In Partnership with The 74

When you forget to pay the bill — why LAUSD.net went down

Mike Szymanski | September 6, 2017



Teachers trying to input grades over the weekend came to this page indicating that the district’s site was down.

Labor Day weekend was labor-intensive for thousands of teachers who had to get their grades in by Tuesday using a new grading system.

But when they went to sign in at LAUSD.net, the site was down.

Not just down. The domain name showed that “lausd.net has expired.”

Had the budget woes become so severe that the nation’s second-largest school district couldn’t afford to keep its URL? The site contains all district information and is used by the more than 700,000 students and 60,000 employees to access their information.

But an “accounting issue” shut down the site temporarily.

In short, no one paid the bill.

“Each year, LA Unified is required to renew registration of ‘lausd.net,’ providing an official web address for district websites and online services,” explained district public information officer Sam Gilstrap. “Due to an accounting issue, there was an unanticipated delay in the annual renewal, which temporarily affected access to websites and some services on Saturday and Sunday for some users.”

According to the district, “The issue was corrected immediately and access to all systems was restored.”

The “accounting issue” wasn’t mentioned in a letter that went out to all 26,000 teachers around 8 p.m. Sunday night, written by Chief Information Officer Shahryar Khazei of the Information Technology Division.

In that email — with the subject line: “Access to LAUSD websites and systems” — he acknowledged that some people were having trouble accessing the “district’s website, school websites, MiSiS, and others.”

The email noted: “This issue was addressed before noon on Saturday, but the reactivation across all internet service provider (ISP) servers can take some time. The majority of service providers have updated their server information and we expect that the remaining providers will complete their updates by the morning of Monday, September 4.”

Khazei added, “I apologize for any difficulties you have experienced this weekend trying to access sites to do your work.” The email suggested contacting the IT help desk if problems persisted.

This new school year marks an expansion of the pilot test of a new grade book system called Schoology that allows students and parents to view assignments and interim grades on an ongoing basis. Before, only end-of-semester grades were viewable.

After a focus group of parents, teachers, students, and union officials selected the online grade book, Schoology began in spring 2016. This year it is being rolled out to all middle and high schools, with plans to make it district-wide by next school year.

Schoology will cost the district $6.4 million to launch in every school and $1.7 million to maintain. It had nothing to do with the shutdown of the overall website.

The district hasn’t had good luck with IT, such as the aborted $1.3 billion effort to give an iPad to every student and teacher, a program that stumbled at nearly every step, and the launch of MiSiS, the district’s student data-tracking system that ballooned from $25 million to more than $173 million.

Although it’s been less than three full weeks of school, the first set of grades are due between Aug. 31 and Sept. 8.

For now, the “accounting issue” is solved and, according to the district, “All systems are currently functioning normally.”

Schoology instructions are available for parents online in English and Spanish. But, of course, you have to get onto LAUSD.net to get there.

                         

Read Next