Manteno CUSD No. 5 thrives on newest Skyward platform while helping improve user experience for others
Answering surveys, beta-testing, having candid conversations … there are many ways for school districts to give input on the products they use. The question lies in whether that feedback will be appreciated and used for future improvement or thrown aside never to be seen again.
Manteno CUSD No. 5 in Manteno, Illinois, about an hour south of Chicago, has been a Skyward® customer since 1999. Throughout their journey they have seen Skyward evolve substantially, thanks in large part to the company’s design philosophy that collects and incorporates ideas from actual users.
Stephanie Kaack, data coordinator at Manteno CUSD No. 5, has been working with Skyward since 2010. As a Skyward Illinois steering committee member and strong Skyward advocate, Kaack was pivotal in getting Manteno implemented with Qmlativ®, the company’s newest platform.
"We basically told administration ‘Skyward is coming out with a new product; we’re going to do it.'"
Long-time users, first adapters
Manteno CUSD No. 5 began their relationship with Skyward in 1999 with the Point-and-Click (PaC) version of their student management system. In 2007 the district purchased Skyward’s enterprise resource planning system, thus combining their student and finance databases. Since then, the district has seen Skyward’s web-based version (SMS 2.0), both with and without buttons, and has watched the company and software grow and modernize over time.
In order to advance Skyward software as much as possible, Manteno did a lot of beta testing while on SMS 2.0. When a new tool or module was released, the district got it before it was fully released to provide their feedback, allowing for any fixes before being widely available.
“It was nice to be able to assist Skyward in finding any bugs,” said Kaack. “We really enjoyed being able to help other Skyward users and making the software the best it could be.”
As long-time users with a beta-testing mindset, Manteno was excited to hear that Skyward was coming out with a new product in 2016 — the Qmlativ Education Management System — and wanted to implement it right away.
“We basically told administration ‘Skyward is coming out with a new product; we’re going to do it,’” said Kaack. “We just didn’t know when.”
Although mentally ready to take on Qmlativ, the district had to wait a little longer for the product to be able to handle their combined database. Then in 2020 it finally happened: Manteno was ready to implement Qmlativ.
"I am so grateful for the support that Skyward provides. They are always quick to respond, sometimes within the hour. This is a huge difference compared to other companies that I work with."
Although the prep work for getting Qmlativ up and running at Manteno took a couple of years, the actual implementation process went quickly.
“Once we were actually up and running it went pretty smooth,” said Kaack. “The physical time that it took was much quicker than we thought. We were told one week, and I believe it only took five days.”
After implementation, next came training Manteno district staff on Qmlativ. That’s when the district was faced with a whole new challenge: the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Challenging is probably an understatement, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise,” said Kaack. “The stay-at-home order helped me focus on data cleanup without being distracted by typical day-to-day distractions.”
Kaack had just started doing group training with staff on Qmlativ the week that stay-at-home orders were placed, forcing the need for remote training.
“By then our staff was used to doing things remotely, so they embraced the online training during the summer of 2020,” said Kaack. “We kept frequent communication, so our staff buy-in remained high and teachers were more prepared for the change.”
Once back in school in-person in the fall, Kaack traveled from school to school to complete additional training presentations, along with offering 1:1 meetings with those who needed it and creating a FAQ document. The district also used Skyward’s Professional Development Center
for self-paced staff training.
“A lot of the processes were the same as SMS 2.0, it was just a different mindset that they had to wrap their heads around,” said Kaack. “For the most part, Skyward is Skyward.”
After getting Qmlativ set up, Manteno quickly realized that they had made the right decision to upgrade their system.
"Skyward always welcomes our feedback and gives us a voice. In the past 12 years I’ve never worked with another company in the edtech industry that does that."
Greatest benefits of Qmlativ
Upon migrating to Qmlativ, Manteno was really impressed with its customization abilities, live tiles, and robust reporting.
“The flexibility that we now have is incredible,” said Kaack.
Manteno also uses some of Skyward’s modern tools, such as the mobile app and wellness screening
“Having the wellness screening in place for contact tracing during COVID-19 was very helpful,” said Kaack. “Parents were able to quickly go into the app each morning and answer a few questions to help keep kids and staff safe.”
Another feature that Manteno loves about working with Skyward is their support options.
“I am so grateful for the support that Skyward provides,” said Kaack. “They are always quick to respond, sometimes within the hour. This is a huge difference compared to other companies that I work with.”
Thanks to Skyward’s strong support, Manteno and Skyward have built a strong relationship over the many years of working together.
“We truly feel that Skyward is doing the best they can for us — we’re not just a random customer,” said Kaack. “Skyward always welcomes our feedback and gives us a voice. In the past 12 years I’ve never worked with another company in the edtech industry that does that.”
What’s next for Manteno
Looking ahead, Manteno is looking forward to continuing to use Qmlativ. Eventually, they would like to use more features that are available, such as the online parent-teacher conference scheduler.
“As long as I’m with Manteno, I will fight to keep Skyward,” said Kaack.
For other districts interested in using Qmlativ, Kaack suggests preparing your staff ahead of time to make the switch as seamless as possible.
“You have to plan, communicate with your staff, and build your internal team,” said Kaack. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.”
Overall, Manteno and Skyward have enjoyed their 20+ years together and are looking forward to many more.
“I truly love the relationship that I have built with Skyward over the years,” said Kaack.
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