In June, Watts said problems began occurring with the software as it tried to handle scheduling. Multiple patches were needed, and their installation delayed PGCPS staff in their scheduling work.
One student from Eleanor Roosevelt High School–identified only as Melinda B.–began asking questions and took some notes on how her school enters scheduling information.
“Every year,” she wrote, “our scheduling coordinator at Roosevelt, Mr. Horn, starts working on entering schedules into the system from February to July. He enters the schedules into a computer program called ‘The Scheduler.’ Every year, The Scheduler is only able to automatically enter the schedules of about 75% of the students; the other 25%, which is about 600-700 students, have scheduling issues that the program can’t fix on its own,” explains Melinda B. “When this happens, the program leaves the schedule in the system incomplete and moves on to the next one. This is where Mr. Horn comes in. Mr. Horn, from July to August, sits with The Scheduler and works out the remaining 25% of the students’ schedules. By the time school starts back up, he has most of the students’ schedules worked out. The remaining students go to the auditorium and wait for their schedules to be finished; the average student’s schedule takes 5-10 minutes to be entered into the system.”
She continues, “Now, this year, the county wanted him to use SchoolMAX for Eleanor Roosevelt’s scheduling. The program, which he was only able to start using in May, was able to get 77% of the student’s schedules in. However, SchoolMAX, not being able to work out the remaining [23%] of the schedules, removed them completely from the system instead of leaving them incomplete. Because of this, Mr. Horn had to enter and work out the missing schedules from scratch. They didn’t want him doing this over the summer, however, because they were working on the program, which apparently required it to be down the entire time. Now, instead of Mr. Horn getting to work in late June/early July, they allowed him into the program on August 7th. This left him with 17 days to attempt to do what usually takes him more than two months. In addition, SchoolMAX’s scheduling program is incredibly slow compared to The Scheduler. Instead of 5-10 minutes for a schedule to be registered in the system, it now can take up to 45 minutes. In conclusion, the No Child Left Behind Act left behind about 631 students yesterday at Roosevelt.”
Watts confirmed this information to reporters on Thursday, saying that when SchoolMAX was finally working properly after numerous patches, it deleted incomplete student schedules from the system. Staff then had only three weeks to re-enter and fix thousands of student schedules.
He also confirmed that the Student Information System PGCPS uses can automatically and correctly enter only about 70 to 80 percent of all student schedules. He says this is consistent with other districts.
“We knew there were students still missing their schedules before school started,” said William Hite, superintendent of PGCPS, during the press conference. “But we didn’t know the exact number until Monday when school started.”
Some contend the school system knew the extent of the scheduling problem all along, yet did nothing to warn parents or students.
“Oh, they knew before,” charged Mary Nusser, president of the Parent-Teacher-Student Organization (PTSO) during an ABC 7 News interview. “Why they didn’t delay school opening I’ll never know.”
Hite says one of the lessons he and his staff have learned from this situation is to provide better notification to those enrolled, teachers, parents, and the community.
Hite says it was a combination of technology errors and human errors–entering data incorrectly or not completely.