MANATEE -- Problems with a new $1 million computer system continue to plague Manatee County School district officials.
Monday, the computer software system known as FOCUS could not handle the number of teachers submitting grades for report cards. Teachers were to turn in grades before the end of the day while students were out of school.
Instead of turning in grades, elementary school teachers were asked by Assistant Superintendent Scott Martin to “log out of FOCUS immediately.” Martin sent a district-wide email to ensure his directions were seen.
“We are obviously experiencing performance issues with Focus relative to grade entry and posting today. Please read and follow the directions below so that we can get grades entered and report cards ready as efficiently as possible while we try to remedy the performance issues,” Martin said by email.
He also told employees in middle and high schools that they should use the rest of the day to complete grades. Elementary school personnel being off the system would allow “the full processing bandwidth” and “alleviate the issue with slowness,” Martin added.
An extension was granted for elementary school personnel to submit grades Wednesday afternoon. The deadline for grades to be turned in is 11 p.m. Thursday, Martin said.
Teachers are becoming frustrated with the recurring computer crashes and capacity issues.
“There’s so little trust in the system that they have to keep separate records,” teachers union president Pat Barber said. Barber said she has been hearing that teachers are having problems logging into the system. The computer has been freezing up. And grades have been disappearing.
“If the tools they have been given don’t work, there’s only so much they can do,” Barber said.
Martin said the “simple solution of staggering users” worked. By 4 p.m., Monday, 75 percent of the high school grades had been turned in. About 90 percent of the middle school grades were submitted.
“This is the first day to have all teachers hitting the system at once,” Martin said after many of the grades from high and middle schools had been submitted.
Monday, Martin added, was one of those milestone days for the system to be tested. District officials are weighing additional solutions, Martin added.
School board members were assured at an Oct. 10 meeting that the FOCUS system was in the process of being fixed to handle the influx of personnel using it. Martin told board members that at least $88,000 was spent to pay for additional computer processors. He said the two computer processors purchased would help the system run smoothly.
Teachers originally reported in late September that they were having a problem with FOCUS, an Internet-based software system. In early October, district officials had to extend the deadline for submitting progress reports because teachers had problems with the computer system. The same problems were present: computer crashes, grades were lost, teachers couldn’t log on to the system.