On January 4, 2023

Districts struggle with statewide ed software

By Curt Peterson

In an effort to streamline gathering of financial and human resources data from more than 300 school districts, former Agency of Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe signed a $5.2 million contract in 2018 for eFinance.

The state had been wrestling with data provided via multiple software systems from districts.

The contract term started in 2018 and goes until 2025. The hope was standardizing financial software would bring more accuracy and less wrestling. The eFinance parent, California-based PowerSchool, would provide installation and tech support as districts adopted the system.

Jim Fenn, Windsor Central Supervisory Union director of finance and operations, told the Mountain Times the district took eFinance live Jan. 1, and, so far, he said it’s “going well.”

Implementation by all districts hasn’t been easy. Legislators have extended the deadline from 2020 for all school districts to implement the software three times, recently to December 2024, and asked the Agency of Education for a status report and recommendations regarding eFinance installation.

The report revealed  only one third of districts in Vermont have adopted eFinance, one fourth of those installations are complete, and just 15% of all districts have completed implementation and are fully satisfied with its performance.

“There are certain things that we would like to see changed,” Fenn, who was a member of the committee that produced the AoE report, said. “The three weaknesses we have experienced to date are, inadequate ‘canned’ reports — we are learning how to write our own in COGNOS to address this issue, bank reconciliations for multiple bank accounts — we understand this has been addressed in the April 2023 release, and interfund accounting which (eFinance is) working on.”

The report’s bottom line: The AoE should eliminate the implementation deadline entirely, and make sure the districts that have fully or partially installed the system are well-supported.

“So far we are pleased,” Fenn said. “We are moving from a 20-plus-year-old software to eFinance, so the functionality of a Windows based software versus our old Cobol based software is a big improvement.”

He added his own recommendation — that the state set up its systems to access data directly from districts’ files as needed.

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