Unit 4 hires data manager

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign school district has hired a manager to deal with information related to the district's consent decree case, to deal better with the volumes of statistics it must produce.

The move comes after the district discovered mistakes in data it submitted this summer in connection with the court decree.

The sole focus for the new position will be to compile the data required of the school district by the district's court monitor, said Beth Shepperd, assistant superintendent for human resources.

"Since 2002, the court monitor has recommended an additional position dedicated to data, because of the length and complexity of the reporting requirements," Shepperd said. "It's become so enormous that we followed their recommendation."

Michael Harden started work this week in that position. He previously worked at the University of Illinois National Center for Supercomputing Applications, and he'll be paid $58,500 by the school district.

The district has made a few other personnel changes in the information technology area. Fred Clarke, who has been the district's director of information and instructional technology, is now focusing on discipline and alternative school issues. Those areas, and attendance, have been responsibilities of his for some time.

"Those are areas where we really need help, and Fred has expertise in those areas," Shepperd said.

Roger Grinnip, the district's network manager, is interim director of information and instructional technology.

The district found a mistake in reporting some data this summer.

It reports on the areas covered by the consent decree four times a year to the court monitor, including an annual report. The one prepared this summer was 1,700 pages, much of it data on such things as disciplinary actions, participation in upper-level courses, test scores, assignment to special education and attendance.

Shepperd said some incorrect disciplinary data was included in the annual report to the court monitor, but the district discovered the error shortly after it submitted the report and corrected it.

She said the report had multiple authors, and each was responsible for making corrections in his or her portion of the report.

"This summer, the turnaround time was very short, people were out of the district, and we were using some new technology tools," she said. "A lot of factors resulted in some errors in that section that were corrected."

Shepperd said the incorrect data included some numbers in a graph that didn't match the numbers in the text of the report. She said the district has modified the process for compiling the reports to allow more time for review.

While there have been some mistakes from time to time in the data, Shepperd said the main issue has been producing the data in the form in which the court monitor wants to see it. She said the Champaign school district has some of the most stringent requirements in the state in terms of the data it must produce.

"There's always issues with data, when you're dealing with 1,700 pages and thousands of submissions," she said. "Data integrity is a focus of ours, and we continually work to make sure it's correct. It's what we use to make decisions."

The district will present information to federal Judge Joe Billy McDade next week in a hearing in the consent decree case. Shepperd said the mistake found this summer won't have an affect on the hearing.

"We're not going to court with incorrect data," she said.

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