November 4, 2014 11:45 am | * UPDATED :: The MiSiS cash register is starting to ring.
Ever since the bungled launch of the student data system, the district has been throwing heaps of money at software problems to get the system functioning properly to meet district, state and federal mandated deadlines.
“More than anybody, I want to know how much money we’ve spent,” Superintendent Ramon Cortines told LA School Report. “I mean, how much we spent in addition to the budget for MiSiS. And I’m keeping account of the money I’m further spending.”
From August through Oct. 1, the district gave schools $10 million for the transition of registration, enrollment and attendance data to MiSiS. Cortines, who took over from John Deasy two weeks ago, supported the the effort by bring in 30 retired administrators, counselors and counselors on the rehire list as well as 270 active staffers, with all of them deployed to schools throughout the district as back up to those working to solve MiSiS issues.
That money, nearly as much as what was spent to build MiSiS using bond funds, has been siphoned from the district’s General Fund, adding to an already negative operating budget.
“I am very concerned about the 2014-15 deficit,” Cortines said, estimating it to be well over $300 million. He expects next year’s deficit to go above $400 million.
“I think somebody drank the Kool-Aid, and we didn’t look down the road to think about if it was sustainable,” he said referring to the budget crafted by Deasy and the school board. emphasis added
Additional expenses include the cost of doubling the Information Technology staff to handle technical support, setting up a hotline and additional training on using the system. At a recent school board meeting Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill told the school board to expect further requests for more spending on these items. In October the board approved $3.6 million in bond dollars to buy 3,343 desktop computers for nearly 800 schools whose computers are so outdated that they are incompatible with MiSiS.
And recent additions to the district’s roster of consultants is adding to the bottom line on MiSiS, though minimal by comparison with other expenditures.
Consultant Arnold Viramontes, initially hired by Deasy to provide guidance and recommendations on the direction of the MiSiS project, signed a three-month contract not to exceed $73,500. That is set to expire next month, but Cortines has said he plans to keep Viramontes on the payroll indefinitely at an hourly rate of $175.
Cortines is expected to announce a structuring of the IT staff. Already, two key officials have left — Ron Chandler, the former head of the division, and Bria Jones, an outside consultant.
* Clarifies use of $10 million for MiSiS.