During Monday night’s board of education meeting, school district officials presented several updates on the operation of the school system, but a particular item on the agenda led to an in-depth discussion.
The topic that seemed to generate the most interest came as a result of a presentation by Tony Rogers, director of operational technology for the district. Rogers’ presentation called for the board to approve the purchase of a sophisticated system to handle financial, student information and assessment, and special education data, from a company called SunGard.
Officials referred to the system as the SunGard 360 system, which, according to Superintendent Edmond Heatley, will handle student, financial and human resources information in one package. He said the price tag for the system will be a little over a $5 million, but that the district will actually save money in the long run.
“It will actually [end up] costing the district less than $1.3 million,” said Heatley. “[This system] will be upgraded to the 21st Century, and we think it’s pretty powerful.”
Board Member Jessie Goree, however, was apprehensive about a deal with SunGard, she said, because of a past business deal with the company.
According to Heatley, in November of 2006, a Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued. And in August 2007, the board agreed to award the contract [the amount unspecified] to SunGard. Although the district invested funds to purchase the software and license agreement, for BusinessPLUS –– a highly customized product –– the program was not successfully implemented and was never utilized.
The district, he said, was not able to implement the necessary processes to ensure success, and –– ultimately –– SunGard’s BusinessPLUS product did not provide adequate support for the district.
He added that because of this scenario, he understands Goree’s concern. But, this time around, he assured board members, the district would ensure that the product will be implemented. “I’m sure [Goree] was not opposed to the [SunGard system], but she just wants to make sure it’s implemented with validity this time,” Heatley said.
“This was an issue before I got here,” he said. “One could ask the question to who was at fault [as to why the product was not implemented], but we put that to the side, and worked out a new deal.”
He added that school officials met with SunGard staff to determine what the company was willing to do to meet the district’s needs. SunGard, he said, presented the eFinancePLUS product, and the updated features were evaluated.
District officials determined that the financial system would be the same technology platform currently used for the student information system, and that would allow the systems to talk to each other. Purchasing SunGard 360 Solutions will modernize the district’s technology and replace an aging AS/400 system, according to Rogers.
Heatley said he hopes the board will vote to approve the contract during the Oct. 3 school board meeting.
In other business, it was revealed that mold has been found at Hendrix Elementary School, and Cephus Jackson, chief operations officer for the district, called for immediate action. He asked the school board to approve money needed to get rid of the mold. To ensure the safety of the students’ health, Jackson said, they are being temporarily housed in portable buildings.