In 2006 the Sarasota County School Board entered into a long term agreement with CrossPointe.net (a.k.a. CrossPointe, Inc., CrossPointe LLC) for a comprehensive hardware and software upgrade of the District’s information technology (IT) capabilities. The contract for $12 million was initiated under the leadership of former Superintendent Gary Norris and Sarasota County IT Director Bob Hanson, both of whom were being investigated by the FBI for the purchase of white whiteboards from Promethean. The CrossPointe contract has continued under Superintendent Lori White who at that time was Director of Curriculum and Instruction under Norris.
So what is wrong with upgrading the district’s IT capabilities? Nothing except that a simple Google search of the company CrossPointe and its owner Joan Marie Keebler would have turned up a series of lawsuits dating back to 2001.
These lawsuits included filings for copyright infringement and ownership dispute of CrossPointe, Inc., now known as CrossPointe.net. Due diligence would have warned School Board members and District staff about entering into a contract where the software being purchased may have been “vaporware”. There are indications that the contract in which the School Board entered was to develop the software rather than purchase it because you see the software did not exist at the time.
So the School Board purchased software from a company being sued for software copy write infringement. It appears the now defunct CrossPointe.net actually had no software to sell in the first place. So what did Sarasota property taxpayers get for the $12 million contract with CrossPointe.net?
According to a district spokesman Scott Ferguson, “The implementation of Education Solutions Development/ESD (formerly CrossPointe) is in progress. We are currently working on our Student Information System implementation and are in the final phase of testing this module. In November, we will be going live with four of our district schools – Tuttle, Brookside, Pineview and North Port. During this time, we will be working closely with these schools and fine-tuning the application prior to the full district-wide implementation planned for Spring 2014.” Leona Collesano is the project manager assigned to the implementation of ESD.
The district reports the following are fully operational: Gradebook, Parent Portal, Finance, Human Resources, Payroll and Employee Portal. The Student Information System is not fully operational but is planned to become operational this school year – seven years after the initial purchase. The district states, “Fees were negotiated before the project began. The cost to date is $10,013,008.” Total cost to date is over $20 million.
One Sarasota school principal got staff feedback on the ESD system (a.k.a. Crosspointe). He stated, “We have been experiencing problems with Crosspointe for a long time. It is a district problem. What I’m hearing is: Cumbersome to use. Lacks capacity. Shuts down often. Difficult for parents to use. Often inaccurate.”
Another parent in an email wrote, “About two weeks ago, personnel installed new features to Crosspointe’s gradebook. Parents can now receive weekly reports of their child’s weekly grades and attendance. I am receiving two emails of the same report for my son at Pine View. My daughter is at RHS and is not happening there. Whoever is in charge of the software is NOT thoroughly testing it before it is released to the general public. I have brought this to the attention of the School Board and the Landings administration.”
“Last year, my son’s report card (Pine View) printed the wrong grade. Crosspointe Grade book showed one grade and his report card printed another grade. Then the rounding did not work correctly. I discovered parents at Pine View whose children complained about their children’s grades not being correct and the parents did not know what to do about it. They were so appreciative of me informing them of the problems,” notes the parent.
The district representative points out, “As with any implementation of a system of this magnitude there have been issues along the way, but nothing that has not been addressed and either rectified or in the process of being rectified. Some issues have involved temporary interfaces put in place to synchronize grades and attendance with our antiquated Student Information System but all were remedied. These interfaces will be eliminated once full implementation is complete. With the Payroll function, staff continue to be paid on time, grades continue to be posted using the Gradebook function, etc.”
On October 2, 2013 Scott Lempe, Sarasota School District Chief Operating Officer, in email Update #4 on the implementation of Crosspointe states, “The Way Forward. Rather than trying to implement a new SIS District – wide we’ve identified four schools that have agreed to act as our pilot schools. They are: Tuttle, Brookside, North Port High, and Pine View. We are referring to them as the Fab‐Four! As of today we plan to go live at those schools in mid ‐November. We will use these pilot schools to test the system in a live environment, shake down the system, work out any bugs, and prepare the SIS for full District‐wide implementation. Given this timeline we’d then look to go‐live with the rest of our schools in late winter or early spring. In the mean time we will be developing things like refresher trainings and comprehensive data verification plans.”
A parent writes in an update, “Last week I received an email from Leona Campos/Collesano saying that the problem was fixed. This particular problem (one of many) was the duplicate email reports. Well they sure fixed it. Now I don’t get no reports for my daughter at Riverview High School and only one report (grades for the week) for my son at Pine View. I should be receiving two reports (emails) per child, attendance and weekly grades. My next email will be to the School Board members, the Superintendent and Scott Lempe explaining this issue again. Whoever fixed it is very, very, very careless. They throw in a fix, but don’t test it to make sure that it works. Sometimes when fixes are made to software, it can affect other conditions in the code. This is an indicator that someone does not know how to do their work. Sloppy. Scary to say the least.”
This government website is seven years old and still does not work. Maybe the School Board should realize this website is looking more like HeathCare.gov on steriods.