Parents, students, teachers and staff will soon see a new information management system that would affect how grades, schedules and transcripts are stored and accessed.
Rockdale County Public School staff proposed to the school board a contract for a new student information system Thursday night. The new program, created by the K-12 Solutions Group and called Infinite Campus, would cost $185,990 and be paid for with SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) III funds set aside for that purpose.
Gene Baker, Assistant Superintendent and head of the Office of School Improvement, explained, “A student information system is the single-most important piece of software in the school system. It is the software database that contains all the past and current information concerning a student.
“First it is a repository of student information. It is a repository of student schedules and the software that helps the staff in constructing those schedules. It is also where grades are kept and transferred. This is where transcripts are printed from. It is where we keep our discipline records and attendance records. The better student information systems automate many of those processes, like generating those attendance letters. It is where we keep all our information about special programs. You heard about some of those special programs and the importance of that data being correct. It is a repository of information and how it is reported up to the state. This is where we keep all our family information, family contacts, siblings. And last but very important, this is the software that is used for reporting back to the state.”
One of the biggest advantages that parents and students will see is the ability to pull one report card and one transcript easily despite having classes on multiple campuses and venues, said Baker.
“It is student centric, not location centric. The schedule follows the student. The student can be in six different places and they'll get one report card, one schedule.”
For parents, Baker said, the Infinite Campus program would offer real time monitoring of grades, attendance, schedules, messages, notices. It also offered Droid and iPhone apps for mobile devices for the parent portal.
“The parent communication quite frankly I think is going to knock people's socks off,” said Baker.
Superintendent Richard Autry later commented that his daughter attended a school system that used Infinite Campus and that he was able to monitor minute details in real time such as whether she was late to class or not.
The school system had been reviewing the student information system for the last year and a half as part of its strategic plan and saw there were programs in use that could better fulfill the school system’s needs.
The reviewers included technology staff, other district staff, curriculum instruction, student support, and teachers and school support staff.
“We've identified both strengths and weaknesses of the current student information system, and compared it to other vendors in the state and outside the state,” said Baker.
With the current program, School Max by Harris School Solutions, which RCPS has used since the 1990s, Baker said, “We do a lot of hand scheduling because of the weakness of our current student information system. As we move forward with the strategic plan and opportunities like Career Academy and Open Campus, our current software will not automate that process.
“We identified software problems that cannot be fixed in a timely manner. Often the response from the vendor we work with is because of these lack of capabilities, we have to do work arounds. These work arounds take more human hours in order for us to function. A number of processes ended up being done manually. It requires more resources. It also becomes difficult to produce accurate data for the state. The current student information system does not meet our scheduling needs.
A Request for Proposals was issued Sept 4 and five vendors responded. The current vendor did not send a proposal, sed Baker. The vendors were reviewed and ranked by a committee of 55 RCPS personnel, the largest group of which was teachers. The top two vendors were invited to give day long demonstrations of their programs Infinite Campus and Aspen on Nov. 14 and 15.
Baker added that 78 districts in Georgia already use Infinite Campus and that the proposal and price for Infinite Campus also included disaster recovery equipment and software.