The company that installed the electronic badge system at two Northside ISD schools is objecting to the district’s stated decision to remove the system because of financial factors.
Mike Wade, President and CEO of Wade/Garcia and Associates, said the system worked as planned to save the district money by finding students on campus who were counted absent. The state gives districts money based on how many students show up for class.
Wade said protests by parents, including many from out of town, and a lawsuit by a Northside ISD family were the real cause of the cancellation of the pilot program at Jay High School and Jones Middle School.
Protesters targeted the start up in fall of 2012, arguing that tracking students with badges was wrong.
Judy Messer came in from Austin and others came in from as far away as Dallas.
"We do not want our children to be conditioned that tracking is normal or even acceptable or mandatory," Messer said in 2012.
Steven Hernandez even sued the district on behalf of his daughter, a Jay student.
"This is not the mark of the beast, but this is how it starts," Hernandez said at the time.
Northside ISD spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said the pilot was cancelled because it did not make sense financially.
"It didn't work out for us,” Gonzalez said. “That pilot really didn't bring in the kinds of revenues that we thought it would. And therefore it's not in effect."
Wade disagreed. "Our system did work," Wade said.
He said Northside ISD misled the public after it sent him a letter saying the system consistently works as advertised and that there had been a .54 percent increase in attendance at Jay High School and a .72 percent increase at Jones Middle School.
Wade said a fully installed system would have saved the district big bucks.
"At one percent increase you're looking at at least $2 million if not more in revenue," Wade said.
He said the system has been in Spring ISD near Houston for six years.
"We're in all the secondary schools," Wade said.
He said he would have been able to install the system in more districts until Northside's superintendent pulled the plug. "I really can't blame him,” Wade said. “He's under a lot of pressure."
Wade said he believes the district cancelled the program because of the protests and the lawsuit, but he still wanted to set the record straight on the finances.
Gonzalez said Northside ISD stands by its assessment that the system did not bring in the revenue that had been anticipated.
He also said, however, that negative public perception was also a factor in the cancellation of the pilot.