Garden City, Kansas, a city of nearly 30,000 people, borders the Arkansas River and is known as a major hub for agricultural production. In 2007, the local school district faced major technological problems stemming from an outdated student information system (SIS).
Garden City USD’s information system lacked consistency and did not lend itself to efficiency. Data reporting was cumbersome. Data integrity issues frequently arose when staff members transferred data from one area of the system to another. The basic act of transferring grades from the electronic gradebook to the parent portal, for instance, triggered a time consuming, complex procedure that was inefficient for teachers and families alike.
Garden City was committed to finding a more consistent, tightly integrated SIS provider before having to suffer through another year with the existing technology.
In April 2007, when the district began its search, a committee in Kansas was looking for a SIS provider that could serve the entire state. There were no funds for individual districts to put toward the systems of their choice. To make matters more difficult, Garden City hoped to launch its new solution at the start of the new school year - less than five months away. The implementation of its previous system had taken the district 10 years - starting with the high school and middle schools, before slowly bringing the elementary schools on board over the remaining years.
"AFTER EXPERIENCING HOW SKYWARD WORKED AT DERBY AND SEEING ITS PRESENTATION...SKYWARD HIT ON NEARLY 100 PERCENT OF THE ITEMS WE WERE LOOKING FOR."
That April, the Garden City staff drove nearly four hours to Derby, Kansas to learn about Skyward’s School Management System, the solution that Derby was using for its own student and business information needs. Garden City’s staff was impressed with the capabilities of Skyward, specifically the increased flexibility in grading and better communication with parents through Family Access.
Upon her return to Garden City, Roxie Schafer, the district’s management information system coordinator, developed 18 focus groups consisting of teachers, counselors, secretaries, and administrators from within the district to brainstorm what the next SIS system should include. The resulting list featured over 1,000 items. The district then brought in three vendors, including Skyward, to see how each matched up to their wish list. The district was pleased by Skyward’s presentation. “After experiencing how Skyward worked at Derby and seeing its presentation for Garden City, Skyward hit on nearly 100 percent of the items we were looking for,” Schafer said.
Before Garden City’s purchase orders were completed, Schafer began talking with the Skyward project manager assigned to the district, who would be responsible for planning, coordinating, and assisting with the implementation of the Student Management Suite. She took charge right away, ensuring Skyward staff members were aware of the needs and concerns specific to the district. “Because Garden City’s implementation had such a tight timeline, we had a lot to take care of in a short period,” she said. “Garden City was a great district to work with because they were organized and realistic about the magnitude of the job ahead of them.”
"I AM STILL AMAZED AT WHAT WAS ACCOMPLISHED IN SUCH A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. IT WAS A VERY POSITIVE PROCESS AND A GREAT MOVE TO SKYWARD."
A strong partnership
Garden City’s relationship with Skyward was immediately different than the provider-customer dynamic the district was used to. Schafer said they “kind of” knew their previous trainers but they never had an individual contact to call with concerns. “Working with Skyward’s project management was a huge relief and very beneficial,” Schafer said. “I knew what had to be done, and I knew it had to be done right the first time, and with Skyward, we were able to hit the ground running.”
Throughout the summer, Skyward sent customer consulting and support specialists to Garden City to help the staff adapt to the new technology. The trainers helped the district maximize efficiency by providing implementation strategies, recommendations for best practices, and one-on-one software analysis. Throughout the process, the project manager remained in very close contact with the district to address any issues that surfaced.
Within three months of purchasing Skyward, Garden City School District was up and running for the start of the 2007-2008 year.
“We were excited from the beginning about our move to Skyward, and our district staff had many cheerleaders helping us move through the implementation,” said Schafer. “The Skyward staff was outstanding in answering our every question and keeping us on task. I am still amazed at what was accomplished in such a short period of time. It was a very positive process and a great move to Skyward.”
Garden City School District has experienced very positive results running the Skyward Student Management and School Business Suites in tandem, the latter of which the district implemented shortly afterward in January 2008. In addition to providing a user-friendly way to manage the district’s student, business, and finance information, Skyward has also given Garden City the capability to move to a more centralized enrollment process that saves time and eliminates confusion when new students enter the district.
Schafer said that within one year of working with Skyward, Garden City staff were able to do more than they had done in 10 years with their previous student and financial information systems.
Follow-up resource: Student Management Suite
To learn more about what a better SIS experience could look like in your district, check out the Student Management Suite.