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2024 Leader in Excellence Winners 2024 Leader in Excellence Winners

2024 Leader in Excellence Winners

#District Stories
Cassidy Downs Cassidy Downs Public Relations Specialist
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Skyward’s Leader in Excellence Award recognizes pioneers, trendsetters, and forward thinkers. The individuals and districts receiving this award inspire us by using Skyward to strengthen their teams, simplify operations, and improve learning outcomes.

Skyward has been presenting this award since 2015, and we are excited to announce the 2024 winners... 🥁

Audrea Carmack (SMS 2.0) 

Skyward Director at International Leadership of Texas, Texas 

Audrea Carmack oversees Skyward operations for International Leadership of Texas (ILTexas,) serving 23 campuses and more than 22,500 students, all while training more than 2,342 Skyward users. In the past two years, she successfully implemented Skyward at four new campuses, while supporting operations of the 19 existing ones. Her leadership provided a seamless transition for students, families, and staff to the ILTexas charter.

Audrea's department ensures first-class Skyward support, using short training videos during onboarding and offering in-person and Zoom training opportunities throughout the year. This proactive approach has significantly expanded the Skyward knowledge base, particularly in the counseling department. Audrea's team is always available, fostering a supportive environment where staff feel comfortable reaching out.

In an era of doing more with less, Audrea's leadership and dedication stand out. She excels in communication, relationship-building, and promoting a positive atmosphere. Respected and cherished by all, Audrea embodies the qualities of a servant leader, constantly learning and fostering growth among staff members. Her open-door (or Zoom) policy encourages ongoing learning, and her passion for service is evident in her commitment to staff development.

Audrea is a servant leader who is willing to constantly learn. She is successful as a leader because she is passionate about her service and facilitates the growth of those around her.


Kathy Tennant (SMS 2.0) 

Technology Integration Specialist at Freedom Area School District, Wisconsin 

Kathy Tennant used Skyward as both an educator and special education teacher for 18 years in the classroom, before working with Skyward from the administrative side for the past four. During this time, Kathy capitalized on her previous experience, knowledge, and skills within the Skyward platform to assist teachers as a technology integration specialist, and to become the Freedom Area School Districts’ (FASD) Skyward superhero.

Prior to Kathy joining FASD, the district struggled with state and district reporting every single year. Armed with her knowledge of Skyward and unwavering work ethic and determination, Kathy worked diligently to correct all of the data input so the district can now be confident in the information that is uploaded and pulled for state and district reporting. Kathy has worked to get this information streamlined and accurate. Another area Kathy was able to improve was switching to standards-based grading. At the time, FASD did not have anyone who understood Skyward enough to change the grading system to support the standards rather than traditional letter grades. Kathy did what needed to be done to ensure that not only were the standards-based report cards loaded and running correctly in Skyward, but also that teachers were confident using them.

Kathy is not only a highly qualified educator but she exudes leadership in all that she does. When there is a job to be done, a new initiative, or an unforeseen obstacle, FASD can always count on her to be present and to assist in any way possible. It goes without saying that leaders must be willing to serve others, and Kathy does this each and every day.

Robin Ballard (SMS 2.0) 

PEIMS Coordinator at Lake Dallas ISD, Texas 

Robin Ballard's innovative use of Skyward revolutionized Lake Dallas ISD’s accountability measures and had a direct, positive impact on the staff and students. She designed a comprehensive reporting system that consolidates multiple reports to break down average daily attendance by class and grade, disseminating detailed information to various departments every six and nine weeks. By analyzing attendance data breakdowns, the district can identify trends and patterns, enabling prompt and effective interventions for absenteeism. This system has significantly improved student attendance rates, and has resulted in increased district funding due to improved attendance records.

As the go-to person for any Skyward-related inquiries, Robin has consistently provided patient guidance and comprehensive training to teachers and staff across all campuses in the district through organizing workshops and training sessions. Her ability to explain complex concepts in a clear and relatable manner has boosted the confidence of staff, enabling them to use Skyward's features to their fullest potential. Robin's dedication to sharing her knowledge and expertise created a more cohesive and efficient work environment throughout the district.

Her exemplary leadership qualities, unwavering commitment, and exceptional skills in Skyward make Robin an indispensable asset to the Lake Dallas ISD team. She has taken on leadership roles in various projects, collaborating with different departments and stakeholders, fostering unity, and ensuring successful outcomes. Her compassionate and supportive nature has earned her the respect and admiration of the entire staff.

Beyond her technical expertise and leadership abilities, Robin's personal qualities set her apart as an extraordinary individual. Her strong work ethic, passion for serving the district, and genuine desire to help others consistently shine through in her actions. Robin's tireless dedication is evident in her willingness to work long hours, often going above and beyond to ensure the success of Skyward operations. Not only that, her infectious positivity and warm personality create a supportive work environment for all those around her.


Shari Hines (SMS 2.0) 

Administrative Support at Fairmont Area Schools, Minnesota 

Shari Hines, a seasoned Skyward user with a tenure nearly as long as her district's partnership with Skyward, has made indelible contributions to Fairmont Area Schools’ proficiency in using the platform. Over the course of nine years, she spearheaded the creation of standards-based gradebooks and report cards for E-8 staff members, fostering consistency in assessment and grading practices across the district. The impact resonates particularly in the transition from elementary to high school, as the streamlined approach ensures a seamless experience for 7th- and 8th-grade students entering the high school setting.

Shari's expertise extends beyond mere documentation, serving as a linchpin in the Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Collaborative efforts among teachers to align assessments with standards are guided by the structure she established, enhancing the efficacy of the PLCs. Her commitment to the district's Targeted Services Program is evident through her adept use of Skyward to create class lists, manage bussing information, and facilitate streamlined communication with families.

Shari always displays great enthusiasm about using Skyward, and thrives when she gets to tackle problems. She takes great pride in her work and diligently completes any task, always looking for new ways to streamline processes in order to get tasks completed as efficiently as possible. Fairmont Area Schools would not be using Skyward as effectively if it were not for Shari.

As the go-to expert for all-things-Skyward, Shari takes ownership of tasks, relentlessly seeking ways to leverage Skyward to streamline processes and enhance overall efficiency. Serving on the Skyward steering committee, she not only problem-solves with fellow users but also shares her enthusiasm for the platform. Shari's dedication is evident in her proactive approach to finding innovative solutions and her unwavering commitment to ensuring the district maximizes the benefits of Skyward. Fairmont’s effective use of Skyward owes much to Shari's passion, problem-solving prowess, and invaluable contributions to the district's success.xx

School District of New Richmond (SMS 2.0) 

New Richmond, Wisconsin 

While going paperless has been an ongoing challenge for the School District of New Richmond (SDNR), families are getting more and more used to doing business online instead of filling out paper documents. SDNR has implemented Online Enrollment, Family Access, and Fee Management to offer families the convenience of submitting forms online, accessing student information in real time, and viewing fees online.

Skyward allowed SDNR to create efficiencies within the district by moving most processes over to the digital platform. Staff and families appreciate being able to access fees and enroll/update student information online with Family Access, saving many hours of manual updates. Additionally, Family Access gives students and guardians real-time access to their grades and attendance.

On average, the time it takes to process online enrollment decreased about 20 minutes per enrollment application. Since SDNR’s new enrollment coordinator processes, reviews, and verifies over 500 enrollments per year, these minutes really stack up. Using the example of a regular 7.5-hour work day, by using the online enrollment process, time saved per year is over 166 hours, or over 22 work days. For annual online updates, the district now saves 5-10 minutes of manual entry per student. Again this equates to over 14.5 days of saved work for each of their five buildings.

Through the use of Online Enrollment, Family Access Online Updates, and Fee Management, SDNR was able to quantify the need to hire a full time enrollment coordinator, thus freeing up time for the rest of the district’s front office staff.

Andrew Thumma (Qmlativ) 

Database administrator at Cumberland Valley School District, Pennsylvania 

It is difficult to pinpoint another Qmlativ user having as big an impact as Andrew Thumma. He is active in the Skyward Community and is always willing to share his knowledge with other Qmlativ users, both at his district and elsewhere. His participation in the Community, both in the discussions area and the report sharing area, has been an invaluable resource for all members of the Community, allowing all members to learn and grow. Andrew is a perfect encapsulation of the ideals of the Skyward Community and truly embodies the spirit of the Leader in Excellence award.

Andrew's activity in the Community is indicative of his willingness to help others grow stronger in their knowledge of Skyward. He regularly answers questions for other members in addition to his fellow district employees. Not only does Andrew assist Qmlativ users via the Community, but he has also taken it upon himself to conduct multiple mini help sessions to assist users in expanding their knowledge of the Skyward system. He also creates report templates for members of the Community so they can improve their own district processes.

It is important to recognize how instrumental Andrew is in the Qmlativ Community when considering his leadership, because it is unique to see such a passion for helping others so fully. As one example, Andrew took time to help a district in another state set up registration forms for the first time in Qmlativ. It is inspiring to see how he not only takes care of his district's daily duties, but how dedicated he is to helping others too.

Juan Martinez (Qmlativ) 

PEIMS Coordinator at San Benito CISD, Texas 

Juan Martinez has significantly elevated the San Benito CISD district's use of Skyward, and has done so with a selflessness that proves his excellence and leadership. His contributions extend across various initiatives, including the implementation of summer school attendance and grading, the establishment of the Virtual Academy for PEIMS submission, and the design of a new campus with an A/B schedule – all seamlessly integrated through the Skyward Qmlativ platform. It seems like no task is too hard and no problem too daunting for him to take on.

In his role as the district's dedicated trainer and facilitator, Juan conducts regular meetings to skillfully train stakeholders, fostering a comprehensive understanding of Skyward. Furthermore, he demonstrates remarkable adaptability, creating custom reports for daily use and optimizing the registration process with a shift toward an efficient paperless system. As the PEIMS director, Juan's commitment to excellence is unparalleled. He provides real-time data for all 23 campuses, ensuring accurate attendance and enrollment records that uphold the gold standard of education.

Juan's leadership extends beyond troubleshooting errors; he supports various departments, leads by example, and keeps his district informed about evolving Skyward features. His expertise has been a transformative force, offering solutions promptly and instilling confidence in the San Benito CISD staff. Juan's exceptional skills, coupled with his willingness to share knowledge and provide guidance, have made him an invaluable asset to the district. With over 20 years of experience, Juan's impact on the entire district has been profound, opening new possibilities and solutions through his comprehensive understanding of Skyward and Qmlativ.

Boerne ISD (Qmlativ) 

Boerne, Texas 

Skyward has played a pivotal role in enhancing the service delivery processes throughout Boerne ISD, bringing significant improvements across the entire district. For instance, Qmlativ empowers campus administrators to use real-time data and a diverse range of reports to inform their decisions, leading to notable advancements in attendance tracking and Average Daily Attendance (ADA). Leveraging the state reporting module, administrators have been able to proactively identify and address potential errors in PEIMS submissions, ensuring accuracy and compliance.

Notably, Skyward has been a time-saving catalyst, streamlining student data processing and freeing up hundreds of staff hours. From facilitating seamless course requests to simplifying information submitted through online forms, Boerne ISD uses Skyward to redirect their focus towards their core mission—supporting students in achieving academic success.

As Skyward evolves, so does Boerne’s commitment to harnessing its capabilities for a robust Student Information System (SIS). This dedication ensures their student data becomes a powerful tool, providing valuable insights to both campus and district staff.

Denali Borough School District (Qmlativ) 

Healy, Alaska 

Denali Borough School District has demonstrated remarkable creativity in tailoring the Skyward Qmlativ Student Information System to address the distinctive challenges of tracking and reporting K-12 education requirements, particularly within their homeschool program. In navigating the unique landscape of Alaska's homeschool programs and their corresponding accounting and reporting intricacies, Denali Borough School District, supported by the Skyward team, has adapted the Qmlativ software to align with its specific needs. As the sole district in Alaska using Skyward, they stand as pioneers, trailblazing the way for potential newcomers.

Using Skyward Qmlativ, the district efficiently manages financial records for the homeschool program, processing accounts payable and overseeing student fee management. The platform has proven instrumental in simplifying state reporting requirements, offering flexibility to accommodate the evolving data points and specifications each year. Notably, this adaptability has resulted in an 80-day reduction in district-level staffing for the upcoming school year, contributing to substantial cost savings that can be redirected to benefit school sites.

The district extends its gratitude to the Skyward support group for their pivotal role in achieving these goals and establishing an efficient system for financial and student information. This successful collaboration underscores the district's commitment to excellence in leveraging technology to enhance educational operations and outcomes.

Congratulations to these outstanding leaders! Each recipient received a free registration for iCon, a multi-day international conference for Skyward users. We hope to see you at next year's event!


Cassidy Downs Cassidy Downs Public Relations Specialist

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