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SSD officials working to fix online issues

September 5, 2012

By CARL SMITH
sdnnews@bellsouth.net

Starkville School District administrators are working to resolve a data issue which is delaying parents’ online access to their children’s grades, absences and discipline reports.

In July, SSD officials announced the district would begin using InformationNOW, a Web-based portal containing student information for teachers and parents. The portal was expected to go live shortly after Labor Day, but the district postponed the launch until all issues are resolved.

With the previous system, administrators said each individual school kept its own student data, but InformationNOW utilizes a districtwide database. SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway said the current issue deals with how basic data was formatted in the previous system and how that data was rolled over to the new system. For example, data associated with numerous siblings’ addresses would not reference back to an individual parent if street addresses were entered for one student with an abbreviation and spelled out completely for another. In this instance, the system would register duplicate entries.

“The district signed a contract (for InformationNOW services) in February. We thought it would be easy to roll over, but it wasn’t. Also, we’ve had over 1,000 address changes over the summer alone (besides the initial data-formatting issues). That just adds to the complexity of the problem,” Holloway said. “The good news is once the problem is solved, it won’t be an issue in the future. Now, it just takes man-hours to get this problem corrected.”

SSD Public Information Officer Nicole Thomas said parents were alerted to complications through the district’s AlertNow system last week and new information sheets were sent home this week for parents to cross-reference data entries. David Hill, SSD’s technology department director, told school board officials Tuesday that data-entry technicians will begin combing through erroneous and faulty data next week after information sheets are returned to the district. Hill was not available for comment Wednesday.

“Beginning Monday, we’ll have two employees from each school responsible for entering student information coming to the Greensboro Center’s computer lab to resolve this issue. SSD has also contracted with InformationNOW for four additional days of training with experts for teachers and employees so they understand the system,” Thomas said. “We certainly share parents’ frustration with the issue, but the school district is working diligently to resolve the problem.”

Since the Web portal is inactive, Holloway said he encourages parents to email their children’s teachers with any questions about their grades. Mid-nine weeks progress reports will be sent to parents this week, and Starkville High School will host a progress report fair on campus today from 4-6 p.m., Thomas said.

School board member Eric Heiselt said he hopes the data issue is solved well before the school year eclipses students who are in academic trouble. Heiselt is the father of three children currently enrolled in SSD.

“As a parent, this is one of the main ways we get information about our children,” he said during Tuesday’s board meeting. “I would like to see that teachers are encouraged to communicate with parents.

“If we don’t know our children are in trouble by the first nine weeks, it could be too late,” Heiselt added.

School board member Jenny Turner said she encourages parents to utilize the online system once data issues are solved. Turner said she used the previous system often last year to follow her two children’s progress.

“It was really like looking at the teacher’s grade book,” Turner said about the previous system. “We’re used to that convenience and access, but (InformationNOW) will be a great system for the school district once it is ready.”

Once InformationNOW goes live, officials say the Web portal will offer more benefits than the system it replaced. Thomas said teachers were previously forced to enter students’ grades and other information on district computers; however, InformationNOW allows this same entry from home.

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