Oracle contract renewal rejected

Doug Comer

City College decided against renewing the contract with the Oracle Corporation to develop the much-delayed Online Student System (OSS) Thursday night, said John Romo, City College superintendent-president in a prepared email statement Friday.
“I appreciate the good faith effort of Oracle in its work with us in this process, but I have determined that it is not in the college’s best interest to renew our contract with Oracle for OSS when it expires in January,” he said in a campus-wide email sent Friday afternoon.
In a phone interview, Romo said that he notified Oracle of his decision Friday morning. He said he also estimates that the failed production of the student system has cost City College around $2 million over the past few years.
The Board discussed the legal matters of deciding against continuing the online system project during a closed session Thursday night, where Board members met with Romo, who is also the Board’s secretary-clerk.
He pointed out that the administration is not breaking contract with the software development giant, but deciding against renewing one part of the contract.
According to a press release Friday afternoon, the Human Resource and Finance Departments will continue to operate on Oracle databases.
“In six years of effort, with as little as we have in six years, it’s time to move on,” Romo said in a phone interview.
Now that City College is putting the Oracle debate to bed, administrators and staff will enter what Romo called a procurement process to replace the Santa Rosa system, the antiquated registration system still in use that the Oracle system was to replace.
Romo said administers and staff will draft reports on what specifications they will need from the future system.
“Specifications will be very detailed and structured and will be driven by the users,” he said, referring to the administrators, staff and students who will be using the system most.
They will then send request proposals to large companies who have products for online higher-education systems.
“There are probably five or six companies that are major providers for systems like this,” Romo said. “We’ll be communicating with colleges all over the state who use systems like this.”
Interested companies will respond to these with their own proposals detailing how they will address campus needs, cost and other important concerns.
After evaluating the best candidates in the bidding pool, staff and administrators will then report to Romo recommending which companies have the best product for the campus, he said.
Romo also said that one interested software company has already contacted the campus, though he declined to give its name. He said they would be sent a list of proposals outlining what the campus’ needs are.
“They can be a bidder along with everyone else.”
After Romo and staff decide which company offers the best product, they will submit a draft to the Board of Trustees proposing how the campus will finance the new system, which he estimates will also cost around $2 million.
Romo said it will be difficult to come up with a way to do this, considering the money the campus has already spent on the Oracle system, the state’s budget crisis and the needs of faculty and employees, such as salaries and health benefits.
“We’ve got to move forward and that’s where my energy is right now, to come up with a positive solution, but it’s going to be tough,” he said. “We’re at a critical period right now.”
Student Senator Rose Ladanyi, who is a student committee member on the District Technology Committee, expressed relief at the news that City College will no longer continue with Oracle’s online system.
“I’m finally glad they made the right choice and dropped it,” she said. “It’s too bad it took so long, but now they know what they need and can move on.”