October 25, 2014

Evers defends contract decision

If a contract for the creation of a statewide student information system stands, school districts across Wisconsin will all operate under the same platform within the next few years. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers says that’s the right way to approach the issue. He says it will “make sure that we have the most efficient system possible.”

State officials recently announced the winning bid for the statewide package would go to Minnesota-based Infinite Campus. Steven Point-based Skyward is appealing that decision, arguing a review of the bids determined the company would have been able to provide the same services at a lower cost.

Evers says he looks forward to reviewing Skyward’s appeal and ensuring “that we have a process that’s fair to them, that they’re adequately heard about what their grievances are around this process, and we’ll make a decision going forward from there.”

Skyward’s involvement in the process has at times been controversial, such as when it was discovered last summer that the company was offered economic incentives by a state agency if it secured the contract. The disclosure resulted in the project having to be re-bid and an independent observer was brought in to oversee the process.

Skyward currently operates student information systems in about 50 percent of Wisconsin school districts, which the company argues will end up costing districts more money when they have to switch over in a few years. Evers says he understands that concern, but points out that state law prevents officials from considering where a company is located during the bidding process.

Eau Claire school officials have indicated their conversion costs would be around $350,000. Stevens Point Superintendent Attila Wedinger says their district estimates the conversion and training costs are closer to $440,000. The state’s conversion funding formula would only pay the district $29,000 over five years. Evers maintains that there will be adequate funding to help school districts deal with the costs of converting their systems, as the Infinite Campus software is rolled out.

Larry Lee, WSAU