School system decides to stay with SMS data program for another year



Despite a school year filled with complaints and delays associated with a new student data computer program, the Howard County school system has decided to stick with the program for another year.

Key central office administrators promise that they will work closely with Chancery Software Ltd., the Burnaby, British Columbia-based company that owns the Student Management System (SMS).

The administrators, including Bob Glascock, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, also have detailed steps they will take to keep parents abreast of the program's progress.

Joshua Kaufman, chairman of the school board, said the administration weighed the option of keeping the program versus the costs of switching to another program.

"They made the decision to keep it," said Kaufman. "I think everybody realized that [Glascock] didn't say it is fixed."

In addition to telling the board about the decision to keep SMS, Glascock announced last week that the system spent $53,000 for overtime costs resulting from SMS and $20,000 for a network analysis performed to help isolate problems with the program.

The system spent $650,000 for contracted technical support for the SMS program and $80,000 for the annual maintenance and licensing fees for a pre-existing contract with Chancery.

The steps that Glascock outlined on how the system will inform parents about the $803,000 program include an additional computer program that will let employees transfer student data at a faster rate, reducing some of the frustration experienced by program users.

"SMS would remain the official student record," he said.

Linda Wise, assistant superintendent for school administration, said the system also will send all rising 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students data so that they can verify that their courses, grades, grade point averages and credits are correct. That information will be given to students along with fall class schedules.

"We'll be sending letters to schools detailing the process," Wise said.

Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said he plans to meet with Chancery's president and staff members to discuss remaining problems and concerns.

"We are doing everything for the benefit of students, schools," Cousin said. "We will continue the process."

Since SMS was implemented at the county's 12 high schools in July, employees have complained of problems.

In the first quarter, more than 1,700 report cards had to be reprinted because of a mix-up in grades. Third-quarter report cards for high school students were distributed a week late because of SMS. And system employees received word that final report cards for seniors would be distributed after graduation, although school system officials say the delay will not affect college admissions.

Problems with SMS prompted the Howard County PTA Council to send school PTA presidents a notice this month, asking them to encourage parents to request grade point average ranking sheets and transcripts.

Mary Jane Barbato-Grauso, president of the PTA Council, said she was pleased to learn that the system planned to collect student data to send to students - although she wondered why it took the board and system so long.

"They are jumping on board and following our suggestion, which we think is a wonderful idea," she said.

Despite the problems, system administrators said that they have not received word of errors in student data being sent to institutions of higher learning. In the fall, more than 16,000 transcripts were sent to colleges and universities, said Wise.

"I'm not saying it didn't result in extra time, but it didn't result in any errors," Wise said.

New name is official

After months of surveys, interviews and research, the school in western Howard County finally has a name: Dayton Oaks Elementary School.

In early March, a 13-member naming committee told the school board that it had chosen that name. Thursday's unanimous vote by the board made the name official.

Marion Miller, administrative director of elementary schools and co-chairwoman of the naming committee, told the board that the process can now move on to pick a mascot and school colors.

Diane Mikulis, the board's vice chairman, said that she was bombarded with inquiries about the name of the school when she recently visited Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School, one of two feeder schools. Clarksville Elementary is the other.

"I got asked that question many times when I was at Triadelphia Ridge," Mikulis said.

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