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Overloaded servers also a cause of first-week scheduling chaos

The scheduling problems that have plagued high schools like Herbert Lehman High School in the Bronx and William Cullen Bryant High School in Queens have been blamed on poor summer planning and an influx of new students registering.

But the confusion has also been caused by an overloading of the servers the city uses for its high school scheduling system, according to e-mails a reader sent us today.

The reader forwarded us this series of e-mails that the team overseeing the city’s high school scheduling system, called STARS, sent to schools last week. The memos detail how the city has responded to the problem so far, including adding additional servers and memory dedicated to the system.

But our source also tells us that the team overseeing the system has also had its staff cut, reducing their capacity to be responsive to the scheduling process. (We’ve asked the DOE to confirm this and will update when we hear back.) This year was the first year the scheduling system was used by both middle and high schools, the Post reported this morning.

Here’s the e-mail that schools received last Monday, September 13:

As we identified the application was slow last week, we have added additional servers to handle the load and the application was functioning fine on Thursday and Friday. The application is still slow this morning and we further investigated the cause and would require to reset the servers to resolve the issues. During the reset process the system would be unavailable for few minutes in the next half hour.

Thanks,
STARS Team

And here’s the follow-up e-mail that was sent the next day:

Hi all,

During the first few days of schools opening there have been a few reported problems regarding STARS performance. The DIIT team considers all issues with performance as critical. We are currently performing a due diligence effort to identify the root cause of the performance problems.

Based on the symptoms we have taken the following actions:
§ On Sept. 9th we added 6 new servers nodes to support the application environment
§ All the servers are closely monitored and we are manually resetting servers that appear to be impacted with heavy loads.
· Also planning on auto reset option that will automatically reset a server upon reaching certain capacity/usage levels
§ On Sept. 14th Additional memory has been increased to all 18 servers supporting the STARS application

Most reports of slow performance are reported during the AM portion of the day (8:30 am to 12 pm). If possible take the option to use the system during off peak hours, such as during lunch time or after 3:00 pm. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause but we are working to minimize the performance issues that may be affecting the STARS application or supporting infrastructure.

We will keep everyone informed as we move forward.

Thanks,
STARS Team.

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