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Manatee County School District says unauthorized money spent to implement new software system

An independent source found issues with software
Posted at 9:58 PM, Aug 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-20 23:14:26-04

BRADENTON, Fla. — Manatee County School District officials said unauthorized money has been spent as the district implements a new software system to handle district business. 

"We had a lot of safeguards in place, but unfortunately as discovered sometimes things do occur," said Superintendent Cynthia Saunders. 

Superintendent Cynthia Saunders said she hired an independent third-party source to sort out exactly where the school district stood after it implemented Enterprise Resource Planning system or ERP. 

The system went live on July 1, 2018, which was Saunders first official day as Superintendent. 

"Our prior software we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 years so it was time for an upgrade," said Saunders. 

An independent report showed a series of complications and concerns involving the implementation process. The process for hiring people, securing contracts, and paying bills and other basic functions on the business side have been disrupted. 

Saunders said this has not had a negative impact on students or the job of instructional staff.

School board members said the project has cost nearly $20 million dollars so far and it went over budget. Board member Dr. Scott Hopes said it is not impacting students, but could in the future. 

"It has no direct impact in the classroom. These are not educational systems and not our student data system. This is truly our business side of the district," said School Board member Dr. Scott Hopes.

"These are capital dollars. If we find they're significant dollars, these are dollars that could be used to improve science laboratories, dollars that can be used to add new classrooms. These are capital dollars," he added. 

The district's contract with the vendor, Ciber, ends on Friday, August 24. District officials will meet on Tuesday to discuss if they will extend the contract or not. The Superintendent said she can not support a contract expansion until current issues are resolved. 

On August 6, district officials confirmed Deputy Superintendent of Operations, Ron Ciranna, was placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation at the District. The investigation is ongoing and the district would not comment further.

District officials said unauthorized money was used to implement this software update. Hopes said it was at least $1 million dollars, but officials did not have an exact amount. 

"As superintendent, it is my job to address this situation head on and to hold people accountable," said Saunders.