I'm happy to announce we've released packages for what we're calling SchoolTool 1.0 beta.
"Beta" can mean many things. In this case, it means this release gives one a clear sense of what the 1.0 release next April will look like and do. The core components we've been developing with individual schools have been pulled together into a single release. There is still plenty to do, but nothing to start (or start over) from the ground up.
The biggest impact I hope this release will have is in our relationship between the development team and the community of users and potential users. For the past couple years we've had to focus on trying to stay focused. There was always a list of big things that had to be done to get to where we are now, which demanded that we not get distracted by lots of little things that people might suggest for what was already done. Not that it was easy to make suggestions, because it was difficult to get all the parts of the most current code running (and it genuinely wasn't worth the time for us to make it easy, because of the big list of things which must be done looming over our head). And if you were interested in using SchoolTool at your school, I had to pretty much tell you to check back later.
Well, "later" is now, I'm happy to say. For the next year (at least), job one for us is improving what you see when you
apt-get install schooltool-2008. We can focus on making that better, adding the reports you need, coming up with a good compromise set of demographic information for students, making the components share information among each other in smart ways, making it easier to get data in and out of SchoolTool and generally killing bugs. We won't be able to make everyone's dream come true, but we'll all be working from the same running application we can all look at, not just speculating about what might be nice.
There are a number of ways to communicate with the SchoolTool development and community. The SchoolTool mailing list has been mostly quiet for the reasons described above but is still probably the best venue for open ended discussion with the whole community. If you want to chat with the development team directly, there is #schooltool on freenode IRC. The best time to catch us all there is in the morning Eastern time in the US/late afternoon in Europe. All bugs eventually end up in Malone on Launchpad, and people have started using Answers on Launchpad to ask us questions, and it seems to work pretty well.
So... give SchoolTool a try and let us know what you think.