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Kingsport schools adopting new student information system

Rick Wagner • Jan 16, 2020 at 3:15 PM

KINGSPORT — Starting next school year, Kingsport City Schools will be contracting with a new student information system (SIS). It will replace the PowerSchool system used for more than a decade.

The Board of Education Tuesday night voted 5-0 to approve the purchase of the new Aspen SIS in August upon the recommendation of a committee that has studied options for more than a year.

The BOE approved the first-year system cost of $148,450, which includes a 6% contingency above the base proposal of $140,046.75 to be paid from fund balance. 

WHAT IS AN SIS?

An SIS handles things such as student grades, report cards, schedules and attendance.

Chief Human Resources Officer Jennifer Guthrie said that after the committee study followed by financial information presented after the functionality recommendation, the consensus was to purchase the Follett Aspen SIS through a state contract with Follett School Solutions.

Director of Performance Excellence Michael Hubbard said the Aspen system had many advantages over two competitors and the old system, including not requiring many add-on programs that would cost extra money. He said unlike PowerSchool, the Aspen system interfaces seamlessly with the state’s SIS and will be compatible with programs being developed for the future.

“When the district chose PowerSchool, it was the best one then,” Superintendent of Schools Jeff Moorhouse said. He added that school systems normally cycle through student management systems in about a decade and that time is a bit past for KCS.

Hubbard said Aspen allows report and data automation instead of time-intensive manual data checking, has good customer support and is fiscally responsible. He said KCS has had issues with PowerSchool not fixing trouble tickets and having to have them reopened and addressed.

WHAT OTHER SYSTEMS WERE IN THE RUNNING?

Others under consideration were Skyward and Infinite Campus. The projected four-year cost of each, which could change slightly with increased or decreased enrollment from year to year, was Skyward $279,177, Aspen $336,068.25 and Infinite Campus $617,020.25. The submissions were requests for proposals, not bids, so the school system was not bound to take the lowest bid, school system officials said. 

After initial setup, the annual fee was $36,806 for Skyward, $140,492.25 for Infinite and $65,340.50 for Aspen, Hubbard said.

In a committee vote for the best system based on overall functionality, Aspen was first with a score of 384.8, Infinite second at 360.7 and Skyward third at 259.6. The cost was not presented to the committee until after the functionality votes, but Hubbard said that the costs given for Infinite and Skyward would have increased with add-ons. A few needed add-ons are included in the Aspen price, Frye said.

Moorhouse said he has confidence in the ability of Aspen to serve the Kingsport system, which has nearly 8,000 students, after learning that it serves the largest system in East Tennessee, Knox County, with more than 60,000 students.

Since schedules already are starting to be formulated for 2020-21 at Dobyns-Bennett High School, Moorhouse and Hubbard said administrators would use PowerSchool to create those. Then, over the summer, the schedules will be transferred over to Aspen, and administrators will learn how to do schedules in time for the 2021-22 school year.

Chief Finance Officer David Frye said that since Aspen is in the first of five years of a contract with Tennessee, the Kingsport contract will cover the next four school years.

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