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CMS consolidates student data, apps into more secure LaunchPad application

A screenshot of launchpad
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

If you have kids in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, you’ve been getting back-to-school messages about LaunchPad — probably a lot of them. The new technology is supposed to protect student data and make life easier for families, eventually.

Student data is increasingly digital, giving families access to more information about what their kids are doing and learning at school. But Candace Salmon-Hosey, the new head of technology for CMS, says the numerous apps the school system uses meant keeping up with a lot of user names and passwords.

"We had a Clever portal. We have our NC Ed Cloud portal, our PowerSchool portal, our Google access portal where the children would go to get their email accounts," she said at a back-to-school event Wednesday.

CMS LaunchPad consolidates all of those into one sign-in. But the new one-stop portal that’s rolling out as the new school year begins requires setting up a new password. Also, signing in will now require two-step authentication — entering a code that’s sent via text message or email. Hosey says that makes it less likely that anyone can hack students’ information.

"We’re doing that to ensure that identity and access are safer, and on the back end the result is our data will be more secure."

But for now, LaunchPad is new technology, going out to the families of more than 140,000 kids, with parents who speak dozens of languages at home and have varying levels of technical expertise and internet access.

So in the short term, it’s what Hosey called “a heavy lift."

If you want more information about such topics as open houses, buses and enrollment, CMS has created a back-to-school page — with a second-by-second countdown to opening day.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.