Software system

PEI Teachers’ Federation concerned about new software system

The PEI Teachers’ Federation says a new software system in schools means a lot more work for teachers and administrators.

Schools on the island use a new system called PowerSchool, which tracks student attendance and grades and supports other school management needs.

Aldene Smallman, president of the PEITF, says the “massive new system” has problems that need to be addressed, and that means a greater workload for people working in schools.

“We absolutely heard the concerns and the issues,” Smallman said.

Parents looking for information

Smallman said teachers also hear from parents or guardians who are frustrated because they can’t log into the system to see student information.

“Parents are trying to navigate this new system and search for information, which can be frustrating for teachers,” she said.

Norbert Carpenter, director of the Public Schools Branch, says he understands the extra workload facing staff is significant and recognizes that it adds to the workload. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC)

The Public Schools Branch said the system is not yet fully operational in many schools, but expects more schools to have the full system in the coming weeks and months.

“It definitely added a lot of extra pressure,” Smallman said.

Upgrade needed

Public Schools Branch director Norbert Carpenter said the old systems had been around for more than a decade and an upgrade was needed.

When you keep doing your daily chores and it’s a supplement, it’s going to take some time.—Norbert Charpentier

“It really collects all of the demographics of all of our students across the province in the Public Schools Branch,” Carpenter said, adding that it’s a “large and robust system.”

He said that although it is not yet fully functional, it will eventually improve communication.

Carpenter said 10 high schools now have full access and middle schools will be online soon.

“We’re getting closer to that in the next few weeks,” Carpenter said.

“What we are used to seeing, parents and guardians will see.”

Carpenter said he understands the extra work staff face is significant and recognizes it adds to the workload.

I really appreciate what I have at my fingertips.—Heather Mullen

“Teaching right now is difficult,” he said. “When you keep doing your daily chores and it’s a supplement, it’s going to take a while.”

He said there are training opportunities for staff.

Software used by other schools

PowerSchool is used by other schools across Canada, including Nova Scotia.

PEI Home and School Federation president Heather Mullen has a child in one of the high schools with the fully operational PowerSchool system. She said it’s a good system and she thinks the phone app will be popular with parents.

Human resources are lacking for a launch of this nature.—Aldene Smallman

“I’m lucky to be at one of the pilot schools,” Mullen said. “I really like what I have at my fingertips.”

Mullen said most students on the island and their caregivers don’t yet have access to it.

“I think it’s an important system to have,” she said. “I understand that parents would miss getting this information on a regular basis,”

Slower deployment needed

Smallman said she knew the consultants were working hard to get the program out there, but it had a big learning curve, especially with the concurrent deployment and training.

Smallman points out that schools already dealing with additional COVID-19 demands also have a major technology shift on top of that.

“Human resources are lacking for a launch of this nature,” she said.

She said PowerSchool should have been rolled out more gradually, with schools still able to use the old system while training on the new one.