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Fort Worth school district looking for new software vendor for student records

FORT WORTH -- After a series of problems with a student data software system that produced inaccurate transcripts, incomplete grade reports and incorrect attendance records, the Fort Worth school district is looking to change vendors.

District officials put the current vendor, Tyler Technologies, on notice in November, telling the firm that it had 30 days to solve problems with the system. The company worked with the district, but problems persisted, administrators said.

Superintendent Walter Dansby said that the system still crashes during high-usage periods -- such as the end-of-six-weeks grading -- and that it has trouble identifying students in special programs to help track information, such as state testing data.

Tyler officials are "working with us, but the fact is that we're still having problems," Dansby said. "We're not happy and we're looking elsewhere for a nicer and more user-friendly system that has the systems we need for Fort Worth ISD."

Tyler officials declined to comment.

The district began using Tyler Technologies payroll software in January 2009 and immediately ran into problems.

Some employees were overpaid, some were underpaid, and others were not paid at all.

An internal audit found that a lack of training on the software contributed to about $1.5 million in overpayments.

In 2010, the district implemented Tyler's software for student data -- Connects.

Shortly afterward came reports of problems including inaccurate student schedules and disappearing grades.

In spring 2011, a group of principals told trustees that while the implementation had been rough, schools were coping with the new system and urged them to keep the software.

But problems continued and district workers had to correct hundreds of transcripts as students applied to colleges.

Dunbar High School senior Coyia Cleveland said she was shocked when she received a rejection letter from Prairie View A&M University in the fall.

Cleveland, 18, said she sent off college applications and did not realize her transcript listed her GPA as 1.8 and her class rank as 130. The teen said she actually has a 3.9 average and is ranked 21 of 156.

"I didn't look at the transcript before I mailed it because I assumed it was right because I got it from the school," Cleveland said. "I was very stressed-out."

Her aunt and school officials helped her call Prairie View and other colleges to explain the error and resubmit her applications.

She was accepted by Prairie View but decided on the University of Texas at Arlington to study social work, she said.

Chief Financial Officer Hank Johnson said a new system could be selected by January so that it could run parallel to Connects. The district would convert fully to the new system in 2013-14, he said.

Officials said the district did not run such a parallel operation when Connects was implemented because it did not have a central student data system.

District officials said the three-year cost of Connects, including implementation and maintenance, is $879,000.

Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700

Twitter: @fwstayala

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