Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Facility Calendar Exposed

So this is what came out of our inquiry into the sudden opacity of the Facilities Use Calendar:

We have finally determined what happened with the ability to review contracts for the facility use calendar via the district web site.  It had nothing to do with the implementation of the new web site as we suspected.  Instead, the program managers at made an internal decision to eliminate the option system wide.  It was their belief that the information being provided should not be accessible to the general public, that there were likely some privacy issues that needed to be respected.  So they removed the option without telling anyone and SPASD is the only district to ask about the change.  It was just coincidence that the change occurred about the same time we changed our website.
So ....   are we OK with a software vendor that unilaterally makes decisions for us regarding transparency?  Without even informing us?
Mybe it's time to ditch this wonderful software that Jimmy Mac found for us. has identified a couple of options for the contract viewing feature to be returned to our website. 

 The first is to provide custom programming for the SPASD site that allows the contract observation feature to be returned to the previous level of accessibility.  This option can be provided at an undisclosed cost per month (to be determined if we want to explore the option more).  My concern here is that we then incur additional expense for the facility use program, an expense that is continuous into the future.
So ....   we get it...Option 1 is to get back the original functionality we purchased for an additional--an undisclosed--monthly charge.
So if we understand this correctly, rSchoolToday kidnapped our transparency, and is ransoming its return for a monthly price.

The second option is to set up a process that allows people wanting to see the contracts to access the facility use program as a limited administrator - they can only view the contracts as they did before via the facility use calendar.  The process is a bit tedious to the user in that they would need to first use the district web site to access the calendar, then modify the url address to go to the (or those regularly reviewing the contracts could go directly to the website and by-pass the district web site) and then use the calendar found there to review the contracts as they have in the past.  There would be a one-time effort to set the "public access administrator access".

...or anyone wishing to view the details could be logged in as a limited Administrator.
Hmmmm...might work, but does the district want to give SP-EYE (amng others) "limited" Admin privileges?  We think not.
The third option not provided by is to leave the current access is as it is and require anyone wishing to review contracts to submit an open-records request.  While there would be no up-front effort with this option, there would be a continuing effort to respond to each request for information. after complaining about all the open records request it has to deal with NOW, the district wants to add more?   And...newsflash...until Policy KG is fixed, we can guarantee that you'll see a ton of these requests!

I have copied the School Board on this e-mail for their edification.  At this time the system will stay as is unless I hear from the School Board that they want me to pursue another option.

How about a 4th option?   How's about our Technology Manager get on the horn with rSchoolToday and ask, "WTF?"   How about we "school" rSchoolToday about customer service?   How about we cancel the contract if they aren't willing to restore what we paid for?  Along with the many problems identified post-construction, we seem to be the cowardly lion school district that doesn't push for quality service to go along with all the money we've paid.   We doubt Dr. Culver et al would be so forgiving if they experienced the same problems with work on the private residences.