

28 comments:

mirmac1 said...

I think if the district sent out the call, parents and teachers would mobilize to get classrooms ready. THAT is the way to build human capital: dealing in good faith, showing you care more for students than BS corporate HR crap.

Anonymous said...

Urban Schools Human Capital Academy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06hyqXA0uak

First presentation is a love fest but others are informative. I prefer the term of teacher etc. instead of human capital. Also more desks and chair and less management workshops.

PSP

Anonymous said...


Urban Schools Human Capital Academy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8QcBTxgaww

@1030 -16 minutes if you can't watch the entire presentation.

PSP

Gregory said...

RE: The systems issues and delay in enrollment information.

I wrote to Melissa about this several days ago and I think she checked into this issue. As of today - the system remains down and if one calls the SPS Enrollment Services one is directed in circles with the same messages and then, is disconnected from the system. I have a child on a waiting list and I am sure many of you do as well. In my view, it is utter incompetence that SPS has not updated its wait-lists since July and missed the 8/12 deadline for a functioning systems as originally promised. I wrote them and shared as much. To not know what your child's options are several weeks in advance is unacceptable.

Po3 said...

Add to the pile that the Source is is down and no EOC, MSP or MAP scores are available from the spring test fest.

Anybody think the Source will be up and running by next week?

And will test data be displayed?

Mary Griffin said...

I tired to withdraw my son in July and could not do so. I was told the system would be back up on August 12. that hasn't happened.

As scarey as the enrollment system is I have heard some people say they are backing up special education data because they "don't want to lose special education records." That's how bad it is.

I am concerned that the first day of school is going to be more bedlam than usual.

Anonymous said...

When do transportation letters go out?

waiting

joanna said...

I am beginning to worry that the new company does not know what it is doing and that some bad decisions are being made. Usually one system is not disabled until the new one is ready to run. This seems very odd in this day and age and in Seattle. A student information system is specialized but not a new concept.

Spruiter said...

Transportation letters probably have to wait until the whole system is up and running as well. Last I heard, the four portables going in at Jane Addams haven't arrived yet, and we knew last spring we'd be needing them. What about schools who don't know their enrollment because the system is still down?

I feel for the families with kids on wait lists and I hope they get things up and running soon. There might not be desks in my kids' classrooms on the first day of school (there weren't last year), but at least I know where they will be going.

Anonymous said...

Joanna, that is very true. The only time both the old and the new would be down, would be for a transfer of master data from one system to the other. That is a process that can be accomplished over a weekend, but certainly not multiple months.

It is very concerning.

-StepJ

Anonymous said...

A better spend of that $150K would be to hire a competent IT consultant to help migrate their systems.

This system migration has been absolutely mismanaged across the board. Folks should get fired over this as its been going on for 6 months.

GMG

n said...

I thought the Source was basically eliminated from the system - SPS isn't using it anymore. I read that somewhere... But who knows. I sure don't.

I think they have tried to add too many bells and whistles to our system. Cover basic needs (attendance, enrollment, assessment, etc.) and be done. That's my 2 cents worth.

Anonymous said...

Schools have also not been able to contact incoming students. That means some orientations & bridge programs were cancelled, athletic & music programs that start in August could not get information to incoming students, counselors haven't been able to correct schedules, transcripts were not available. Maybe folks in the John Stanford Center don't have anything to do with students before school starts, but many schools depend on communicating with students over the summer. What a mess.

-HS parent

Nick Esparza said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I must be missing something. I've been checking the SPS website frequently to try to check for any posting of test scores for two of my kids who are anxious about how they did on EOC exams. Since mid-July, there's been a message that says:

Beginning July 11, the Source will be unavailable so we may prepare for the new school year. Please check back on the first day of school. Thank You!

That suggested to me that the Source was down, but would be back up. I hadn't know that the Source was being deprecated, as it sounds from posts here.

Regardless, why would the system be down for SO long? What is the new system, and how does one access it? I just checked the SPS site again, and the message I mentioned is still posted. There's no link that I can find to any new system that's supposedly live as of today.

What in the world is going on down there? When are letters with test scores and transportation information being sent out? When will the old/new system be live again for parents to access data for their kids? This has disaster written all over it as far as smooth start to the school year.
-So frustrated

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Complete incompetence. As an IT professional, I have so many questions. This is critical data, there should have been a backup. Why weren't there two environments - test vs. production? Etc....

And where is the accountability? If SPS cannot attract or pay for IT talent, have they considered outsourcing IT functions? And I don't mean overseas, you can stipulate US workforce in contracts (as many healthcare companies require) for data integrity/security concerns. Could be potential cost savings for the district which can then be reallocated to our classrooms.

This isn't fair to families or the individual school staff. What if it isn't ready by the revised date? There appears to be no Plan B. This was absolutely completely avoidable with appropriate deployment/project planning. Banda, and his IT leaders, should be embarrassed.

Frustrated x2

Anonymous said...

I was in touch with transportation today via e-mail and was told that transportation letter have gone out and should be received by mid week this week.

~One of many waiting~

Anonymous said...

I think the source always has that message over the summer, or is locked down at any rate, so schedules can be finalized. I remember that the past few years at least.

I think the source is morphing into PowerSchool and that transition started last year already, right around 2nd semester bc first semester grades were in the source, second semester grades in PowerSchool. The PowerSchool portal was still via the source I think.

Sps mom

Nick Esparza said...

why was my comment removed blog administrator?

Anonymous said...

'...helps development of central office leaders with HR responsibilities.'

$150K pays for a lot of kindergarten. Free full-day kindy for any family wanting it. Leaders deliver on their promises. That's how they build trust and it doesn't cost a dime.

Mr. White

Anonymous said...

150K covers the cost of K for 75 students. A much better use of the funds - but not free K for all.

Lynn

Anonymous said...

Well if there was a way to trip up Sup. Banda, this would be it. Just look of all the many superintendents we have had in the last decade and look at all the career administrators who are downtown. Dysfunction does serve a purpose. They'll outlast him too.

tired

Melissa Westbrook said...

We do not allow name-calling. We've made that clear. You can state that a district employee is incompetent or ineffective but you can't call them stupid.

Tired, you could be right about that.

Anonymous said...

@Spruiter
I saw a double portable being put together today in the Jane Addams parking lot, behind the gym (southwest side of JA campus).
-North End Mom

Anonymous said...

Isn't the double portable mentioned above actually for students at Hale?

Hale Parent

Steve said...

Good blog! nice post