For a daily childcare center, the magnitude of work involved in tracking attendance, payment, and state reporting data for more than 350 children can be overwhelming. Any attempt to manage all that data with a pencil and paper approach results in a process that is nearly impossible to manage.
Saginaw Township Community School District (STCS) struggled with this situation. The program operates six childcare centers out of five school buildings across the district’s eight campuses. STCS wanted to replace the cumbersome manual method they were using to keep track of the hundreds of children coming and going from the centers.
"PARENTS TURN IN A SCHEDULE OF WHEN THEIR CHILD OR CHILDREN ARE GOING TO ATTEND...THE DIRECTORS ALL HAD TO MAINTAIN THIS INFORMATION BY HAND."
“Every week, parents turn in a schedule of when their child or children are going to attend the following week, as well as their payment,” said Steve Elliott, STCS’s community education director and the head of the district’s childcare program. “Well, the directors all had to maintain this information by hand. Basically, it looked like an accounting ledger that they had to mark in every person’s name and payment for each week, and then they would have to create a chart to show what days the kids were coming.”
Elliott recognized the dire need for an electronic data management solution. He considered numerous options for childcare software programs. However, none of the vendors were flexible enough to accommodate STCS’s program, which offers a broad range of payment plans and costs associated with specific pick-up times and varying schedules. Another drawback to the programs Elliott considered was that none of them offered integration with the Skyward School Management System the district had been successfully using for over a decade.
"IT WORKED. IT WORKED BRILLIANTLY."
In July of 2006, a Skyward industry specialist in Michigan suggested that Elliott view a demonstration of Skyward’s Fee Management technology. The system tracks a host of fee types by student or family, provides customizable reporting options, prints bills to be mailed to parents, and even integrates with Family Access—Skyward’s online portal where parents can view and manage their students’ accounts.
Elliott was instantly drawn to the extensive customizability of the application, which would easily accommodate the centers’ highly varied payment system. STCS made the decision to implement the Fee Management solution.
A customized interface
Since the system was so easy to customize, Elliott filed a Request for Enhancement, asking Skyward to add a comment box within the Fee Management interface that would allow childcare directors to enter and maintain attendance records. The enhancement would enable the system to take care of both payment and attendance. “We wanted parents to be able to get in there and at any point in time, see what their payments were, see what their attendance was and what days they paid for,” Elliott said.
“It worked,” Elliott said. “It worked brilliantly. Then we just kept going. We took the Skyward payment entry, and using Crystal Reports—template or customizable reports within Skyward’s School Management System—we wrote a deposit report. Now, instead of the daycare directors having to do all of that by hand, after they enter everything into Fee Management they can just run the Crystal report in Skyward and bam! All of their checks and the check totals for the day are right there.”
“With Skyward, [payment is] easy,” Elliott concluded. “You just go in there and put your own dollar amount in. Most programs want you to pre-code a dollar amount for people to register for. They don’t allow variability in those fields, so this has really been the perfect solution for us.”
The system has greatly increased efficiency at the centers. Elliott can pull data from Fee Management to generate DHS reports for reimbursements from the state for families who qualify for financial aid. In addition, the tax reporting process has been simplified. “You can only imagine how it was in the past when it came to tax time,” Elliott said. “Every director had to add up all of the payments for every kid and prepare a statement by hand. Now, we go in and it literally takes us five minutes to run all of the sheets for all of the kids.”
The Skyward system has proven to be a success, even at the childcare level. But the benefits do not stop with the administrators. In the end, the kids win. When childcare directors spend less time on administrative tasks, they can spend more time improving kids' experiences.
According to Elliott, “It’s doing what we hoped it would do, and more.”
Follow-up resource: Student Management Suite
To learn more about what a better, more flexible SIS experience could look like in your district, check out the Student Management Suite.