Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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MCISD educators gripe over new grade book program

MCISDlogoMISSION — After weeks of hearing from teachers within the Mission Consolidated Independent School District about problems with accessing and inputting grades and attendance records to a new computer program, administrators and board members said they were displeased to discover educators were still having problems, even after meeting with program officials.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Tyler Technologies representatives spoke to the board about addressing district-wide issues, which at the high school level is crucial as grade point averages and ranking statuses become more important as the school year goes by.

“It’s frustrating that this program was probably made up by people who were teachers before or worked with these type of systems,” said Vice President Moises Iglesias, explaining that he expected the program’s problems would have been addressed before it was even sold. “This is basic stuff…that should have been a gimmie.”

Member Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez said she’s been receiving phone calls from parents upset that the program is inaccurate, stating their child hasn’t turned in assignments that have already been submitted. Likewise, member Dr. Sonia Treviño said she’s been given a long list of complaints from teachers about their problems.

And even with a teacher taskforce group set up with the company, some of the issues – over 50 that range from user preferences, settings and desired enhancements – some teachers told the board they were still struggling, calling the program not user-friendly.

“At what point will we see the light at the end of the tunnel?” O’Caña-Olivarez asked.

As the district struggles with the new technology, which was brought to the district this school year, will soon also have a parent portal that allows them to see their child’s grades and assignments, among other features, district officials said.

Board President James Olivarez said he wanted to set up a number of workshops to allow the board members to work with the programs themselves.

“You all have to come up with something real fast,” Olivarez told a Tyler Technologies representative.

In other items, board members received a staffing review from the Texas Association of School Board (TASB). The staff study was recommended by Superintendent Dr. Cornelio Gonzalez to help guide administration on future hiring decisions.

TASB consultant Richard Lane said an issue the district will soon face is the projected $25 million shortfall at the state-level.

“Your problem is really not your problem,” Lane said. “The problem comes from the state and it’s inability to provide a lot in funding.”

MCISD spends a bulk of its money on crucial issues like teachers and aids, he said, but through attrition, when employees leave the district, administrators could look to not re-fill some positions to save money.

For example, if the district restructured its clinic program, instead of hiring registered nurses at every campus, the district could employ licensed vocational nurses and a registered nurse for every five campuses and still meet state mandates while saving $290,000.

In the classroom, if the district decides to increase the student ratio, absorbing about 27 teacher vacancies at the junior high and high school levels, the district could see a total savings of over $2 million.

“This would be attrition all the way,” Lane said.

Waiting for staff to leave to make these changes could take some time, depending on where the district is trying to absorb costs. For teachers it could take about three years and longer for facilities staffing. But the district’s shift in teaching staff could take longer, depending on the type of teacher that leaves the district. If it’s a subject that’s crucial and needs a staff member, like with advanced placement calculus, that position isn’t likely to be left vacant. Vacancies have to occur in the right place, he said.

Member Oscar Martinez said he’d be hesitant to add three students to every classroom because it might compromise the learning.

“I caution administration to look at that before making changes,” Martinez said.

Olivarez stressed that the study said these changes could be made through attrition and stressed that the district wouldn’t be getting rid of any staff members.

“This study is a guide set up with standards based on data instead of making assumptions,” Gonzalez explained. “The State of Texas failed to plan ahead for the children of Texas.”

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