Board also learns of unexpected increase in project budget

November 18, 2020

By David Rowe, Copy Editor/Staff Writer

Antoine Mehouelley, IT director for the Peralta Community College District, advised the board of trustees at their November 10 meeting that the launch for the PeopleSoft software upgrade will now take place on February 15, three weeks later than originally announced. He also revealed that licensing costs and an additional third phase for the project will drive the cost up by as much as 57 percent.

PeopleSoft (owned by Oracle) is the enterprise resource management software program that manages Peralta’s HR, financials and student portal, and has been used by Peralta since 2005. The current Peralta contract with Oracle extends through 2025. Oracle has not committed to supporting PeopleSoft beyond 2030.

Antoine Mehouelley, IT Director for the Peralta District, advised the board that the PeopleSoft launch date has been pushed to February 15 and that Oracle now wants an annual licensing fee on top of the existing contract. (Source: Peralta)

The original launch date for the PeopleSoft upgrade was January 25, the same day classes are scheduled to start for the spring 2021 semester. Mehouelley acknowledged that concern was expressed by trustees, faculty and students over this timing as reported by The Citizen on October 15

The new timing of the launch on a district holiday (Presidents Day) was intentional, according to Mark Johnson, Peralta’s executive director of public information,  communication & media. “The transition requires a three-day data freeze and a three day holiday weekend is a prime time for that freeze to happen,” Johnson explained in an email to The Citizen

The additional three weeks following the start of the semester will also provide more time to test the new system and allow Peralta instructors to complete their “census” of students enrolled for the spring 2021 semester, according to Mehouelley.

While news of the revised PeopleSoft launch date was a relief to many, the program’s increased cost was not well received by the Peralta Board of Trustees. The original cost of the PeopleSoft upgrade, approved by the board at its special May 29 meeting, was $6.34 million. Oracle is now requiring Peralta to pay a licensing fee of $312,892 per year ($1.6 million over the 5 year period of the agreement) and recommending the addition of a third phase that will include more third-party integrations and customizations at a cost of $1.5 to $2 million. Mehouelley said this phase is still being scoped out and will include “items that were not part of the initial contract.” 

The licensing fee and new project phase will increase the total cost of the program to $9.4 to $9.9 million over five years, representing up to a 57 percent increase. Outlined in earlier presentations to the board, the first two phases of the program, which make up $3.9 million of the total cost, will be covered by Measure G bond funds. The balance of the cost must come from the general fund. 

Trustee Linda Handy, who was on the board when Peralta initially purchased the PeopleSoft program in 2005 and who has been a frequent critic of the system, immediately voiced “serious concerns” about the increased price.  

Handy recalled that when former Chancellor Regina Stanback Stroud convinced the board to move forward with the project in late May, Stroud emphasized “consistently that we would not be paying these licensing fees.” Handy noted that the latest costs represent something “completely different” and accused Oracle of “talking out of both sides of its mouth.” Handy reiterated her desire to have a senior “technology person” negotiating with Oracle. The district is currently conducting a nationwide job search for a  Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and hopes to have that person on board by January. 

Handy’s sentiments were affirmed by board President Julina Bonilla who recalled that Delisle Warden, former Peralta interim general counsel and chief of staff, “told us that they had negotiated the price terms and conditions of this contract and that we would not pay a penny more than what was listed before us.”

Former Chancellor Regina Stanback Stroud (left) and Delisle Warden, former Peralta interim general counsel and chief of staff, negotiated the original $6.3 million PeopleSoft upgrade contract with Oracle in May. Both left the district in July and now work together at RSS Consulting. (Source: Peralta)

Since leaving Peralta in July, Stroud has devoted more time to RSS Consulting, a firm she founded in July 2019, according to her LinkedIn profile. RSS services listed on its site include: working with college leadership teams to ensure participatory governance, assisting colleges in the development of diversity frameworks, and providing leadership coaching and career development.  Warden is shown as a consultant on the RSS site, which also shows the Peralta district as an RSS client. The Citizen had a brief phone call with Stroud on November 16, but she declined to comment.

Trustee Meredith Brown expressed concern that “we’re going to be able to finally get the services that our students need” including the ability to use their smartphones for “checking grades…and communicating with their instructors.” 

Making PeopleSoft “mobile-friendly” will be one of the major benefits of the February 15 upgrade, according to Mehouelley.  The Peralta IT department has posted several Oracle videos on the district website showing students enrolling in classes, accessing financial aid, and checking grades on their smartphones using PeopleSoft fluid UI campus solutions.

Interim Chancellor Carla Walter, who said she inherited the PeopleSoft project with no firsthand knowledge of the negotiations, agreed to provide the board with a comparison of the original Oracle agreement and the most recent version. Walter said she has been on calls with Oracle and “they insist that [the licensing fee] was not included in the original contract.”  That comparison is likely to look similar to the table in this article, which drew upon data from the IT presentations at both meetings. 

Mehouelley and Walter will be seeking approval from the board for the annual Oracle license fees at its December 8 meeting.