Skyward may be too limited for OPRF grading use

? OPRF committee will OK, edit or scrap new grading software, which has come under fire from critics.

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By DREW CARTER

A committee of "some of the most vocal critics" of a new Oak Park and River Forest High School computer grading program will help the company that designed it tweak the software to the school's liking?#34;or help the school abandon it.

"The goal is to look forward rather than behind," said Jack Lanenga, assistant superintendent of operations.

Last year the high school implemented a new database system called Skyward, which served as the backbone database and was supposed to enable educators to combine and analyze student information like never before.

That hasn't exactly been the case. Problems?#34;caused by everything from software holes, OPRF's way of doing things not always jibing with how other schools do, and getting users to adapt to the new system?#34;resulted in system crashes, miscalculated grades and other frustrations that engendered distrust, especially around the Grade Book function, Lanenga said.

Tom McCoy of the TLC (Technology Learning Center, which provides tech support for OPRF faculty and staff), told the Board of Education last week that of the 3,700 sign-ins to the support service, half concerned Skyward.

The school's former computer system, CIMS, evolved over 25 years of tweaking, but "we're trying to cram all of that 25 years of changes into one year," Lanenga said.

"The biggest mistake we made was rolling out Grade Book this year," Lanenga said. "It was just too much."

Lanenga has worked with Skyward designers all year on Grade Book and other concerns, and feels the company has been responsive to OPRF's concerns. It has produced new grading software, called Educator Access Plus, which supposedly addresses the high school's concerns.

Committee members will learn the new program and decide whether it should be implemented, tweaked or scrapped.

"The message to Skyward needs to be, 'This is really serious,'" said board member Yasmin Ranney, finance committee chair. Ranney said it was "distressing" that teachers continued to keep hard copy grades with the new software in place this year.

OPRF paid $380,000 to switch to the new system, the cheaper of two options.

Lanenga said providing access to parents for grades online is "on the back burner" while other matters are sorted out, and that if the school isn't satisfied with changes to the Grade Book software by the end of June, new software would be looked into.

"I believe [the review of the new Skyward software] will permit us to go into 2005-2006 on a positive note," Lanenga said in a memo to the board. "I am personally confident that Skyward will come through for us."

Contact: dcarter@wjinc.com

With only minor work needed before the new OPRF roof is complete, Asst. Supt. for Operations Jack Lanenga reported last week that roof construction would be finished a year ahead of schedule and about $2 million below budget.

The $8 million-budgeted project replaced nearly every portion of the 331,000-square-foot roof, in materials from copper flashing to gravel to new clay tiles replicating the old ones. Actual cost of the project will be between $6.3 million and $6.4 million, Lanenga said.

He said the roof would be finished before school starts in the fall.

Money left over from the bond sale for the roof can only be used for other Life Safety projects at the high school. That may include replacing old boilers, window replacement and portions of the pools and mall renovations.

?#34;Drew Carter

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