For many school districts, making the change to a new student information system can be perceived as a frustrating, daunting ordeal.
Too often, the challenges of implementation and data migration can create unnecessary stress that intensifies preexisting notions of anxiety, naturally associated with wholesale change. In some scenarios, the implementation and training processes are excessively extended, downright confusing, and riddled with miscommunication. As a result, a strained relationship between vendor and district forms—far from the solid foundation desired in a technology provider.
Fortunately for Raymond School District, these challenges were nowhere to be found with their latest move. But this was an exception, as technology transitions had not gone as smoothly in the past. The quaint district, located just south of Milwaukee in Franksville, Wisconsin, faced serious issues with its previous SIS vendor. Administrators knew a transition was imminent, as the struggles they faced began to negatively impact the school environment.
"THEY WERE PHENOMENAL… YOU GOT TO KNOW THEM ON A PERSONAL LEVEL AND YOU DON’T GET THAT EVERYWHERE. "
One of the initial problems challenging Raymond administrators was a lack of integration between student and finance systems, along with poor service and support from its previous SIS vendor.
“I think the biggest challenge that we faced had to do with interfacing and getting different systems to play nicely with each other,” said Joe Dawidziak, superintendent at Raymond. “And the amount of time and energy it took to get things together – to work as efficiently as we wanted them to – was a huge thing. It affected the efficiency of the office for sure, and we got to a point where I think it was affecting our performance here.”
Dawidziak said it was difficult for the district’s office personnel, especially, to complete important work duties with software incapable of meeting staff members’ needs. “It became obvious we needed to make a change,” he said.
Fed up with its former vendor, Raymond selected Skyward’s Student Management Suite to replace the ineffective SIS. A transition from night to day took place. The new solution would also integrate with Skyward’s School Business Suite, which Raymond had already adopted.
"I COULD NOT TELL YOU ONE PERSON'S NAME AT [OUR PREVIOUS VENDOR]. SKYWARD IS A MORE PERSONABLE EXPERIENCE."
Superior project management, service and support
Administrators and office staff at Raymond were pleased with the personalized partnership that they experienced with Skyward representatives.
“They were phenomenal,” Dawidziak said. “I think we talked enough that there were some personal connections that were happening … You got to know them on a personal level and you don’t get that everywhere.” Dawidziak said Skyward’s service and support was “dramatically different” from the district’s experience with its previous vendor.
Mitzi Cozad, communications director at Raymond, said improved support was an immediate benefit of the new solution. “I could not be happier with Skyward,” she said. “I cannot think of a time that I did not receive a prompt response with friendly service.”
Cozad also said the project management and service were simply not comparable with the district’s former SIS provider. “I could not tell you one person’s name at [our previous vendor]. Skyward is a more personable experience.”
Improved administrative efficiencies
Raymond’s front office staff and educators were pleased with tools designed to streamline administrative tasks. Cozad said Skyward’s School Messenger made her job easier.
“Something just as simple as changing an email or adding an email,” she explained. “Now I just go in with one click, add the email and it’s done.” Cozad also enjoys the ability to see who received an email and who did not, so she can follow up with staff members as needed.
Rebecca Boldt, a 5th and 6th grade science teacher, described how Skyward allowed her to efficiently complete tasks in the classroom, such as grading assignments. “When I go to enter a grade it takes me 30 seconds to enter a full class, so it’s very user-friendly and very easy to use,” Boldt said. She also saves time with the ability to switch classes in one click.
Dawidziak has seen first-hand an increased productivity level at Raymond. “It’s pretty obvious that things are happening more quickly,” he said. “I’m very confident we are saving time.”
"WE HAVE A GREAT CONNECTION BETWEEN OUR STAFF, PARENTS AND STUDENTS, AND SKYWARD HAS REALLY BEEN A TREMENDOUS BRIDGE THAT ALLOWS ALL OF THIS COMMUNICATION. "
Increased parent engagement
Before transitioning to Skyward’s SIS, Raymond was unable to engage its students’ parents. “We had many complaints from parents unable to easily access information they needed,” Cozad explained. “Family Access is a world better and more efficient.”
Dawidziak agreed. “Wanting to know what a child’s grade is was more cumbersome than it should be in today’s world,” he said. “Now it’s an easy, quick process. I think our parents are thrilled, and that’s something I hear about all the time.”
“We have a great connection between our staff, parents and students, and Skyward has really been a tremendous bridge that allows all of this communication,” said Jordan Hein, principal at Raymond. “Parents, when they log on, I think they just love that central location for everything – announcements or assignments,” Hein said. “They like having that hub for the school.”
Tools to promote a positive, future-ready environment
Dawidziak said district staff members have a more positive attitude as a result of the transition. “They are able to do their job efficiently and in a timely manner,” he said. “More importantly to me though, is that they are happy. There’s a lot of research out there that shows if your employees are happy they perform better, and I believe in that as well.”
Along with a more upbeat front office, Hein noted Skyward’s tools have helped Raymond prepare for the future of education technology.
“As we continue to grow as a school, I don’t feel like there’s any limits to what Skyward can do, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Skyward in the future,” Hein said. “As the landscape of education changes and technology changes, I think Skyward is on that cutting edge, and I like that they really work with teachers and administrators to provide a product that’s really tuned to that individual school.”
Raymond School District was transformed, from top to bottom. Administrators became catalysts for positive change through technology, which has impacted educators, students, families and the district community.
Cozad said she has been happy with Skyward and advises other school districts to consider its solution. “Give it a chance,” she said. “I think that within the first day or two you’ll see that it was the right choice.”
“It’s been a refreshing change,” Dawidziak added. “We’re very happy and hope that we are for years to come. When you switch from one thing to another it can be hard and difficult and a long process. That’s not what happened here, and I think that’s unique.”
Follow-up resource: Student Management Suite
To learn more about what a better SIS experience looks like, check out the Student Management Suite.