I knew that KDE had acquired a new system and that there were protests about it. In fact, the last time Fayette County looked at upgrading student information systems, I was part of a district task force that recommended the purchase of services from Software Technology Inc (STI). The state soon followed suit and required STI for all districts (except maybe Jefferson County).
But things change and KDE felt a newer more capable system was needed.
I no longer have school-aged children, at least not K-12, and so I hadn't heard anything about the new system and have never had occasion to use it. Further, I didn't devote time to look into the complaints my accountant shared.
But Clark County superintendent Ed Musgrove has looked into it. And, he doesn't like what he sees.
This from the Winchester Sun:
A Web-based system that was intended to streamline student records in Clark County Public Schools has only made things worse and could cost the district state funding, school district administrators said this week.
Clark County was one of 16 pilot sites that launched the Infinite Campus system in October, along with nearby Fayette County and Paris Independent school districts.
Infinite Campus is designed to give teachers, parents and students 24-hour access to information about grades, testing results and attendance, but Superintendent Ed Musgrove said the program is not working for Clark County. He estimates that serving as a pilot district has cost Clark County approximately $20,000 in lost hours, and immeasurable stress and frustration.
"I wish we had not been a pilot school," Musgrove said. "But hindsight is always perfect." Director of Pupil Personnel Diane Akers said Infinite Campus does not track attendance the same way as the previous system, and district administrators are "very anxious" about the accuracy of Clark County's average daily attendance numbers, which are used by the state to calculate the amount of funding each school district receives. Other pilot districts are facing the same concern.
That report will be sent to the state June 30.
"The new system does not track it (attendance) minute by minute, and the codes (used previously) did not convert over," Akers said. "The attendance clerks have had to go back and manually calculate it (attendance) with pen and paper. It's almost like we've backed up in a lot of ways."
An attendance clerk housed at Central Office, for example, used to complete her work in four hours a day, Akers said. Since the switch, she has spent eight hours a day on attendance and still hasn't been able to keep up.
Akers said it takes 20 to 30 minutes to enter each family's information in the Infinite Campus system, which took just three minutes with the previous system. Teachers have entered student grades into the system, and then turned their computer on the next day to find it missing.
Akers said she is concerned that the state is about to introduce Infinite Campus to
more school districts, despite the bugs that have not been resolved in pilot districts. According to the Kentucky Department of Education Web site, the system should be phased in statewide by December 2008.
"They're going to start converting people, and these other things are still not working for us," she said.
Before Clark County first launched the program in October, it conducted three successful "rollovers" of student information from the old system. Then an Infinite Campus employee made changes to the way the transfer worked, Akers said, and didn't notify Clark County before a fourth rollover was conducted.
"A lot of the data didn't roll over the same way," she said. "I have been told that out of the 16 pilot districts, our conversion was the worst."
District officials agreed to serve as a pilot district because they were promised an easy process, Musgrove said. When the switch didn't go as well as expected, the responsibility was shifted to school districts to fix the problem, he said.
"Our concern is that when we agreed to be a pilot, the part that sold us on this was that throughout this year we would receive all necessary training, equipment - everything necessary to make this pilot successful," Musgrove said.
"Being a pilot certainly wasn't free. When it didn't work ight, I do not believe Infinite Campus stepped up to the plate and shouldered their share of the burden."
Pilot districts were offered free training at the beginning f the implementation process, Musgrove said, but were later offered additional training at a cost of $6,000 per class. The expense would have been even greater, Musgrove said, because the training was out of state and travel and lodging costs were additional.
Clark County Public Schools, which was placed on the state's financial watch list last year for dropping below a 2 percent budget contingency, couldn't afford the costly training, Musgrove said. Clark County employees then started seeing their work orders fall to the bottom of the priority list at Infinite Campus.
"What we believe is that once the pilot wasn't going as seamlessly as everyone thought, in a roundabout way, it came to us that if we would agree to send our employees to this additional level of training, it would allow us a better understanding of how to correct the work orders as they were processed," he said.
"Since we didn't have this training, our requests were going to the bottom of the pile, and others, who had completed the training, were somehow going to the top of the pile."
Akers also said Clark County employees made several complaints to Infinite Campus, which she thinks could have contributed to work orders being delayed.
The new Web-based system replaced one called STI, which had been in place in Clark County for 10 years. STI cost the district at least $15,000 a year to run.
Last August, Software Technology Inc., the company that runs STI, filed suit against the Kentucky Department of Education and others, claiming that the Department of Education and the state Finance Department "engaged in fraud, misrepresentation and unlawful acts" to prevent STI from being awarded the contract to continue to run the statewide student information system.
The suit alleged that the Department of Education and Jefferson County Public Schools made a "secret unlawful pact" to keep STI from receiving the contract.
In a December 2007 letter to Commissioner of Education Jon Draud, V. Wayne Young, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, claimed that Infinite Campus "doesn't meet the needs of local districts" and called it a "labor-intensive nightmare."
Young said pilot school districts reported their Infinite Campus experience was "universally abysmal" - tasks that take more time to complete, longer reports and more complicated instructions.
According to the Franklin County Clerk's office, the case was last active on Jan. 9, when a motion for mediation was filed.
There is also concern among Clark County administrators that the state budget will not have enough money next year to fund the Infinite Campus system. The program is already under funded in this year's budget, Musgrove said, and any additional cost will have to come from the district's contingency fund.
"Because they (state) are requiring districts to have it, they said they would pay for it," Akers said. "Now that they're having a budget squeeze they might divert that cost over to us." Clark County plans to launch a parent portal in August, which should allow parents to use a code number to access information about their children anytime, from any computer with an Internet connection.
"This has been the most difficult pilot...Clark County has taken on," Akers said. "We've had many difficult days, but we're beginning to see some progress."
Musgrove said the difficulty is felt through all levels of Clark County schools.
"All of us here miss STI immensely," he said.