computer woes impact studentsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
November 15, 1999
Computer woes impact students
by Yvette Ousley Daily News Staff Writer
The School District's new computer system created havoc for employees who didn't get paid.
But it also stiffed dozens of vendors, who cut off shipments of books, paper, computer and science equipment - making learning more difficult for hundreds of students.
At one school, the paper never arrived - forcing students to write on the backs of used paper.
At others, the new books never came so classes of 30 have attempted to share several old texts - passing books from one student to another.
Or, they have worked from handouts made by teachers who buy their own copy paper then photocopy materials for as many as 150 kids in five classes.
The supply fiasco stems from problems with the district's new $26 million computerized payroll and purchasing system, already notorious for overpaying and underpaying hundreds of employees - past and present, living and deceased, or for not paying them at all.
A total of 47 vendors who didn't get paid cut off supplies to the schools. Among them were major book publisher Silver Burdett Ginn, and supplier Office Depot.
"Getting Xerox paper, pencils, pens, crayons, books are a problem at some locations," said Jerry Jordan, vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which is surveying teachers to determine the magnitude of the problem.
"Not only does it have an impact on student learning, it's difficult to say we're leveling the playing field when our kids don't have the tools to get the job done."
Schools Superintendent David Hornbeck last week acknowledged problems with payments to vendors. But he said he believed the impact at the school level was minimal.
Part of the problem, he said, was that outstanding bills that predated the new computer system had to be re-entered into the new system.
All but about 12 of the vendors have been paid, he said.
"The big issues with vendors cutting supplies off have been resolved and supplies are flowing again," he said.
But it may still take weeks for supplies to get to schools. As recently as last week, teachers like Lynn Dixon were at Office Max stocking up on paper because they have none.
Dixon, who teaches at Martin Luther King High, says she has spent more than $600 of her own money on supplies, such as posters, bulletin board, paper, staplers and other beginning-of-the-year materials that weren't delivered.
"It's been a hardship, a pain in the butt," Dixon said. "It's never been like this before."
Meanwhile, another teacher from Central High complained last week that the school hadn't received supplies since school began. Yet Hornbeck sent thousands of letters to employees praising the election of John Street as mayor.
"We have no paper to mimeograph worksheets, exams or anything for the students and he mimeographed tens of thousands of these letters," said the teacher, who asked not be named. "I guess they have paper at 21st Street."
Students and parents are feeling the pressure, too.
"My daughter is a sophomore at Philadelphia High School for Girls and she was told by her teachers that they don't have any paper because the bills were not paid," said one mother who contacted the Daily News.
"I told her to ask her teachers if I should buy paper to help out. But they were just using the other side of already used paper."
The School District has been working non-stop to correct the problem with vendors. To expedite the process, the district even issued orders to pay vendors without verification that materials were received.
And although most of the vendors who cut supplies and services have been paid, another potential problem, district sources say, is that other vendors are now threatening to stop shipments because of a lack of payment or slow payment.
Part of the problem is that under the new system it takes longer to input the information necessary to pay vendors, the source said.
"This will be a recurring problem," the source said, "because of the volume of the shipments when all vendors start shipping again and because of the slowness of the system."
-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), November 15, 1999
Sure would like to know what software system all of these schools are using that are having these problems.
-- Greg (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 15, 1999.
"already notorious for overpaying and underpaying hundreds of employees - past and present, living and deceased, or for not paying them at all"
Sounds like it was programmed by a Chicago democrat!
-- Y2Kook (Y2Kook@usa.net), November 15, 1999.
Ain't progress wonderful?
-- Mad Monk (email@example.com), November 15, 1999.