A change in student information systems software has led to quite the headache for some Tullahoma High School students, according to school officials.
During an Aug. 7 study session of the Tullahoma City Schools Board of Education, Vice Chairman Kim Uselton informed the board and other school officials that she had received complaints from the parents of several junior and senior students at THS regarding their children’s class schedules.
According to Uselton, the issue appeared to be that several students’ schedules were improperly prepared and had incorrect classes scheduled or had classes missing.
The schedule confusion caused a slight panic for a number of students—particularly the seniors, said Uselton.
“I think, in particular, seniors are anxious about their schedules,” she said.
“They are wanting to make sure that they have all the classes that they need for graduation.”
Routine scheduling kinks
Having some scheduling mix-ups is not uncommon, said Uselton.
“There’s obviously going to be some problems or some difficulties associated with that (scheduling),” she said.
Students frequently alter their plans or switch to different classes over the course of the summer, she said, so the possibility that some schedules may be incorrect is always there.
“Their focus may be different; they may have changed their mind about being in dual enrollment, so it’s not necessarily something that is an issue on the school’s end,” said Uselton.
“Those kinds of things are always going to be things that we can deal with,” she said.
The offered courses at THS, as well as its block schedule, also add wrenches in the plans, said Uselton.
“We schedule on a block system. That adds more difficulty to schedule. We’re a comprehensive high school: we offer more than one track—we offer a regular track (and) we offer a CTE track. We also offer AP classes and dual enrollment,” she said.
All those components to the students’ education increases the likelihood that some schedules may be incorrect.
“It’s never going to be 100 percent,” she said.
However, Uselton said that this year’s confusion seemed multiplied by the fact that the district switched student information system (SIS) software.
Previously, the district was using Chalkable SIS; however, Chalkable was bought out by PowerSchool, a California-based company, so the district switched to Wisconsin-based Skyward.
The switch to the new software came with the typical learning curve for all administrators and faculty, so they spent numerous hours in training on the new software in order to minimize complications.
“I know that they were working like crazy—had lots of professional development in learning those things,” Uselton said.
Uselton said that THS Principal Kathy Rose and the counseling staff have been working tirelessly to resolve the issue.
“Kathy did speak to the senior class, and she told them that they (THS administrators) were very aware that were was some schedules that were incorrect and that they would be sorted out and everyone was going to get what they needed in order to graduate,” said Uselton.
Additionally, Rose offered some possible courses of action the school and the board could take in order to help alleviate the stress of the situation.
The first solution would be to offer extended contracts for the counselors and assistants at the high school, according to Uselton.
With the extended contracts, she said, the counselors and assistants would be able to come to the school early and “be available to students a couple of weeks before school starts” so that the scheduling issues could be “ironed out” before classes resume.
Another possible fix would be for counseling staff to verify the schedules multiple times before copies are sent out to students.
The board also discussed whether or not adding another counselor to the staff at THS would be beneficial for the scheduling purposes.
“We’ve talked about this in the past as a board,” said Uselton, “and basically what is most important to me…is what does Principal Rose and what do the counselors need at the high school that the board can help with?”
Currently THS only has two counselors and one testing coordinator, according to Uselton.
Previously the high school had three counselors: one for only seniors, one for juniors and sophomores and one for freshmen.
Several years ago, one of the THS counselors moved to an elementary school to fill a vacancy, leaving the THS staff down a counselor, according to Uselton.
Instead of hiring another third counselor, it was believed that having one person dedicated to all the testing performed at the school would be a better allocation of school resources, she said.
Now, however, it seems that THS may need to look into hiring another counselor to help with the scheduling problems.
In the meantime, however, Uselton said that having this year to figure out what areas need more assistance will be beneficial for the system.
Learning to use completely new software was always going to come with its own bugs, but this year will definitely serve as a learning process with Skyward, she said.
“I cannot imagine what kind of job that is, because not only are they having to transfer materials, they’re also transferring information,” said Uselton.
“I believe that next year we will have some time with Skyward under our belts,” she added.
After learning the ins and outs of Skyward, Uselton said the board hoped to be able to provide THS with whatever assistance they could to help make the scheduling process more streamlined.
“We’re confident that with that implementation we will better be able to get the schedules correct and out to our students in a timely manner,” she said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, some schedules were still in the process of being corrected, according to Uselton and Rose.
“We are making changes as quickly as we can,” said Rose.
“Continued patience is appreciated.”
Erin McCullough may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.