New data system approved

Board of Education OKs $229,778 expenditure Thursday

Administrators asked the Moffat County School District Board of Education on Thursday night to approve a purchase that will total $229,778.52 across four years.

Although board members had just heard a budget report that projected falling revenues because of dwindling enrollment, the board approved the request.

Enthusiasm shown by staff members, as well as the limited time the board had to make the decision, were two factors in their approval.

The funds will go toward a data management system that will allow the school district to create its own tests and compile the results of those and other tests, including Colorado Student Assessment Program tests giving them instantaneous data as well as analysis of that data.

Having the system is a necessary step in meeting achievement goals, Superintendent of Schools Pete Bergmann said.

Bergmann introduced the purchase Thursday night and recommended its immediate approval, even in the face of concerns.

Board members John Wellman and JoAnn Baxter reported that they had received phone calls from teachers, urging them to consider budget priorities before making the decision.

"Can we give staff members more time to comment?" Wellman asked.

The school district wants to purchase the system in conjunction with the Steamboat Springs school district, which will save both districts 20 percent to 25 percent of the purchase price. But officials said they had to act fast to take advantage of the savings.

The investment isn't as deep as it seems, Bergmann said. The district already spends $15,000 to $20,000 a year on testing and has considered hiring a data analyst. The new data management system will fulfill both of those needs and allow the district to create and grade its own common assessments.

Determining what students need to learn and developing ways to assess whether they have learned are part of the districts' goals.

"We want to develop common assessments that we can give frequently enough to assess and intervene," Bergmann said. "This is exactly where we want to go with our mission and vision of the Moffat County School District. This is something we need just like you need a car."

The district invested in a different data management system last year that wasn't what officials were looking for.

"We thought it was the answer to all our problems," Bergmann said.

"They never could deliver what they said they would do," Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan said.

Administrators said they have tried to replace the system by doing the work internally, but that has caused increased overtime costs and too little data to meet the needs.

Teachers may be complaining to School Board members, but Bergmann said administrators think it's an essential component that should be a top priority.

The purchase will come out of next year's budget -- $98,695.18 in 2005-06, $68,361.09 the next and $31,360.72 for the third and fourth years.

The price includes software, training, hardware and hosting services for the database.

"We can't do what we're supposed to do in terms of the onslaught of data that's coming at us," Sheridan said. "The question is, do we want to be drug along or do we want to control the direction?"

A quick decision was necessary to get the discount, because it takes months to build the database, Sheridan said.

"I believe if stakeholders really understood the magnitude and power of what we could do, they would support this," Bergmann said.

As the district begins discussion about the 2005-06 budget, administrators need to understand that pre-appropriating nearly $100,000 likely will not make teachers happy, Baxter said.

"I agree this is a necessary thing, and I'll vote for it, but $98,000 of new money would go a long way toward compensating our teachers, and that will come up during salary negotiations," she said.

The system is the result of a merger of two companies with a long track record in education, Bergmann said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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