Administrative action against Deputy Superintendent Ron Ciranna is linked to a project that doubled in budget and scope before its launch in early July.
Starting in late 2015, the district planned to upgrade its software for business management, known as an enterprise resource planning system, for the first time since 1999. The project was supposed to cost about $10 million and finish by April 2017.
Manataee’s new ERP system went live on July 1, more than a year after the original go-live date, and it cost more than $19 million.
Ciranna, deputy superintendent of business services and operations, was placed on administrative leave Monday, according to a brief statement from district attorney Mitchell Teitelbaum. District spokesman Mike Barber declined to answer follow-up questions, citing a state law that labels misconduct investigations as confidential until they close.
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School board chairman Scott Hopes released his own statement on Monday night, clarifying the reason for Ciranna’s paid administrative leave.
He said the district is concerned about “payments and scope of work related to the ERP process that may not have gone through proper authorization.”
“This investigation is in an early stage and Mr. Ciranna will have a full opportunity to respond to the concerns as part of the investigation and no conclusions regarding the program or Mr. Ciranna should be drawn until all the facts are in,” his email states. “The District’s commitment is to ascertaining the facts in a fair and impartial basis as quickly as is possible.”
Along with a host of other tasks, district employees will use the system to check their pay stubs, enroll in benefits, request vacation days or update their personal information. Much of their work was previously done on paper.
Ciranna offered his heartfelt thanks to the ERP team during a June 26 school board meeting. He said the system would revolutionize Manatee’s business operations for the next two decades.
He did not return a request for comment on Tuesday afternoon.
“They’re the backbone of this district — they’re taking us to the 21st century,” he said in June. “They are committed, they are dedicated, and what has impressed me is they’ve taken on this project with very little oversight from us.”
The project expanded to include Manatee Technical College and other accounts. However, the delay also resulted from dozens of “highly complex” issues that needed a solution, according to an internal audit that was presented to the school board on July 25, 2017.
Understaffing and poor communication only made the problems worse, according to the report.
“In addition, the project team continues to learn of new interfaces and software programs being purchased by the District that were not vetted through the project team prior to the decision for purchase,” the report states.
In June 2017, Ciranna said he needed more money to support the project. School board members unanimously approved the $4.25 million increase on Oct. 24, bringing the expected cost to at least $19.3 million.
“Any time you have a project of this magnitude you are dealing with a lot of different concerns,” Ciranna previously said. “One is that the implementation has to follow board policy, it has to follow collective bargaining agreements, and it has to follow best practices and state statutes and guidelines.”
Ciranna joined the district in 2016, inheriting the ERP project from Don Hall, the previous deputy superintendent of operations. Ciranna has vast responsibilities in the district, including oversight of human resources, finances, construction services and transportation.
The current superintendent, Cynthia Saunders, recently left her role as deputy superintendent of instructional services. It seems she will enter the new school year without her top deputies.
In an emailed reply to questions from the Bradenton Herald, Saunders indicated she was not worried about being short-handed as the district prepares for the start of a new school year.
“We have a team of talented and dedicated leaders on both the instructional and operational sides of our school district. Like any organization during times of transition or absence, we will draw on the experience and skills of all our team members to accomplish our goals,” Saunders said.
“Right now, we are fully focused on getting the new school year off to a strong start and I am fully confident we have the people in place to make that happen.”