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Case Study

No Thank You; We'll Stick with Skyward

When the state of South Dakota offered a free, state-sponsored student management system, this long-time Skyward partner decided to take a pass.

Between Badlands National Park and Black Hills National Forest, home to Mount Rushmore, sits Rapid City. With a population of more than 70,000 Rapid City's school system is made up of 23 schools and serves 13,200 students. 

The Offer

When the state of South Dakota offered Rapid City Area Schools (RCAS) and other districts a free, state-sponsored student management system, RCAS decided to pass on the offer and stick with Skyward. RCAS has relied on Skyward's School Business Suite since 1985 and Student Management Suite since 2000 to manage virtually all of the district's operations. 

Rapid City Area Schools
Enrollment: 13,369
Schools: 24
Implemented: 1985

Skyward's Student Management and School Business Suites

Increased productivity, consistent and accurate data, and a more complete solution.
"We are able to operate with fewer administrative employees than other districts."

The Results

“This is my first year with RCAS,” said Dr. Timothy M. Mitchell, the district’s superintendent. “At my previous district I was a very active user of the state- sponsored student management system. I know firsthand the difference between the two products, and I am very excited that we are with Skyward. Skyward provides us with a comprehensive, multifaceted solution that truly serves as a one-stop-shop for our district. Unlike the state sponsored system that essentially manages only the student portion of a district’s needs, our Skyward system supports every aspect of our business, from the student side—such as grades and attendance, to the business side—including human resources and accounting, to other areas such as food services.”

A unified database

Together, the Skyward School Business Suite and the Skyward Student Management Suite bring the full spectrum of district opertaions into one database. RCAS administrators benefit from only having to input data into the system once. Not only does the streamlined process ensure more consistent and accurate data, it also increases efficiency and productivity at all levels.
“We are able to operate with fewer administrative employees than other districts,” said Rick Bates, RCAS’s director of technology. “Most require approximately five to six systems to accomplish what we do with just one. And each of those systems has at least one person dedicated to its management. We have three people supporting Skyward; that’s it. So there is an obvious difference in efficiency and cost; one free system doesn't ensure a low total cost of ownership."

Industry expertise and valuable partnerships

RCAS recognizes the benefits of working with an expert vendor. “The maturity of Skyward and its technology is a significant advantage,” said Mitchell. “Because Skyward is known as a leader  in its space with state-of-the-art solutions, other organizations are eager to partner with them to provide value added services.”
One added service RCAS is using is CRS Advanced Technology’s SubFinder system. The district also plans to use Total Recall’s network user management software which enables the district to make one entry into Skyward that propagates user authentication information across all of the district’s IT systems.

A back-up plan

Skyward’s cloud-based system backs up district data so it can be accessed in the event of a disaster. “There are times when we have network issues on our end and are unable to access any other systems except for Skyward,” said Mitchell.

Beyond the state’s system

Skyward enables RCAS to manage data in ways it could not accomplish with the state-sponsored solution. “For example, let’s say you want to analyze your budget to understand how much it would  cost to add a class to a particular school,” suggested Mitchell. “Without Skyward, you would have to cull together various spreadsheets of information and then draw some assumptions and conclusions… [With Skyward] we can report down to a very granular level of information and have concrete information at our fingertips to make truly informed decisions… with the click of a button.”
"As our district’s needs evolve and as regulations change, we can always turn to Skyward. We know they will work with us closely to understand our business requirements and make appropriate changes..."

An evolving solution

RCAS has seen decades of progress in Skyward firsthand and knows the provider will never stop striving to improve. “We first implemented Skyward back in 1985 and you can imagine that it looked significantly different than it does today,” said Bates. “But Skyward is constantly able to leap-frog requirements with new enhancements... Skyward has made significant investments over time to keep up with technology.”
Because Skyward is so flexible, individual schools within districts have the freedom to operate the way they see fit. For example, schools can choose to use arena or traditional scheduling, operate on semesters or trimesters, and customize school-specific report cards. “That is a degree of flexibility we haven’t found in other solutions,” said Bates.
Valerie Thompson, IT program manager, is also pleased with the way Skyward has tailored its system for RCAS. “As our district’s needs evolve and as regulations change, we can always turn to Skyward. We know they will work with us closely to understand our business requirements and make appropriate changes to the product.”

Automatic updates

Districts that use Skyward no longer have to deal with updating hardware and software. “When a new release of Skyward is available, we have almost immediate access to that new functionality,” noted Mitchell. “Skyward is responsible for the migration at their site, and we reap the benefits of the new enhancements with very little work required on our end. Also, when a new state or federal regulation is established, Skyward will make the necessary adjustments and quickly provide us with the update.”

A better experience

Skyward regularly collaborates with its customers through its user-led enhancement process. RCAS, like all Skyward districts, has the opportunity to request changes through the system. The request for enhancement process results in dozens of impactful updates every year.
Bates has been pleased with the service the district receives from Skyward. “What is important to me is that I can call the president or vice president of the company directly and get action. I always feel that they are interested and engaged with our needs, and we know that they will provide a quick and effective resolution.”

"In fact, one teacher told me that attendance for parent/teacher conferences has dropped dramatically because there are no more surprises."

Benefits for students, parents and teachers

Mitchell believes the true value of Skyward surpasses business and process optimization; it directly impacts students, parents, and teachers. “Skyward’s Family Access portal has provided parents more visibility into what is going on with their child. There is nothing but good news when parents are fully engaged in their child’s education. In fact, one teacher told me that attendance for parent/teacher conferences has dropped dramatically because there are no more surprises. Parents are empowered through the portal to make sure their kids are going to school, doing their homework and keeping up their grades.”
Skyward’s online Gradebook has also been of tremendous value for RCAS’ teachers by providing greater transparency and enabling teachers to share ideas and best practices regarding how grades are assigned and managed.

A strong partnership

“Our district has played an important role in the evolution of the Skyward solution,” said Mitchell. “Over the years, Skyward and RCAS have formed a collaborative relationship. In fact, we were one of Skyward’s first customers to move to the Web. Together, we have developed new and innovative ideas, identifying requirements and enhancements that are a core part of the product today. We are proud of the role we have played in helping to make Skyward such a comprehensive and robust solution.”


Follow-Up Resources: School Business Suite & Student Management Suite 

Ready to learn more about what makes Skyward's Student Management and School Business solutions different? Check out our product pages, or contact us today to schedule a demo. 


Clovis Municipal School District (New Mexico)

“We were able to use the Skyward solution to save our district approximately $30,000.” –Todd Ulses, Information Systems Coordinator

Deerfield Public School District 109 (Illinois)

“Our parents and students are very engaged, and that helps us maintain excellence in all areas.” –Michael Lubelfeld, Superintendent

Dickson County School District (Tennessee)

"I absolutely would recommend the PDC." -Randy Brison, Student Data Manager

Escambia County School District (Florida)

"Skyward is focused on the mission of providing an adaptive ERP system so that we can stay focused on educating students." –Linda Lewis, Director of Payroll and Benefits Accounting

Fort Bend Independent School District (Texas)

“We are so excited about New Student Online Enrollment... It allows you to customize the registration process to meet your district’s needs.” –Lisa Mirza, Director of Student Information Systems

Hudson School District (Wisconsin)

“I know the time savings in completing state reports alone is well over 200 hours.” –Nancy Toll, Instructional Technology Coordinator

Lewiston Independent School District (Idaho)

“[Salary Negotiations] allows me to work ahead and have the work completed earlier instead of having to do everything all at once in the summer.” –Kathy McPherson, Director of Business Services

Menasha Joint School District (Wisconsin)

“Skyward is the type of company that actually listens to their customers and develops around that feedback, which is very important.” –Brian Adesso, Director of Business Services

Mountain Home School District (Idaho)

“I wish we would have switched to Skyward years ago. We are such a better organization with it than we were before.” –Cliff Ogborn, Director of Fiscal Operations

Muskego-Norway School District (Wisconsin)

"Skyward was there for us every step of the way." -Scott Ecker, Director of Business Services

Nicolet High School (Wisconsin)

"Knowing that Skyward was responding to a need we had was a really powerful thing." - John Reiels, Director of Technology

Oak Hill United School Corporation (Indiana)

“Oak Hill USC is a more attractive place to work for people in their field because we have the tool in place they want to use.” –Brandt Lynch, Technology Coordinator

Pekin Community High School District 303 (Illinois)

“The transition to paperless has gone a lot smoother than I expected.” –Amy Hubner, Assistant Principal for Operations

Pekin Community High School District 303 (Illinois)

"I have noticed that there has been an increase in communication between myself and parents.” –Samantha Bledsoe, Teacher

School District of La Crosse (Wisconsin)

"I find it user friendly, and we know the support is there.” –Joyce Smalley, Business Manager

Wilson County Schools (Tennessee)

“We hope Skyward will be around for many years to come. We are looking forward for opportunities to grow our long-term partnership.” –Cristian Ionita, Database Administrator

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