PowerSchool Problems Continue at $7 Million a Year

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PowerSchool. There’s a can of worms for the newly elected North Carolina state superintendent of schools to dive into.

June 9th letter sent by the HomeBase Leadership team to the NC Department of Public Instruction Leadership and PowerSchool team is packed with bombshells like massive outages, infrastructure failure, missing deliverables, issues with transitioning to in-house operation and more.

The issues with PowerSchool have been continual since its implementation.

Accompanying the letter was a spreadsheet with 286 incidents spanning 10 weeks, starting at the end of March and running through the beginning of June. The majority (around 90%) of these incidents involved ‘slow connectivity’, ‘loss of functionality’ and ‘down/unavailable’ .

Under “Quality Assurance”, complaints included:

  • “Broken items are consistently placed in QA for re-test without being thoroughly vetted or unit tested.”
  • “Urgent and prioritized defects and issues are frequently not addressed within a reasonable timeframe. High priority items often sit for days, sometimes weeks, without tangible results, or progress updates.”
  • “PowerSchool is inconsistent in following industry standard procedures for Quality Assurance.

Of note, under the bullet point, “Transition from In-House Project Support to Operational Support”, was a revelation that additional charges had been added beyond the existing contract. Also it appeared that some of these services seemed like an excuse to bill DPI.

There has been a lot of discussion about this subject and we want to put it to bed. We were given a list of tasks that Greg Parish used to perform while he was based at NCDPI. The majority of these tasks require technical level access to servers that NCDPI has no access to, or require contacting various people within different teams of PowerSchool, in order to coordinate support activities. We provided a specific response to Dan Gwaltney with the proposed transition steps on the few items that can be transitioned to NCDPI. As a response we received an SOW and a bill for Lorenzo’s services for $105,000. The SOW was actually a template written for your customers that host locally. It just seemed like a document put together with little effort in order to attach a bill to it. We have a contract with PowerSchool that costs more than $7 million per year for maintenance, support and hosting operations; a turn-key solution. We expect that this is sufficient payment and find it absurd that PowerSchool wants to charge North Carolina extra money for work performed by specific members of your staff.

The letter also notes that the project is missing close-out items, yet NC DPI announced in 2013 that the project was complete.

Sources both inside and outside of DPI tell me that the department alleges that the NC Information Technology Services (ITS) division gave DPI a waiver so that Pearson could have the contract to transition North Carolina’s old system to the Pearson product, PowerSchool, without going through the RFP process.

Pearson sold off PowerSchool to Vista Equity Partners in 2015.

Multiple sources inside DPI reported that Pearson personnel were on the ground doing work three months before the contract was even signed. Staff at DPI were allegedly told by DPI leadership involved with the project that this ‘never happened’ and they were to ‘keep quiet’.

Perhaps an audit of the PowerSchool situation is warranted given we are clearly not getting the bang of $7 million bucks a year.

Read the letter:
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