Manatee County teachers submit grades to new computer system

ataylor@bradenton.comOctober 27, 2011 

MANATEE -- No complaints surfaced from elementary school teachers Wednesday regarding the district’s new FOCUS computer software system, district and teachers union officials said.

Elementary school teachers were asked to submit grades for report cards into the new system Wednesday afternoon -- two days after they were told to “log out of FOCUS immediately.” Associate Superintendent Scott Martin gave that directive because the district’s more than 2,000 teachers caused the new software to slow down or crash.

“A notice was sent out Wednesday to remind them this time was reserved for elementary school teachers,” Martin said after a high number of educators had logged in Wednesday afternoon.

The reminder led many teachers to log off, leaving room for elementary school teachers to submit grades. But the solution to stagger the number of users on the new computer system offers no consolation to Manatee Education Association President Pat Barber.

“They’re working through the issues,” Barber said. “They’ve been given extra time to do it.”

Monday had been set aside as recording day. Students were not in school. Teachers were given all day to submit grades in the system.

But by noon, Martin emailed all employees restricting usage on the new technology that cost the district nearly $1 million to install.

The email said, “We are obviously experiencing performance issues with FOCUS relative to grade entry and posting today.”

Barber said the slowdown and other capacity issues that plagued the new software were a repeat of what happened in early October when progress reports were due. School employees complained that the system wouldn’t allow them to log on. Grades were lost. Class lists couldn’t be found.

Palmetto High School teacher Jim Kapper said it’s hard to believe district officials didn’t test the impact the county’s 2,000 teachers would have on the system. He said district officials did that on the previous Pinnacle system.

“It’s frustrating from a teacher’s point of view,” the construction technology teacher said. “If they require it of employees, they better doggone make sure it works.”

Two additional processors were purchased for the FOCUS system in early October when the first problems occurred involving the progress reports. It’s unclear what will be done in the future to resolve problems.

“We don’t want to make any knee-jerk reactions,” Martin said. “We want to evaluate all options including hardware updates.”

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