Today I interviewed Craig Dilks, the head of Information Services for Reading School District, with the interview questions previously posed. Here are Craig's answers to the questions:
What is/are the name(s) of the SIS / CIA system(s) used in Reading School District?
A: Reading is using eSchoolPlus for their SIS and PerformancePathways for their CIA. Craig's responsibility is for the SIS, so the rest of our conversation focused on his knowledge of the SIS.
When were the current systems installed?
A: Current systems were installed in 2005.
Were the systems installed in multiple phases?
A: There was conversion from a previous AS/400 system to the current SQL system. In terms of phases, most of the system was installed simultaneously, but the Gradebook feature is the last one to be phased into use.
What system was the first priority when the systems were originally installed?
A: Priority was determined by involving users within certain parts of the organization - clerks, administrators, teachers, etc. Parents' access to their children's information was also important and more than 12,000 letters have been sent out to parents giving them information needed to log into the system and access their children's information.
Which of the following student information tracked in the SIS systems? class attendance, tardies, referrals, schedules, grades.
A: "Yes" to all the information. Referrals was the last piece added.
Is the system integrated so that a student’s history can be tracked from year to year and school to school?
Is there any overlap of data among different systems?
A: There is some overlap between various systems which require the two systems to talk with one another. One example is a Special Education system which interacts with the eSchoolPlus system for information sharing.
How does Reading School District use data warehousing? How much history is warehoused?
A: There are different ways to define warehousing, but Reading School District does use data warehousing. The best example of this is Performance Tracker.
Was there a team of people involved in the selection process? How was the team chosen and what different groups were represented in the selection process?
A: Various levels of staff members were involved in the selection process and were given the opportunity to use the software and participate in vendor demos. A core team of "superusers" was used throughout the process to be the voice of the various end users' of the software.
What kind of security measures are part of the system?
A: System security is at the user level. Users are only given access to the information they need. For example, teachers have access to all of the students in their own classes, but cannot view all information on all students. Since it is easier to give "more" access than to take away access already granted, Reading's IS Department errs on the side of limiting access to information.
What is the maximum capacity of the system in terms of concurrent users / students?
A: Capacity is limited to available disk space, so it is virtually unlimited. Currently, there are 18,400 users - ie, parents and staff - who have access to the system. Concurrent users are not explicitly tracked, but is estimated to peak around 500-600 concurrent users.
What types of reporting is available in the SIS / CIA? What kind of reports are currently being used and by whom?
A: There are a number of canned reports as well as a report writer (Cognos Impromptu) for creating customized reports. Data on the customized reports is only related to the creativity of the user and their knowledge of the tables within the SQL database.
What kinds of reports are currently being used and by whom?
A: (See answer to 12 above)
What are future plans for system expansion?
A: No immediate plans for system expansion, based on current budget constraints and today's economy. Future expansion will be based on demands from parents and other district needs.
If you were choosing a new system today, would you choose the same system we are currently using? Why or why not?
A: Yes. There are advantages / disadvantages to every system. The system implemented by Reading School District meets our current needs and has other features which we have not yet implemented. This system is being used successfully by other school districts in Berks County and beyond.