Schools software plan has $8M tab

LAND O'LAKES — The last time the Pasco school district upgraded its business software, George H.W. Bush still ran the country and Tiger Woods had just joined the pro golf circuit.

Since then, the district has purchased supplemental programs and created customized "fixes" to handle problems that cropped up. But the vintage 1992 primary system, called Total Educational Resource Management Software (or TERMS), has remained in place.

Leaders have talked for more than a decade about replacing it with something more efficient, assistant superintendent Sandy Ramos said, but "we never seemed to find a good time" to act.

Now the situation has become such that a consulting group, Government Finance Officers Association, has recommended that the district upgrade now.

"You're doing a lot of manual work out there, you have a lot of inefficiencies," project manager Mike Fletcher told the School Board on Tuesday during a workshop. "It's very important that you select the software that allows you to move forward. &In our opinion, TERMS is going to have problems doing that."

The projected cost? A minimum of about $8-million over a three-year implementation period.

Not an hour earlier, superintendent Heather Fiorentino had reported to the board that whatever bad news they had heard about the state's budget, they should picture something worse.

"What I thought was a bad budget year I found out was uglier than I ever thought," Fiorentino said, adding that her staff is working on proposals for expected spending cuts.

Board member Marge Whaley had that image in mind when she started asking questions.

"The first and most critical question for me is, where do these dollars come from?" Whaley asked.

Fiorentino answered that the capital budget for construction, equipment and related expenses would be the source, and that in anticipation the board already had set aside $500,000 toward the amount. Classroom funding would not be touched.

"None of this is GR (general revenue)," Fiorentino said. "We wouldn't even be in this room if this was GR. I promise you that."

Whaley observed that even the capital funds seem to be in short supply, with the district unable to cover all the projects on its list. To make it work, she said, something would have to be cut, perhaps a new administration building that's in the plans.

But she, like others on the board, acknowledged the need for the software improvement.

"I worry that if we keep putting this off, what's it going to cost us," chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said.

Fiorentino, who called the district's current network a "Band-Aid system," shared Starkey's concerns that continued delay could lead to disaster if things fall apart. After winning the board's nod to proceed, assistant superintendent Renalia DuBose said she would pull together a recommendation and bring it for a vote at a future meeting.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

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Pasco School Board business

The Pasco School Board met Tuesday and took the following action:

•Received word that the district will test a biometric finger scanning program in two school cafeterias to see if the lines will move faster.

•Discussed the scope of service for the board's legal counsel, and assigned member Allen Altman to meet with the lawyers and district staff to determine if changes are required.

•Approved employee work calendars for the 2008-09 school year.

•Authorized summer voluntary prekindergarten for June 17 through Aug. 1 at Centennial and Richey elementary schools. The Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando will manage the program.

•Approved extended school year programs for the summer. Middle and high school students who need extra reading assistance will have access to a 10-day summer session. Third-graders who do not pass the FCAT reading section and face retention will have access to a six-week session.

Schools software plan has $8M tab 04/01/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 3, 2008 11:13am]

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