Three weeks later, school computer problems continue

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Monday, October 13, 2008
— A virus that disrupted the Janesville School District's computers is still wreaking havoc more than three weeks after it was discovered.

Craig High School teacher Colleen Neumann said some teachers have piles of students' papers on their desks because they can't enter the grades in the computerized grade book.

"It's far worse here than it was a week ago," when she could access the district's student-records and grade-book system, Neumann said.

Neumann said she has written to everyone she can think of on behalf of herself and other teachers, and she has not gotten a reply.

To make things worse, Neumann and a minority of teachers at Craig haven't had phones since the beginning of the school year because of construction-related difficulties. They can receive voice-mail, but they have to find another phone that works to access voice messages.

"To tell you the truth, we're at our wits' end," Neumann said.

Neumann said Craig teachers haven't been able to access a drive where they store their teaching materials. She said she has gotten by, but it is tougher for some teachers who use computers more extensively.

Doug Bunton, business director for the district, said he had not heard that the computer problems were getting worse. Neumann said frustration levels are so high that other teachers encouraged her to contact the newspaper.

Craig Principal Mike Kuehne said he has been told that district teams are working on the problems day and night, and there's nothing he can do to make the troubles go away any faster.

Bunton said he understands the frustration of working without the tools that everyone has come to rely on.

"To do it for days and weeks with sporadic service is just very difficult," Bunton said.

The virus apparently struck different schools with differences in intensity and timing. Some schools may have few or no problems, while others have more extensive outages.

Bunton told the Gazette on Sept. 26 that he hoped to get vital systems, including the student-records software, up and running by early the next week, but that hasn't happened districtwide.

"We've made quite a bit of progress" since that time, Bunton said, but more work remains. Bunton said Friday that the district's Web site is back up, although not all the information on it is current.

However, many attempts to access it from The Janesville Gazette were unsuccessful.

The phone problem arose when teachers were moved to different rooms, and the phones in those rooms needed to be reconfigured with the teachers' phone extensions, Bunton said. But then the virus hit, and workers who were configuring phones were tapped to handle the virus, so the phone work stalled.

Kuehne estimated 15 to 20 phones at Craig don't work. Some of the special-education teachers, who need to be in contact with parents more frequently than other teachers, have been using their personal cell phones, Neumann said.

Neumann said teachers in her area have called the district's computer help desk, but after frequent calls, they were told not to call back.

"We don't hear from the district. That's a big frustration. We don't hear what's going on," Neumann said. "We assume they're working on it, but you never hear."

Neumann pointed out that the district's new quality-improvement initiatives, known as the Studer process, call for everyone to return phone calls and e-mails within 48 hours. That's not happening when it comes to the computer problems, she said.

Kuehne said he understands that teachers need the tools to do their jobs and their desire for more information.

"I also understand the district is going at this aggressively, but it's a problem that defies simple answers," Kuehne said.

Bunton said he brought in extra help, but only so many people can be working on the problem at the same time. So when will everything be fixed?

"Just as soon as we can get it done," Bunton said. "My personal benchmark was today (Friday), but we're not there yet. Hopefully, the first part of next week."

Neumann, meanwhile, used part of her Sunday to enter grades in her home computer, where she can get access to the student-records system that she can't get at work.

Last updated: 10:43 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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