by Sofia Colignon | news editor
Parent access to student records, senior transcripts and rank have all been compromised because of the district’s new data system – Skyward. These problems have been ongoing since the beginning of the academic year.
“The software program Skyward is coming in to update the entire district’s program, as far as information, data and student access and so forth. The problem is, the new software is not reading the main frame in the way that we’re used to having things be read, because [it] is not able to take that information and transfer it to the new program, which is why we’re having all of these difficulties,” principal John Mehlbrech said.
According to Mehlbrech, the transfer of data from the old system to the new one has been one of the main issues they’re having.
“The program is not able to pick up all those different indicators in order to put it in their system [in order to] have an accurate record. What the programmers are doing in Northeast is verifying a lot of different data and trying to assess what we’re missing, what we need to do [and] how can we better incorporate,” Mehlbrech said.
The process is pushing back the transferring of grades, among other things.
“We almost have to go backwards, pre-technology, in order to get things caught up to the new [system] so, it’s a huge inconvenience. It is extremely frustrating as we’re progressing because we’ve gotten used to the way it was, [but] every time we have a major change like this, it just takes a little while for it to get better at it,” Mehlbrech said.
The Skyward program was piloted by the district a year before it actually came into place to get started on the transferring of data and information.
“They piloted the program a year before it actually brought it to us. So some of the schools were running both systems, the old system and the new system, and they were looking at things that were going over and the stuff they were looking seemed to go over pretty smoothly, but now that we have gone fully into the new system, they’re finding out that there’s a lot of other things that they didn’t do, that they didn’t realize would be an issue,” Mehlbrech said.
One of the main issues includes parents and guardians having trouble accessing their children’s data and grade online.
“We used to be on a mainframe system, and we’d had that mainframe system for about 20 to 30 years, so, you know, it’s quite an old system. So when we moved over to the new webpage system, it was a massive data conversion project so it [caused] a lot of issues with parent access, which is that a lot of data had to match with an individual family but it wasn’t matching very well, and didn’t correlate within the family,” NEISD executive director of Management Information Systems Marco Zorola said.
One of the things causing these issues is that parents have forgotten to update their emails addresses, which complicates things when transferring data over from the old system to Skyward.
“We’ve had issues where people’s email addresses have gotten out of date. They didn’t update their email addresses, so when we brought over those emails, some of the addresses were [wrong]. There was a primary email, and we sent emails to those addresses, but the parents never really got them because [those] addresses weren’t in service anymore. Once we tracked everything down, we realized that the email address they had on record was one that they didn’t use anymore, it was locked up, [and] they had actually switched to a different email address and were using that one,” Zorola said.
Parents might also forget to update addresses for their already enrolled children.
“Sometimes what happens too is that families move addresses and maybe they don’t update [them] for the prior child, and so what happens is we have two children in the same family, but they’re at different addresses so when we do our conversion over from one system to another, the new system wants everything to be very precise in terms of every family should have the same address unless specified otherwise,” Zorola said.
Unlike Skyward, the old main frame system just had the individual students and there was no linking of families.
“The new system actually has family units, where we [can] define parent and guardian, siblings, all those things, so when it tried to match everything up, it caused a lot of issues like people change addresses all the time, people change phone numbers, even change names; sometimes we’ve had families or parents who register their child under their legal name, and then the next time, they use their middle name as their first name, so we’ve ran into issues like that [which makes us ask] are these really the same people or not?” Zorola said.
The district recently released close to 43,000 letters with the youngest child of each family, giving them the information needed for parent access.
“[However], those 43,000 letters we sent district-wise [don’t include] everyone, but it’s a large chunk of people. Right now, we’re working [on] the next batch of family access, parents and families to fix everything so that way we can get their family access straight,” Zorola said.
The district has been working with a group of programmers to be able to solve these issues as soon as possible.
“When we have issues, we go to central office and say ‘These are the issues that we’re finding,’ they go to Skyward and then they process through and work through the programming piece of it, so that it can now start to try to read what it’s supposed to do. They’re very organized, and they know what the issues are, it’s a matter of getting [them] to match what we need to have done,” Mehlbrech said.
Rank and transcripts have also caused problems on Skyward, difficulting college applications for seniors.
“One of the letters that went home to the parents last week was about rank. What they’re trying to do to correct the problem and what you can do to make sure that the college or university is getting the proper information they need. The district is in communication with the colleges and universities so they understand that we have that issue, but you would still use the one that was printed out in the summer – it’s a mainframe rank; it’s a little behind right now, but you can still [go back to it],” Mehlbrech said.
This issue should be cleared up by the end of October.
“We’re working through that as well, and we’re actually very close to having rank and transcripts fixed; we’ve been working with the counseling department, and [they] have been handling rank requests that are needed right now for individuals who have to submit transcript information and get rank information but, in general, we’re very close to having that completed, we’ve been working closely with the vendor, we’ve been working every day with them on correcting issues. Our goal is to have rank and transcripts fixed by mid-October, so in about a week or so; that’s our goal and I believe we will get there,” Zorola said.
Overall, the process is very complex, but all issues should be cleared up by the end of this semester.
“Conversions are always very messy and this has not been an easy one, mostly because of the age of the information. If you think about it, that’s 12 years worth of data of students who’ve been in our district all their lives; you can imagine all of the things that change in our lives that we don’t even think about telling the school about, so sorting through all of that is a very complex concept,” Zorola said.