Maintenance without (much) Notice

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PowerSchool Champion
PowerSchool Champion

Maintenance without (much) Notice

It's really becoming frustrating to our district that PowerSchool continues to take down their hosted applications, most frequently PowerSchool Learning, with little to no notice. An hour is not sufficient notice, but frequently that is the notice we get. It's even worse when you stop putting the banner on the top of the page because you're not notifying those using Learning instead of reading their e-mails. Even worse yet that the status page you continue to refer us to doesn't have any mention of tonight's outage, either.

 

We have several hundred teachers and thousands of students that are using PowerSchool Learning every day. As aforementioned, they are not necessarily actively watching their e-mail, and even if they were, they'd get much less notice than I did because I now have to come up with something to write, get it approved, and then send it out since PowerSchool did not use their resources to notify the users--they only notified technical contacts. There might be 30 minutes notice by the time that is done, and for the cost of the product, I should not have to take personal time to write outage notifications for PowerSchool's outages when they have multiple means of communicating the outages and they are being inconsistently used. Lately, we can't even depend on how we'll learn about the outage, let alone when we'll learn about it.

 

I continue to apologize for the inconvenience to my staff, but I am not sure it means anything to them anymore because it happens so often. I've shared my concerns with PowerSchool staff before but things have not been changing much. Things started to get better with that towards the end of last year with Unified Classroom, but now this year, the systems just get taken down willy-nilly and you can't be doing that with the asynchronous learning going on. Your outage frequency needs to be minimal and should not be when students and teachers will still be actively using the system.

 

I know I cannot be alone in this. Except for truly urgent issues, a minimum of a week is sufficient notice but more would be better. When you site urgent issues, I think it would be easier to swollow the short notice if you would at least share something about what you're fixing, even if you have to keep it very generic for security reasons, such as "security fixes". As it is, the staff just see it as "down a lot" and the colleagues using PowerSchool Learning keep having to wonder why they agreed to go that route instead of Google Classroom like some of their peers. It's hard for me to defend the product when I see the same issues they are.

 

Here's hoping that others will come here and share their thoughts. I think it's time to give this some attention.

 

Thanks,

 

Vance

--
Vance M. Allen
SIS Coordinator, Idaho Falls School District #91, Idaho Falls, ID (K-12, ~10000 students)
PowerSchool Champion of the Year 2020 Winner

On-Premise: PS 20.4.3 on production (4 app + 1 DB server array) and 2 test servers
SaaS: UC, Learning, Special Programs, Performance Matters

Please do not contact me by private message for support.

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4 Replies
PowerSchool Champion
PowerSchool Champion

Re: Maintenance without (much) Notice

@Vance I'm in total agreement with EVERYTHING you have stated in your post.  My frustrations began almost two years ago as we began to implement the Unified Classroom in the summer of 2018. What I was led to believe from the sales department turned out to be far from the program we were promised and purchased in December 2017. 

 

After screaming loudly from the very start, I was impressed by how PowerSchool responded to a number of complaints about the Unified Classroom in the 2018-2019 school year. Logical functionality was getting introduced (which we thought was already there as described by sales) to the program. The stability of the platform was also improving. I thought we had turned the corner and this summer I had great hope for the 2019-2020 school year.

 

However, this year brought more disappointment, lots of apologies and left us users of the Unified Classroom, Class Pages and PowerSchool Learning left scrabling. When the purchase of Schoology by PowerSchool was closing, we were told to wait. PowerSchool Learning started to disappear from the website and we were told once again to wait for more information. Schoology was rebranded Schoology Learning and left little to the imagination that it would replace PowerSchool Learning. Then PowerSchool published the roadmap, which left us again waiting for up to 18 months for them to develop and implement a migration tool to eventually move our content to Schoology Learning. We had to answer the question, do we wait until the summer of 2021 to make the transition from a dying platform, look elsewhere or basically start from scratch. 

 

And then the Pandemic struck. When we most needed a reliable platform the most, to support our teachers and students in crisis mode, the program failed us. It was an epic failure in every sense. Every day our teachers and students would log in (or attempt to log in) wondering if the program is going to work today or even at that specific moment in time. I totally understand the Internet was slammed big time starting in mid-March. YouTube, Netflix and others reduced streaming quality. PowerSchool did respond with apologies, references to their dedicated and hard working staff, emergency webinars, etc. but seven weeks later, the problems, outages and poor communications remain. I even tagged @MyPowerSchool in a post about the devastating impact these problems were having on hundreds of schools and thousands of students around the world. Not a single reply. If I had tagged and posted the same thing to any other corporation, I would have received a timely response. 

 

During the most recent issues on Tuesday and when status.powerschool.com had failed to alert users to the outages once again, I submitted a case hoping to push someone into action.  In my ongoing email exchange with a wonderful support member, I asked where is the senior management of PowerSchool?  Where is PowerSchool's CEO? Why are this issues happening? What is actually breaking? I did appreciate this line from the last reply "I am reaching out to let you know that I have forwarded your last email to upper management. All comments are important to us, we thank you for your feed back." and hppe for the best. 

 

I think PowerSchool could take the immediate these steps:

  • Banners and notifications to all users (admin, teachers and parents/students) of these products relating to  both emergency and scheduled maintenance. (Preferably in a timely manner.)
  • Identification as to what are these continual problems with the product, infrasture and/or servers. (Something broke when we could not access PowerSchool Learning and Class Pages most of Tuesday. What was it???) There are so many network admins on PowerSource and PowerSchool Community who could probably help problem sovle these issues.
  • Speed up the development of the transition tools needed for us to leave a platform that obviously has an immediate EOL and move to something that will give the schools a fighting chance to have an effective and reliable tool to use on a daily basis.
  • The highest levels of PowerSchool need to talk to us the customers and be open and honest in what is actually being done to finally address all of these issues.

I love PowerSchool SIS and have been a most loyal user and admin for 20 years. I have personally pitched the program to every school principal and tech director I have talked to at workshops and conferences. It breaks my heart to see what has happened to a product that falls under the PowerSchool brand. 

 

I'm sorry in advance for any typos and other errors in this post. It's 9:25 PM PDT and I have more work today with my other jobs here at school.

 

Again, thanks to Vance for starting this thread. As a school PowerSchool is waiting for us to sign our renewal contract for the Unified Classroom. Our principal, academic dean and I really don't know what we are going to do for next year.

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Community Manager
Community Manager

Re: Maintenance without (much) Notice

Hi Vance and Dan,

 

Thank you for sharing your concerns. We agree that having as much advance notice as possible is the best experience. While we did update our banner and share a technote, moving forward we will do our best to ensure the status page is updated with as much lead time as possible. We will take this as a learning opportunity and will continuously work to improve our internal processes.

 

 

JbidK
PowerSchool Community Manager
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Padawan

Re: Maintenance without (much) Notice

Hello,

Is it posible to delay the site maintenance scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

Tomorrow is the last day students are able to work and submit their assignemtns this school year, and Site Maintenance will most likely disrupt those efforts.

Please advise.

Thank you,

Georgeta Lester

parent

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Community Support Expert
Community Support Expert

Re: Maintenance without (much) Notice

Hi Georgeta,

Thank you for sharing your concern regarding the PowerSchool Learning maintenance window scheduled for June 5th from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM PDT.  We do sincerely apologize for this inconvenience - we recently implemented these maintenance windows on a bi-weekly cadence in hopes of having minimal impact on our customers.

 

We will, however, take this feedback back to our teams as we look at planning future maintenance windows.



Bishal G.
PowerSchool Community Support Expert
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