Parents continued to voice their opposition at last Thursday’s school board meeting to the district’s plan to implement the cloud-based data storage system called inBloom.
“I’m doing my own research, and I’m looking for the list of data that Jeffco will be collecting, and I can’t find it,” said Jeffco parent Rachel Swalley. “I would like to know what (data) would be stored.”
A Jeffco teacher can use up to 14 programs in a single day, and those programs include a variety of student data. InBloom would centralize all of Jeffco’s student data in the cloud storage system; that data can include anything from a student’s grades to test scores and disciplinary history.
InBloom’s opponents worry that sensitive information in a centralized location would be susceptible to hackers and made available to third-party vendors.
The school district was approached to test the technology in 2011 and agreed in February 2012 to pilot inBloom. The school board did not have to give approval because no money is being spent during the pilot. Also, no actual student data will be used during the test.
At the end of the pilot phase, the Board of Education would have to approve the use of inBloom, which would cost the district between $2 and $5 per student per year, or $172,000 to $430,000 per year.
Parents seek answers
Parents asked how inBloom would be compliant with FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, which prohibits disclosure of educational records.
Jeffco parent Jennifer Butts asked the board multiple questions: How much research has been done on inBloom? How much time was spent looking at alternative data storage solutions? What are the hidden costs?
Another Jeffco parent questioned why parents were “late” to the conversation.
“I don’t feel parents were kept in the loop about this,” she said. “A second, big concern of mine is that there’s no way to opt out (of inBloom).”
Public comment during a school board meeting is not a dialogue with the board, but rather a chance for residents to voice opinions. The board acknowledged and thanked each parent who voiced concerns.
Board President Lesley Dahlkemper said the board would set aside two hours for discussion at the next meeting, on Aug. 22.
Greg Mortimer, Jeffco schools’ chief information officer, said the district isn’t using inBloom now and has not decided on a date to begin. He stressed that the district is not paying for services now, no data are currently stored with inBloom, and students’ Social Security numbers would never be stored.
Jeffco joins school districts in New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Illinois that are piloting inBloom.
The Jeffco Board of Education’s next meeting is at 5 p.m. Aug. 22 in the board room of the Education Services Center, 1829 Denver West Drive in Golden.
For more information, visit www.jeffcopublicschools.org.