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Schools differ when filling data requests

By Alex Bridges

Finance software used by Shenandoah County schools remains limited but too costly to replace at this time, the division chief says.

Superintendent Jeremy Raley blames the software's limitations for making an information request of the division take much longer than in neighboring counties. OpenRDA, the software the system has been using for the past six years, also limits staff in other ways, Raley said this week, but still meets the division's needs in human resources and finance.

District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey asked for detailed salary data of school employees in December but did not want to pay the $700 price Raley had quoted for producing the data. Bailey revised the request's scope, reducing the hours the task would take from 25 to 14 hours. Bailey failed on two occasions to receive her board's support for the request.

"I certainly wish that we had the financial resources to have a more robust and efficient finance and human resources software program," Raley stated by email. "For now, we work within the constraints of our current program."

Raley said purchasing new software falls well below other needs, and the division receives such a request once a year, if at all. Some software packages cost more than $100,000, he said.

"That's why it hasn't risen to the level of importance ... we're able to pay our bills, we're able to get our employees paid," Raley said. "It works for us. It's not the most convenient for these kind of requests, but how often does that really happen?"

The structure and set up of the school division's current system not only limits staff's ability to have ready access to salary data but also hinders efforts to gather information for other transactions. For example, Raley said they have had problems gathering data needed for reporting associated with health care reform.

He noted that the division has for years received the highest accolade available for its audit reports from Robinson Farmer Cox Associates.

Frederick County Public Schools uses CIMS Finance software to manage data related to human resources and payroll, said Steve Edwards, the division's coordinator of policy and communications. Edwards said it would take less than a half-hour to generate the data. No member of the county Board of Supervisors or the School Board has asked for salary data by employee, Edwards said, citing information from the division's finance director.

Warren County schools Superintendent Pam McInnis said the division could produce the data in an hour. Warren County doesn't use special software. Rather, the personnel department keeps Microsoft Excel spreadsheets with information sorted by job category. The department updates the spreadsheets as employees enter and leave the system. McInnis said she doesn't recall ever receiving salary information requests from any county supervisors, but may have provided the data to a School Board member on occasion. The school system has not distributed salary data in the past few years, McInnis said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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