NC Dept. Of Public Instruction Touts 4th Year of Powerschool, Ignores Failings

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction sent out a  press release yesterday, hailing the success of Powerschool, which captures student data and information statewide.

The press release listed impressive numbers of parent log-ins as a way of making it seem that the product was really making a difference.

It’s catching on. In a single week this spring, more than 450,000 parents and students accessed the secure parent and student portals in PowerSchool, giving districts yet another approach to help strengthen parent engagement, a critical factor for student achievement.

“By using PowerSchool’s parent portal, we can connect parents to key data about their students’ schoolwork. This frees parents and teachers to spend their conference time discussing strategies to help students improve,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson.

What the release doesn’t say is that Powerschool is the only portal for parents.  So of course large numbers of parents are logging on?

The press release also didn’t mention Powerschool’s failings.

These failings include a $7 million dollar maintenance rate, hundreds of ‘slow connectivity incidents’, missing deliverables and suspect payments to ‘contractors’.

Back in June, this site reported on a letter obtained that was sent by the HomeBase Leadership team to the NC Department of Public Instruction Leadership and PowerSchool team. The letter revealed that Powerschool was still rife with problems.

Excerpt from the June report:

Accompanying the letter was a spreadsheet with 286 incidents spanning 10 weeks, starting at the end of March and running through the beginning of June. The vast majority (around 90%) of these incidents involved ‘slow connectivity’, ‘loss of functionality’ and ‘down/unavailable’.

Under “Quality Assurance”, complaints included:

  • “Broken items are consistently placed in QA for re-test without being thoroughly vetted or unit tested.”
  • “Urgent and prioritized defects and issues are frequently not addressed within a reasonable timeframe. High priority items often sit for days, sometimes weeks, without tangible results, or progress updates.”
  • “PowerSchool is inconsistent in following industry standard procedures for Quality Assurance.

Of note, under the bullet point, “Transition from In-House Project Support to Operational Support”, was this gem (emphasis added to the second half):

There has been a lot of discussion about this subject and we want to put it to bed. We were given a list of tasks that Greg Parish used to perform while he was based at NCDPI. The majority of these tasks require technical level access to servers that NCDPI has no access to, or require contacting various people within different
teams of PowerSchool, in order to coordinate support activities. We provided a specific response to Dan Gwaltney with the proposed transition steps on the few items that can be transitioned to NCDPI. As a response we received an SOW and a bill for Lorenzo’s services for $105,000. The SOW was actually a template written for your customers that host locally. It just seemed like a document put together with little effort in order to attach a bill to it. We have a contract with PowerSchool that costs more than $7 million per year for maintenance, support and
hosting operations; a turn-key solution. We expect that this is sufficient payment and find it absurd that PowerSchool wants to charge North Carolina extra money for work performed by specific members of your staff.

The letter also notes that the project is missing close-out items, yet NC DPIannounced in 2013 that the project was completed.

Using DPI’s 450,000 parent log in number and at a maintenance rate of $7 million, that’s just over $15 a log in.

Read the whole June Report: PowerSchool Update Letter Packed with Bombshells
Read the June 9th Letter.

Posted in EXCLUSIVE, June Atkinson, LadyLiberty1885, NC DPI | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wake School Board Race Will Use 2011 Maps; 4 Incumbents Run Unopposed

As previously reported, the 4th Circuit threw out Wake county’s voting maps this past July, even though the maps had survived two prior legal challenges. This sent Wake county election officials and legislators scrambling to find a remedy.

The 4th Circuit ruling had implied that perhaps no elections should be held in Wake county this November,  stating that, “We see no reason why the November 2016 elections should proceed under the unconstitutional plans we strike down today.”

2011 maps versus the redistricted maps:

This move sent election officials and legislators scrambling to salvage the November election. It also meant many candidates were now out of a race and refiling would be required.

The matter was taken up by Federal Court Judge James Dever III, who had been the judge who originally upheld the constitutionality of the Wake maps. Dever re-opened the filing for the Wake school board race on August 9th.

In August, Judge James Dever III ruled that the 2011 maps would have to be used for the 2016 election, however this was an ‘interim’ remedy.   Dever’s order leaves room for legislators to take another whack at redistricting when they return to the General Assembly.

As a result of Dever’s ruling, all nine school board seats will be on the ballot in November, however now four are running unopposed.  Each of those elected will serve two-year terms and this election is by plurality, meaning there will be no run-off races.

By the 2011 districts being used this November, here are the candidates. An asterisk denotes incumbent.

District 1: Donald Agee, Mary Beth Ainsworth, Tom Benton*, Sheila W. Ellis
District 2: Peter Hochstaetter, Mark A. Ivey, Monika Johnson-Hostler*
District 3: Roxie Cash
District 4: Heather Elliott, Keith Sutton*
District 5: Jim Martin*
District 6: Christine Kushner*
District 7: Zora S. Felton*
District 8: Gary Lewis, Lindsay Mahaffey, Gil Pagan
District 9: Bill Fletcher*, Michael Tanbusch

Most of the current members have filed to run again, save Susan Evans and Kevin Hill. Evans is challenging Tamara Barringer for her NC General Assembly senate seat.

An example of the chaos caused by shifting back to the 2011 maps is evident in current District 1 and 2 races. Under the new maps, Sheila Ellis would have been going up against Monika Johnson-Hostler. Ellis now is running in District 1.  The situation is confusing, at best.

Johnson-Hostler’s personal financial dealings and ” five-figure credit card debt” were highlighted in the 2013 race. This website took notice when Johnson-Hostler was cited defending Common Core in 2014.

The two candidates now challenging Johnson-Hostler in District 2 are both Republicans.  Peter Hochstaetter was originally running in District 7 alongside Gary Lewis, who had now been pushed into District 8.

An article in the News and Observer stated that, “Hochstaetter, 35, is a corporate trainer who says he’s “a proponent of neighborhood schools and restoring power and decision-making authority to parents and local families.”  This is backed up by Hochstaetter’s LinkedIn profile.

Hochstaetter doesn’t appear to have a campaign website, but he does have a rather inactive Facebook page. Sources tell me Hochstaetter’s children possibly attend a private school.

The other contender is Mark Ivey, who does have a campaign website. The site is rather inactive but does have a bio page. Ivey also has a Facebook presence, which is much more active and shows a concentration on Vocational and Career and Technical Education (CTE).

Districts 1, 2 and 8 have a chance to make a slight difference if they oust the incumbents. Given that 7 of the 9 current  members are running it is unlikely any real changes can be made to the way the Wake board operates.

Citizens unsure of who is running in their school board districts should use the North Carolina State Board of Elections ‘voter look up‘ tool.  Once they have looked up their voter record, they can click on the ‘sample ballot’ to view their options.

Posted in 2016, Elections, LadyLiberty1885, Legal Related, The Articles, Voting, Wake County School Board | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

WRAL Report On Edgecombe Teacher Turnover Doesn’t Include Supplemental Pay Figures

A lengthy, well-written and detailed article at WRAL which covers the high teacher turnover rate in Edgecombe county mentions supplemental pay, but doesn’t give the figures.

Teacher PayThese figures are important to understand why some counties might have higher turnover rates than others.

These figures do not include details such as average base pay level, benefits or additional supplements for masters degrees.

Here’s Edgecombe’s number of teachers (which also is the same number claiming the supplemental pay) and the average supplemental rates for the last five years:

  • 2011-12: 506 teachers, $1,582
  • 2012-13: 508 teachers, $1,556
  • 2013-14: 447 teachers, $1,570
  • 2014-15: 459 teachers, $1,575
  • 2015-16: 452 teacher, $2,141

Between the 2011-12 school year and the 2015-16 year, Edgecombe had a net loss of 54 teachers. This drop comes despite the slight uptick in teacher pay over this time period.

Each district sets their own supplemental pay rates. This is not set by the legislature.

Bear in mind that the top five districts for supplemental pay as of figures compiled in 2015-16 are far greater than Edgecombe’s.

The number of teachers below is the number claiming the supplemental pay, not all did as indicated by the asterisk:

  • Wake: 9,919 teachers, $6,975
  • Durham*: 2,194 teachers, $6,790
  • Charlotte Meckelenburg*: 10,326 teachers, $6,764
  • Chapel Hill: 958 teachers, $6,315
  • Orange*: 600 teachers, $5,200

In the 2015-16 year, supplemental pay in Wake county was around  3.25 times higher than that of Edgecombe.

Some districts have zero supplemental pay. Historically, these districts with zero supplement have included Cherokee County Schools, Clay County Schools, Graham County Schools, Halifax County Schools, Weldon City Schools, Madison County Schools, Swain County Schools.

Note: This site maintains a historical spreadsheet of supplemental rates and can be requested by email (TheLL1885@gmail.com) for review.


Related Reading: Low teacher supplements cost schools

Posted in Education, LadyLiberty1885, Random Musings | Tagged , , | Leave a comment