BOE opts for new data system

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Elizabethton City Schools officials hope a state-backed student information management system will solve the problems of an existing system that personnel blame for snafus in data.
   Joey Trent, director of technology for the ECS system, told the city Board of Education Thursday night that the school system's existing student management system has created problems.
   Trent said the Chancery Student Management Program currently used in ECS has "frustrated" the system's support staff. He said reports were generated incorrectly and Elizabethton High School had been unable to generate grade point averages, student transcripts or class rank from the Chancery program.
   "Their support is horrible," Trent said of the company's technical support for the data system.
   He requested the board approve an agreement with Tennessee Department of Education for training and implementation of a new Statewide Student Management System (SSMS) with a different data management vendor.
   Century Consultants are providing the Web-based system that includes both student information and special education systems. The software gives teachers and administrators the ability to access information from any Internet source.
   The SSMS program already has 100 state school districts on board.
   The school system switched its student data management system from the Horizon Company to Chancery before the 2002-2003 school year. The Chancery system price tag was $100,000.
   Trent said ECS fell into phase-two implementation for the SSMS. If ECS waits until the 2005-2006 school year, the SSMS would be implemented at no cost to the system. The enormous difficulties occurring with the Chancery program make bringing the system on-line next year imperative, Trent told the board.
   To have the system implemented for the next school year, the system would have to pay the state for switchover costs of $24.07 per student in the ECS system.
   That translates to approximately $40,000 based on the system's 2004 state report card of enrollment, Trent estimated. The state picks up the fees for costs thereafter, Trent said.
   If the new system was not implemented by the next school year, Trent said he planned to resume using the Horizon software to manage Elizabethton High School's student data. Annual maintenance fees for both systems run in the neighborhood of $13,000 he said.
   "If it is pushed back," Trent said of the decision, "We will have another $13,000 cost next year."
   ECS Superintendent Dr. David Roper advised the board against pursuing any type of monetary recovery from Chancery based on the data system's performance. He noted that he had attended a recent education conference where company representatives touted the system's success across the state.
   "We'd end up just doing a legal battle with them," Roper said. "I believe it is time to cut our losses."
   Trent said one example of the problems experienced with the Chancery system occurred when ECS officials received news that East Side Elementary and Harold McCormick Elementary failed to meet federal benchmarks for attendance levels under No Child Left Behind regulations. He said an error in the Chancery program resulted in the wrong attendance numbers being forwarded to the state.
   Once the error was detected and the attendance figures re-calculated both schools met the attendance benchmark.
   ECS Director of Finance Cynthia Roberts told board members the system's 2005 budget could fund the $40,000 cost to implement the SSMS program with funds carried over from the current school year to the next. "Right now it looks very favorable," she said.
   The board voted 5-0 to approve entering the agreement with the Education Department for the new management system.
   In other business, the board voted 5-0 to accept the 2004-2005-rate schedule for students paying tuition to attend Elizabethton City Schools. The schedule sets $600 for students in grades K-8, $350 for students in grades 9-12, and $800 for any student attending ECS from outside Carter County. The schedule sets a cap of $2,400 annually for one family. The tuition amounts are unchanged from the current school year.