Sunday, May 31, 2015

CORRECTION: MiSiS in Prince George's County

In the 5/31 4LAKids newsletter+blog smf wrote:

"Our own Dr. John Deasy – who admitted he doesn’t understand database implementation …but is driven by the need for Big Data – rolled out a product called MiSiS in Prince George’s County, MD …and then got outta Maryland to the warm bosom of The Gates Foundation just before that ship hit that sand!

The product bought by PGCPS CEO Deasy was called ISIS (no "M") in PGC and was commercially sold as SchoolMax.  The scheduling debacle (see Washington Post: occurred when the SchoolMax scheduler was implemented - about a year after Deasy left.
LAUSD under Deasy also used SchoolMax and also called it ISIS.  According to a  knowledgeable source LAUSD was on the verge of implementing the SchoolMax/ISIS scheduler several times, but cooler heads prevailed.
When it became obvious that ISIS/SchoolMax wasn't up to the task LAUSD under Deasy switched in 2012  to MiSiS, (the first time that name was used except for a European program to clean up the Black Sea) developed by Microsoft for Fresno Unified and called ATLAS  - with the claim that the code was free because FUSD had already paid for it. ("We own the code!") In 2011 LAUSD had comparison tested ISIS and ATLAS and found ISIS vastly superior.
SchoolMax /aka/ Maximus /aka/ Harris Education Consulting and LAUSD then sued+countersued each other for breech of contract ....and the rest is history. 
In 2003, the district signed a contract with Virginia-based Maximus Inc. to build most of the key components of the Integrated Student Information System, or ISIS. It was supposed to be finished in 2007.

The district spent $112 million building that system, but most of it was never put into use. Instead, after multiple delays and false starts, the project fell apart amid rancor and lawsuits against the vendors hired to build it.

In 2008, Maximus sold its education software division to another company, Harris Education Consulting. The district later complained in court filings that both companies "not only consistently failed to meet deadlines, they also delivered shoddy software releases that are plagued with major defects or bugs." Former project managers for the district said in interviews with The Times that in many cases, the companies did not test the software before delivering it to the district.
The companies acknowledged that there had been problems but said that was to be expected with such an ambitious project. They complained in court filings that "internal dysfunction" in the district, including frequent turnover in administrators and staff, led to "constantly changing requirements" that prevented the work from getting done.

The system was supposed to launch in late 2010, but the district put it on hold, saying too many bugs showed up in testing. The district stopped paying most of Harris' bills and began to look for other ways to complete the project.

One option the district considered was software that had been jointly developed by Microsoft and the Fresno Unified School District.

In the spring of 2011, the ISIS and Fresno systems were tested side by side. The difference was dramatic: the Fresno system, known as ATLAS, succeeded at about 20% of the tasks, while the ISIS software's success rate was 82%. Based on that, the district opted to keep working with Harris.

But in late 2012, the district changed course. Deasy and Ron Chandler, the district's Internet technology officer, told the court-appointed monitor that they wanted to use the Fresno code to develop their own system in-house. They cited continuing delays and design flaws in the ISIS system.
Chandler said the ATLAS software had made advances since the initial testing and could now be adapted to meet Los Angeles' needs. He said the new system would be easier to work on and cheaper to maintain because the district would own the code, which had been donated by Fresno. He estimated the move would reduce the district's annual maintenance costs by more than $1 million.

Then-monitor Frederick Weintraub — who died in May — eventually signed off on the change in direction but expressed reservations that the district was "proposing significant changes" at a time when it finally appeared to be on track to meet the consent decree requirements.
The district agreed to spend an additional $29 million building that system.
In the meantime, the district sued its former vendors, Maximus and Harris. The district asserted that not only was the software late and faulty, the contract with Harris was invalid and the company should pay back $12 million.

A panel of arbitrators found the Harris contract was valid, the vendors had delivered the software as required and "some of the problems the District complains about were caused or contributed to by the District itself." The arbitrators ordered the district to pay $10 million to Harris, which a Superior Court judge later reduced to $6 million.

The case was settled last month on appeal, with Los Angeles Unified agreeing to pay Harris $3.75 million. The district had spent an additional $2.3 million on outside attorneys.


By Bridgette Webb  | Los Feliz Ledger Contributing Writer |

June 2015  ::  For decades, many public high schools have been charging senior dues, a fee that includes the cost of many senior activities like a senior breakfast as well as the cost of a cap and gown.

Those dues can quickly add up and for some families may be too much to bear. Now parents can check one graduation expense off their list.

The 2015 graduating class will be the first in which the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will provide rentals for cap and gowns for free.

The issue came to a head after a 2010 lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleging free cap and gowns were already law and that many California public schools were simply ignoring it.

Some school districts statewide, including the LAUSD, had continued to charge students for a cap or gown or only provided the items free of charge if a student lived at or below the poverty line. Both are violations.

The state Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that such fees violate the state constitutional guarantee to a free public education.

LAUSD officials were reminded in the fall of 2013 of the state law and finally informed schools of the change in the fall of 2014.

“It has taken a while for the district to plan the roll out of this policy,” said Nader Delnavaz, LAUSD director of college and career education. “The devil is in the details,” he said, referring to the district now having to add this $300,000 annual expense to an already tight budget.

Approximately 19,000 seniors will graduate this year from LAUSD’s 160 high schools. Because some school administrators said they feared the district will order inferiorly made caps and gowns to save money, individual schools, can chose to lose the cap and gowns all together and opt for a “free-dress” graduation.

However, the LAUSD’s Delnavaz thinks that is unlikely.

“Having a free-dress graduation brings up the question of equal access,” he said, meaning the possibility of a mixed graduating class with some students wearing caps and gowns and some not. “The schools should use the cap and gowns provided.”

For ceremonies starting this June, LAUSD officials expect the process to be “messy” and expensive, according to Delnavaz, as the district is forced to honor individual contracts some schools have already made with cap and gown providers.

Adding to this year’s cost, the LAUSD must refund students who have already rented a cap and gown if the student asks.

●● smf’s 2¢: “…if the student asks.”

It is precisely that attitude that brought the ACLU to bring the lawsuit in the first place.
“It has taken a while for the district to plan the roll out of this policy.”
It’s not a policy, it’s the law. And despite the timeline quoted in the article, the lawsuit (Doe v. CA – which enforces the previous "free education for all" decision [Harttzell v. Connell, 1984]), was settled in December of 2010.[]
The “while” it has taken LAUSD has been 4½ years - and four years of graduating seniors have been illegally charged.
Students+parents shouldn’t have to ask for what they are entitled to - and they shouldn’t have to wait for the District to “roll out a policy” …whether it’s for a refund or phys ed in elementary school or arts instruction or an AP course or health education or a well-qualified teacher.

Saturday, May 30, 2015


by Vanessa Romo |  LA School Report |

Posted on May 29, 2015 9:53 am   ::  After a year of emergency fixes that required emergency spending, LA Unified officials say they need another $79.6 million to fully repair the computerized student data management system known as MISIS by the end of next year.

The request was approved unanimously by the Bond Oversight Committee yesterday. It will move to the school board for a vote next month.

If passed, it will bring the total MISIS tab to $133 million, a figure that includes the original $29 million budget the district once believed it would cost to build a perfectly functioning integrative software program. It also covers an extra $3 million to buy new computers for schools whose hardware was too outdated to run the new MISIS program.

Diane Pappas, who was appointed by Superintendent Ramon Cortines last October to lead the MiSiS improvement effort, made a pitch to the BOC, providing details of the yearlong plan to improve the system. Over the next year, she said, the team plans to correct problems with enrollment, scheduling, attendance and other areas critical to operate schools and educate students. The interface will be made more user friendly and additional updates would improve speed and reliability, she said.

The money to cover the costs will be drawn from the “unallocated funds” category in the School Upgrade Program.

The district has also restructured its contract with Microsoft Corp., according to Shannon Haber, a spokesperson for the district. The new deal delays full payment “until functions are working at schools.”

“As part of its assurance to the District, Microsoft has committed to keeping highly qualified personnel on the project, and will bring in additional resources from around the world as needed to foster continued improvement,” Haber wrote in a statement.

But this is not the end of MISIS spending. Documents submitted to the BOC explain, “As the MISIS system becomes operational, an additional allocation of ongoing general fund (money) will be needed starting in 2016-17 for staff to maintain and update MISIS to meet school needs.”

Just how much has yet to be determined.



By Annie Gilbertson  | KPCC 89.3 |

May 28 2015  ::  Los Angeles Unified is asking for $79.6 million in school construction bond funds to repair MiSiS, the student data system that failed to schedule classes, record grades and track attendance when it debuted last summer.

At its meeting Thursday, LAUSD's bond oversight committee unanimously approved the expenditure. The school board still has to sign off before the funds are released. If approved, the amount would bring the cost of building and repairing the district's customized Microsoft student data system to more than $130 million.

Last December, Superintendent Ramon Cortines warned the board that MiSiS repairs would continue throughout 2015, but this week, the district officials announced they were extending the timeline to June 2016.

In a press release Thursday, LAUSD spokeswoman Shannon Haber said the district restructured its contract with the Microsoft Corp. to prevent “the vendor from receiving full payment until functions are working at schools.”

On Tuesday, Cortines announced the appointment of Shahryar Khazei as the district's new chief information officer. His predecessor resigned abruptly last year as problems with MiSiS created havoc with class scheduling and other issues at Los Angeles schools.


By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez  | KPCC 89.3 |
Audio from this story      0:41    Listen:

May 28 2015  ::  Los Angeles Unified has hired a school district insider to lead its troubled information technology office.

Shahryar Khazei succeeds Ron Chandler, the district's last chief information officer, who resigned abruptly last year as problems with the LAUSD’s new student data system wreaked havoc at Los Angeles schools.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines' selection of Khazei, the district's deputy chief information officer, places a 30-year LAUSD employee and mechanical engineer by training in charge of the office that runs technology operations for the district.

The office has been at the center of management issues with two major technology programs that contributed to both Chandler's departure and the resignation of former Superintendent John Deasy.

A school district investigation of last year's meltdown of MiSiS, the district's student data system, found that faulty management of the project’s various moving parts was to blame.

Khazei, who was picked from an applicant pool of 200, worked on the data system’s technology, according to Diane Pappas, the superintendent's chief advisor on the MiSiS recovery program.

“He was on the network side of the project, not part of the project management team, not part of the application, but strictly on the network side,” Pappas said. “The problem was the MiSiS application and all of the other issues, and it was absolutely not ready to be rolled out.”

“[Khazei]'s got great depth of technical knowledge and expertise. He's been working in urban education. He knows schools, knows the school district,” she said.

The district could not immediately provide the salary for his new post.

In a written statement, Cortines said he’s confident Khazei can help fix the student data system. That job, Pappas said, will take another two years.

In his May 15 update on continuing fixes to the MiSiS system, Cortines said: “While the system has been improving steadily since a troubling start to the school year, there is still much to be addressed.”

Khazei will also help oversee the future of the $1.3 billion iPad program, which Cortines has all but abandoned. The initiative, championed by Cortines' predecessor, aimed to get a tablet in the hands of each district student, but it has been problem-plagued.

A federal investigation into the iPad bidding process led the FBI to cart out boxes of documents from district offices in December. The action followed publication by KPCC of emails that revealed the district had been in talks with computer giant Apple and software publisher Pearson long before the bidding process was formally opened.

Last month, district wrote to Apple to demand a multimillion-dollar refund for nonfunctioning curriculum software from Pearson that was installed on the iPads.