In September of 1999, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), through its Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN), initiated a process to identify the software enhancements necessary to positively impact the performance, usability, and reliability of the APSCN system. Four teams, consisting of representatives from Arkansas public school districts, APSCN, Department of Information Systems (DIS), and Pentamation (provider of the application software), were formed as follows:
(1) A team to develop user requirements for the student management software;
(2) A team to develop user requirements for the financial management software;
(3) A technical team to provide the technical requirements and offer suggestions/alternatives to the user teams; and
(4) A solutions team to consider both user and technical requirements and finalize the list of those requirements.
The committees completed their recommendations in March of 2000, and the results were forwarded to Pentamation for review and response. After considerable discussion between Pentamation and ADE, Pentamation made a proposal to essentially provide a "Windows-like" overlay to the existing character-based system. In addition, a series of patches to the existing software would incorporate a number of the changes identified by the software review teams. The price for this service would require an initial investment of approximately $3.6 million.
THE DECISION OF THE ADE IS TO REJECT THE PROPOSAL TO SPEND THIS AMOUNT OF MONEY AT THIS TIME.
WE WILL CONTINUE WITH THE CURRENT PENTAMATION CONTRACT FOR A MINIMUM OF TWO ADDITIONAL YEARS. We will continue to fully support the software by incorporating all scheduled upgrades. We will complete any customized programming that has already begun but will not initiate any further customization unless a very good reason exists. Technical improvements to the network hardware will also continue, with enhancements of over $1 million already scheduled for this summer.
A SEARCH FOR A MORE EFFICIENT INTEGRATED STUDENT AND FINANCIAL SOFTWARE PACKAGE, CONSISTENT WITH THE WINDOWS APPLICATIONS FAMILIAR TO OUR USERS, WILL BEGIN IMMEDIATELY. School district representatives will be actively involved at every step in the process. Such a product can capitalize on the tremendous advances in technology that have occurred since our initial installation of the present system and permit our users to access, to a far greater degree, the power and functionality of a fully integrated administrative system. Pentamation was adamant that such a system was not in its future. For any product to be considered, it should be compatible with our existing database and not require data re-entry. It must use simple, easy to execute commands and must operate at optimal performance levels on our existing network. It should accommodate as many of the review teams' requested enhancements as possible and must continue to support current and future state reporting requirements.
IF SUCH AN APPLICATION CANNOT BE FOUND OR IS DETERMINED TO BE UNABLE TO PROVIDE THE LEVEL OF SERVICE EXPECTED, ACCEPTANCE OF THE PENTAMATION PROPOSAL WILL BE RECONSIDERED.
If new software is ultimately selected, at least one year's notice will be given before implementation, and our users can anticipate a conversion process much smoother than that originally experienced with the present product. Circumstances are entirely different today than in 1992 when the network was formed. All schools now have essentially consistent data fields, network hardware is in place to accommodate growth, and more of our users have become comfortable with using technology. It is absolutely essential that we respect and honor the hours of training and hard work already invested by our bookkeepers and other school personnel and minimize new in-service requirements. Absolute best support for our schools will continue to be the top priority of our APSCN team.
We will provide periodic updates on the progress of our search. In the meantime, please share with us any suggestions or concerns you might have. Thank you for your continued interest and support.