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Franklin Regional ditches frustrating student-information portal

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By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Franklin Regional officials have had enough. After two years of struggling to implement a new student-information portal, district officials plan to begin a search for a replacement for SchoolMax Enterprise.

“I give the company credit because they could have come in here and said, ‘We can fix it. We can make it work.' They were very forthright in saying this is not the system for this district,” said Superintendent Jamie Piraino, suggesting district officials evaluate other student-information systems. “My recommendation at this point is to work closely with them as we transition.”

The district purchased SchoolMax Enterprise — an online portal used for scheduling students and enabling communication between faculty, administrators and parents — in spring 2011. That fall, the school board withheld payment to Harris School Solutions, the Arizona-based company that manages and sold the beta version of the software to the district.

Despite several upgrades and regular support from the company, the system caused problems throughout the final months of last school year, said Brad Schrecengost, district supervisor of technology. District officials struggled to process report cards, transcripts and schedules during the spring.

“It just seemed to get worse as we moved on throughout the year,” Schrecengost said. “It was a nightmare. The system is not cooperating, and it just doesn't work as advertised.”

Schrecengost said company officials told administrators that the software is tailored to districts with 10,000 or more students. Murrysville has fewer than 4,000. He said the company offered to move Franklin Regional to another product that was in development. That suggestion was met with laughter by school board members Monday evening.

Board members said they are unhappy with the program.

“It seems like every time they have tried to fix it, it gets worse,” board member Roberta Cook said.

Board member Kim Bondi said the software hasn't accurately tracked the attendance of her three children.

“We were penny-wise and pound-foolish (to buy this software). The number of hours spent on this — I just can't wrap my arms around it,” Bondi said. “We got what we paid for, essentially.”

Franklin Regional was one of two districts in the commonwealth to pilot the program. The other, Waynesboro Area School District in central Pennsylvania, dropped the software package about a year ago. Franklin Regional paid $36,800 for the product, which retails at more than $180,000.

A representative of Harris School Solutions referred comment to Toronto-based Constellation Software, which did not respond to requests before deadline.

Schrecengost said the software that the company offered to move the district to would be a step back.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627.

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