Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall lambasted education minister Mike Bernier over the scheduling “gridlock” that has enraged parents at L.V. Rogers and Prince Charles Secondary, leaving some students without core classes required for graduation, during an impassioned speech at the legislature on Tuesday.
“Picture this: at the beginning of the school year, kids head into class and teachers head into class to teach them. But at L.V. Rogers in Nelson, kids, parents and teachers experienced quite a shock this year, all thanks to the Liberals’ MyEdBC program, the $100 million computer system meant to replace the failed $100 million computer system by the same company,” Mungall said.
“Parents are furious. Kids are frustrated again. To the Minister of Education: why can’t the Liberals get this right? How much more money are they going to throw at failed computer systems before they do?”
Bernier began his response by asserting that the government had liaised with the company responsible of the two systems, Fujitsu, and they’ve been “working around the clock with ministry staff to ensure we can speed up the system.”
Mungall responded by asserting that the problem is caused by the provincial government’s underfunding of education, and this snafu is only a symptom of larger issues. MLA Selina Robinson also heaped scorn on the registration programs, echoing Mungall’s concerns and calling the system “lethargic”.
“Why did the B.C. Liberals replace a flawed $100 million computer system with another $100 million computer system that can’t even track attendance?…It might take 15 minutes for an an administrator to simply search for a student’s file in the system — 15 minutes. It takes less time to communicate to Mars.”
Bernier quipped back: “unlike the members opposite, who for sure reason want to communicate with Mars, we like to communicate with the parents of British Columbia.”
Mungall, speaking to the Star after the appearance, said there is “no excuse for this system to not be up and running to full capacity.
“The saddest thing of it all is that this isn’t the first failed computer system in education, it’s the second. Every computer system this government purchases proves to be problematic, and other provinces don’t seem to have this problem.”
She said the issue isn’t specific to education.
“This isn’t just the Ministry of Education that’s being underfunded. This is widespread throughout the government. They keep rolling out these computer systems that fail and require way more money than originally budget. Why and how are these decisions being made? Only when we know that will we know how to move forward.”
Teacher’s association president Paul Boscariol believes Fujitsu should be held accountable for the “tens of thousands of hours” teachers and staff spent working with the faulty system. At Tuesday night’s board meeting he voiced his concerns to the board.
“The student concern is huge, but it’s also going to cost this district dollars,” he said. “This would never happen in the private sector. Ultimately the buck stops with the Ministry of Education. They were the ones who decided to go with the Fujitsu program just like they went with the predecessor which was, believe it or not, worse.”
Superintendent Jeff Jones told the Star the deadline for schools to submit their full-time-equivalent enrolment numbers has been pushed back to Oct. 2 in recognition of “the challenges being experienced across the province.”
“We’ve been able to access some good support from the provincial level, and some of our district level staff were able to contact Fujitsu directly. It’s frustrating, to say the least, however ultimately I maintain there’s hope for this software.”
He said they’re beginning to hear some positive feedback, and he’s expecting final numbers of students from L.V. Rogers administration soon.
“I want to know how many of those students aren’t able to access classes because of other choices they made, or if it’s because they just can’t access them.”
Already L.V. Rogers is implementing some innovative solutions by combining some classes and giving students a multi-subject classroom led by a teacher where they can work at their own pace. But district parent advisory council chair Sheri Walsh doesn’t believe that’s good enough.
“We still have this problem where students can’t take the courses they need—I’m not talking about guitar—in a classroom, with a teacher, in the traditional way.”
And though there are alternate options, including online education, she doesn’t believe that’s appropriate for all students.
“Maybe it will change to be more like that in the future. But we’re not there yet and we’re in a bind right now.”
(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Paul Boscariol’s name.)