"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! ”
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.