In case you are not familiar with the School Choice operations for DeKalb County Schools, there is an enrollment period every year in February, followed by a lottery in March or April. Parents who wish to apply for a spot for their child at a school – theme, magnet, charter, Montessori, etc. – for the following school year are required to sign up for the lottery.
“This year, the School Choice enrollment period opened on Monday, February 2, 2015 for paper applications, only. Online applications were to be accepted beginning Monday, February 9, 2015. I and many other proactive parents tried to use ePortal, the existing lottery registration program, to get their students ‘set up’ in the system, so that on February 9, they could complete the online application. This was the process in previous years and worked when I did it for my older student.
“However, this year ePortal gave only a vague error message informing users that their account did not have the authority to add students. When I called the School Choice office to follow up, I was told that this message was due to the fact that ePortal was offline until February 9, the start of the lottery program, but that I would be able to enter the information and enroll my student starting on the 9th. At no point was there any mention of a change in technology.
“Now (Monday, February 9) we learn that DeKalb is implementing a NEW system for online enrollment. However, there is NO new system available, NO information on what the system is, and NO information about whether it will be available for the lottery. The only information provided is a PDF with multiple phone numbers. When calling the listed numbers, there is NO human being to answer, the messages at the numbers are different and conflicting, and there is no way to leave a voicemail. (Read the PDF at “Parent Technical Support” here http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/school-choice.)
“This is a tremendous failure in so many ways – once again, parents are given every reason to be suspicious of the competence and intentions of DeKalb County Schools staff. I have 15 years of experience in IT, and it boggles the mind to consider how a system change-over would be 1) implemented at the same time as the system is expected to be available; 2) not communicated to any end-users beforehand; and 3) not working on go-live. Indeed, the lack of communication from the DCS Central Office extends to the schools themselves, which have been inundated with calls by parents and which were as surprised as the parents to learn that a new system was going to be used (and for which they had no information).
“I have called all available numbers for Pat Copeland’s office in School Choice, as well as the numbers listed on the PDF file. Nowhere can I find any instructions for how to proceed other than to come in person to the tech lab in Lawrenceville and dire warnings that anyone who fails to register will not be in the lottery. I have zero confidence in filling out any paper forms and leaving them at the county office – though in the end, inclusion in the lottery whether by paper or online seems to be completely unassured at this point.
“It is this sort of preventable fiasco that causes parents and taxpayers to completely distrust the competence, intentions and work of DeKalb County Schools employees and degrades our trust in the system overall.”
The Superintendent released a statement saying,
“As a result of the new online ePortal application integration with Infinite Campus, we are experiencing issues that are typical when we have a high volume of applicants accessing the system simultaneously. In preparation for the implementation of the new software, we have incorporated the following to assist our parents:
• Parent Technical Support Center that is available daily from 8:30 AM
to 7:00 PM EST.
• The Support Center is open with 10 phones lines to address any
• The contact information for the Parent Technical Support Center is
posted on the website: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/school-choice and
on the ePortal.”
Maureen Downey at the AJC Get Schooled blog has posted an opinion on this issue >>
Registering for Kittredge lottery. There has to be a better way and Thurmond ought to find it.
The article above was sent by a parent to Stan Jester, School Board District 1 Rep. He shared it on the Fact Checker.