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Computer glitches not yet over

BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Flaws in the new computer software at Bristol’s high schools have led to confused attendance records and delays in report cards, desperately needed grade point averages for graduating seniors, class rankings and honor rolls.

But administrators say they had to employ a new software program and got the best one on the market.

School officials learned last summer that the company that had supplied the software for the school computer system in the past had been bought out and they couldn’t use the old program anymore.

After reviewing alternatives, the schools picked a program named School Administration Student Information (commonly called “sassy”).

Though students and staff alike have had run-ins with the new system, Bristol Eastern High School Principal Everett Lyons said the program is “pretty good.”

“It’s a learning process for everybody,” said Lyons, and it’s simply “a matter of fine-tuning it.”

The new program had to be tailored to suit Eastern’s needs, for things such as perfect attendance and honor roll, said Lyons.

Second marking period report cards were nearly a month overdue because half year exams had to be entered into the new system manually.

The honor roll hasn’t been released yet because gym doesn’t count but the new program identifies it as a course like all the others.

Another major problem is class rank, Lyons said, “because we had to convert and enter all the previous grades” by hand.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning.

According to Lyons, the fourth marking period might also cause a dilemma also because of the problem of averaging final grades.

Despite its complications, Eastern secretary Edith Mosback said SASI is a necessary change in the school system.

“I can open many windows at one time, I can go into grades, schedules, etceteras, while in our old program I could only do one at a time,” raved Mosback. “The old system was a menu-driven program and I couldn’t alter the system.”

“I have a lot more freedom of doing things the way I want,” Mosback said.

Even report cards are being made differently, said Mosback.

Grades are recorded by a Scantron machine that reads computer forms on which teachers have penciled in the proper bubbles instead of the obsolete method of hand entering each individual number.

Another change this year is that report cards are printed at the school instead of the past practice of sending them out.

Eastern freshman Kristy Harrington said of the new report cards, “They don’t come out when they’re supposed to and the teachers don’t know what’s going on.”

Daniel Veins, an assistant principal at Eastern, said report cards take longer because of the need to verify all grades.

“A simple bubbling error is enough to stop a machine,” said Veins. “If a teacher writes in two tens for example instead of 100.”

The new program “is very powerful, if you put a period in the wrong place it could throw off some information,” stressed Veins.

Each student’s entire history (such as attendance, scheduling, discipline, and grades) said Veins, is contained in an icon called an “atom.”

Even with all of SASI’s technological advances, items such as perfect attendance have been thrown into mass confusion this year, according to Veins.

Veins said that the new software counts someone as having perfect attendance even if they are late or leave early. “For perfect attendance you must be in school everyday all day,” Veins said.

Under the new system, field trips are counted as absences and tardies as excused absences.

As far as grade point averages go, Veins said, “We’re almost there.”

Taking an optimistic viewpoint, Mosbeck said, “I think it will take a year or two to have it up and running to our school specifications.”

In the words of Mosbeck, SASI “has its good points and its bad points.”

But in any case, it’s here to stay.

Chantelle Garzone is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

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