Berkeley Unified's vital statistics can be both a bane and a boon.
Numbers spell progress, like , and numbers mean money, like Average Daily Attendance (ADA). But numbers also cause problems — especially when those numbers are missing or faulty.
In Tuesday evening's meeting, the school board will consider creating a new staff position to deal specifically with data management and keep a close eye on the statistics.
The district has, until now, been using part-time and temporary employees to assist with data reporting requirements from the state, resulting in missed deadlines and the risk of inaccuracies. As the requirements from the state have grown, so has the need for a more dedicated approach.
The new position, "Specialist, Data Integrity," will monitor and analyze data "to ensure accuracy and reliability, especially when the data are a critical component of the District’s revenue such as ADA," according to the proposal (agenda item 4.1-CF).
The Berkeley Unified School District received $5,227 per student in general purpose funding from federal, state and local sources in 2009-10. This general purpose funding — known as a district's "revenue limit" — is based on Average Daily Attendance (ADA), which is calculated by dividing the total number of days of student attendance by the total number of days in the regular school year. If attendance records are inaccurate, revenue can be affected.
The data specialist will therefore coordinate and submit state reports regarding attendance and enrollment, as well as student and teacher data, according to the proposal, with the responsibility of ensuring "data integrity." Duties include "identifying potential attendance issues," conducting "analytical reviews" and coordinating "with school site staff performing attendance duties."
The goal is to reduce the risk of "inaccurate" and "untimely" data — a risk that is augmented by the use of part-time and temporary staff spanning multiple departments.
According to Melisandra Leonardos, the former administrative analyst who spoke with Berkeley Patch back in May before leaving the district, BUSD's data management system is disorganized to the point of non-existent in some areas (such as ), and staff members are stretched thin. "The state of data keeping is surreal," she said.
In addition to data verification and reporting, the data integrity specialist will also collaborate with various schools, departments, districts and agencies to "ensure efficient operations and accurate reporting." Streamlining the system will also mean installing and maintaining new equipment, and contributing "creative ideas" about how data management can be improved.
The district is asking for applicants with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology or a closely-related field; or at least three years of successful and progressively responsible experience in information technology, preferably in a school setting, including at least one year of project management experience.
The estimated cost for the new data specialist position will be $80,000 per year, including benefits. The cost will be covered by eliminating the vacant pupil accounting technician position (at $70,000 annually) and the temporary/hourly budget of $5,000 per year, according to the proposal.
The draft job description is available in the agenda packet.
What do you think of BUSD's data management? How can the district improve data keeping and reporting? Share your thoughts in the comments.