The company in charge of the statewide computer system that repeatedly crashed during the first week of online classes has received a contract extension.
The State Board of Education approved Thursday a one-year, $1.7 million contract extension with Identity Automation, the vendor in charge of the NCEdCloud system that many North Carolina students and teachers use to access online classes. The system crashed on Aug. 17 and Aug. 19, keeping many people from being able to log into online classes.
State Superintendent Mark Johnson said on Aug. 19 that “blunt discussions” would be held with the company. He told the state board on Thursday that the timing helped lead to better terms during contract negotiations.
“We don’t want there to be any more problems,” Johnson said Thursday. “We don’t want these issues to happen.
“We have a very strong amendment now that if something does happen, we’d know there will be accountability on behalf of the taxpayers of North Carolina.”
The new contract runs through September 2021 and is $200,000 more per year than the current deal, which expires at the end of the month. But Michael Nicolaides, chief information officer at the state Department of Public Instruction, said the deal includes new services such as better technical support.
Identity Automation, which is based in Texas, did not return a telephone call Thursday from The News & Observer requesting comment.
High user demand for NCEdCloud
Students across the state are using the NCEdCloud system now that the majority of school districts started the school year using only virtual classes due to COVID-19 concerns.
Nicolaides said they had anticipated more demand than normal on Aug. 17, the first day of school for most students. He said a system failed that is supposed to automatically add more resources when demand is high.
“Unfortunately on the first day of school, the demand was beyond any of our original calculations because most of our users were using multiple devices, and they still are,” Nicolaides told the board.
Nicolaides said a different technical issue led to the outages on Aug. 19.
At a meeting last week, Nicolaides said DPI and the state Department of Information Technology were satisfied with the solution developed by Identity Automation.
Last month’s outages were severe enough that it was first time that Identity Automation, which has run NCEdCloud since 2013, has given credit back on the contract. Nicolaides said the new contract would result in larger credits if the system were to fail again.
The outages resulted in DPI getting three additional days of serve credit added to the current contract, equal to about $13,973, according to Graham Wilson, a DPI spokesman. He said the new contract would result in money being provided if there are outages.
The timing of the contract raised questions from the board before members unanimously approved the deal.
“I’m following to see if we’re going to enter into this additional contract, all of our questions have been answered and expectations are clear,” said board member JB Buxton.
State board chairman Eric Davis announced Thursday that Buxton, who was recently named president of Durham Technical Community College, would be resigning from the board.
Also on Thursday, Davis was unanimously re-elected as board chair. Alan Duncan was unanimously re-elected as board vice chairman.
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