CASE STUDY III-8 Purchasing and Implementing a Student Management System at Jefferson County School System
The Jefferson County School System (JCSS) educates about 10,000 students in fourteen elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools. It serves a diverse community consisting of a county seat of 80,000 with a substantial industrial base and a major state university, and the surrounding rural area.
Central High School and Roosevelt High School, located on the eastern edge of town, are spirited athletic rivals whose attendance districts split the county into approximately equal areas, with each district including about 1,450 city and rural patrons. The two middle schools each have about 750 pupils in the seventh and eighth grades and also serve diversified areas. The elementary schools are located throughout the county and range in size from rural schools with about 250 students up to almost 700 students for the largest city school.
History of Administrative Computing in JCSS
Administrative computing at JCSS began in the early 1970s when computing resources at the university were leased to do scheduling and grade reporting and to keep student enrollment data. In 1976 the school corporation purchased a DEC PDP 11/34 computer, and the student management applications were converted from the university computer. During the next few years, financial applications were added and more student management applications were developed. Over the years there have been many changes to the JCSS technical architecture. They now have four Dell servers operating under UNIX, and PCs in all JCSS locations are connected to the system via a high-speed TCP/IP network.
All JCSS applications, both financial and student management, were custom developed by the longtime director of data processing, David Meyer, and the two programmers on his staff. The users of these systems were satisfied with them, and when they wanted changes and improvements, Meyer and his programmers would make them. There was no end-user capability—if anyone needed a special report, a program to produce it was written by one of the programmers.
Three years ago the long-time JCSS superintendent of schools retired, and Dr. Harvey Greene was hired as his replacement. Dr. Greene had been the superintendent of a smaller school system and had attended a conference where a speaker convinced him that software had become a commodity and that it no longer made sense for a school system to develop and maintain its own software.
After a few months to get his feet on the ground, Dr. Greene established a small task force of administrators to evaluate the JCSS data processing systems and to recommend directions for the future. Not surprisingly, this task force recommended that:
• The JCSS systems should be replaced with purchased software packages with maintenance agreements.
• The new systems should utilize an integrated database and report-generation software so that people could share data from various applications.
• Because JCSS would no longer be doing custom development, the programming staff of the data processing department could be eliminated.
David Meyer was not included on the task force, and Director of Data Processing Meyer was quite upset with the decision to gut his staff without even consulting him. When these recommendations were accepted by Dr. Greene and the school board, he chose to resign from his position as DP Director. He was replaced by Carol Andrews, who had 13 years of experience as an applications programmer, systems programmer, and systems analyst with a nearby federal government installation.
Copyright © 2007 by E. W. Martin. This is a revised version of a case with the same name © 1997. It is intended for class discussion, rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation.
Purchasing the New System
After spending several months getting acclimated to the JCSS and her new job, Andrews set about the task of selecting a vendor to provide the hardware and software to replace the current administrative computing applications at JCSS. In late November a computer selection committee was appointed to evaluate available systems and recommend a vendor to the JCSS School Board. This 14-member committee included representatives of most of the major users of the system—assistant principals who did scheduling and were responsible for student records, deans who were responsible for attendance and student discipline, counselors, teachers, the personnel director, and the chief accountant. It also included representatives of the different levels of schools in the system and from each of the larger school locations.
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