Grand Prairie Independent School District (GPISD), the largest employer in Grand Prairie, Texas, was falling behind.
For over 25 years, the district had relied on the same software system to manage both business and student operation processes for its more than 26,000 students. Administrators realized that moving to a new system was a necessary and important step in order to improve efficiency and, more importantly, better serve its students.
"IT BECAME PAINFULLY CLEAR THAT OUR CURRENT SYSTEM COULD NO LONGER ACCOMMODATE OUR NEEDS. "
With GPISD’s old processing system, employees were unable to access real-time data. “I would get budget reports that were 60-90 days old, so we developed our own Access database product, so I see real-time financial information,” said Lyle DuBus, GPISD executive director of instructional delivery. “Essentially we had to work around the system rather than having it work for us.”
Without easy access to information, many manual processes were tedious and time consuming. To prepare for a third party audit, the business office closed down for 60 to 90 days because there was such a lag time associated with its systems and most information had to be obtained manually. In addition, the IT department shut down the system every night at 10 p.m. to process data, making it impossible for anyone working beyond that hour to obtain important information. “It became painfully clear that our current system could no longer accommodate our needs,” said DuBus.
"THE TEXAS BRANCH MANAGER FOR SKYWARD KNEW ALL OF THE ATTENDEES BY THEIR FIRST NAMES; YOU COULD TELL THEY HAD A VERY STRONG RELATIONSHIP."
DuBus and his team began searching for a system that had been implemented successfully by other Texas districts. “We did not want to be the pioneer using the system for the first time. We required a proven technology and access to a strong network of local users if we had any questions.”
The district also desired the system to be reliable, flexible, and require very little maintenance. “We are a very small IT department. We knew that for us to be successful, our new solution had to be built on a foundation that was totally reliable and worked right out of the box,” DuBus said. “Our existing employees needed the ability to focus on our core business, which is educating 26,000 kids.”
GPISD’s superintendent and business manager were familiar with Skyward and put the vendor on their short list. Skyward invited GPISD to a Texas user group conference to learn about the system and to speak with Skyward customers. “We were extremely impressed with Skyward. The Texas Branch Manager for Skyward knew all of the attendees by their first names; you could tell they had a very strong relationship, and we really felt like we were part of a family.”
GPISD had an aggressive implementation deadline of six months, a date Skyward was confident it could meet. “The other vendors we looked at were not able to meet our timeline. In fact, one said it would take 18 months; that was unacceptable to us. But Skyward didn’t even blink; they assured us that they could meet our deadline. That was impressive.”
In the end, the district decided to implement the Skyward Student Management Suite and the Skyward School Business Suite.
"WE EXPECT A 100% RETURN ON OUR INVESTMENT WITHIN THREE TO FOUR YEARS. AND WE BELIEVE WE WILL SEE SOME INSTANT COST SAVINGS IN THE NEXT SCHOOL YEAR."
Successful implementation in just 4 months
“From a conversion and service aspect we have been thrilled at what Skyward has brought to the table,” said DuBus. “Skyward’s project management has been superb. Without a doubt they have been our partner throughout the entire process and are still there for us today when we have questions. They have been a joy to work with—there has never been a hiccup, never a problem.”
Completion of more in-house tasks without hiring additional staff
With Skyward, DuBus and his team now have total control over their systems and their information. “And the amazing part is that we have moved everything in-house and completely updated our systems without adding additional head count because Skyward essentially runs itself,” said DuBus. “This system will touch literally every part of the district, including the custodial staff, teachers, nurses and business managers. Everyone will be empowered to use this system.”
Previous manual processes become automated
“I was in our purchasing office last week, and I noticed stacks of absence from duty forms that were being disposed of,” said DuBus. “With our new School Business Suite we have eliminated that form and that manual process—to me that is real change... That is certainly improving our productivity and freeing up resources to focus on higher priority tasks.” DuBus said that GPISD also used to manage the requisition process manually. “Just this one automated process alone is saving our business 20 work hours per week; that is phenomenal.”
Improved visibility and increased control
“Our visibility has been dramatically improved,” said Dubus. “Our control over our information has quadrupled in the last 30 days. It is a night and day difference. From a decision-making standpoint we will now be able to better understand our spending and the success of our programs.”
“Because our employees can spend less time on manual processes and quickly access the information they need to do their jobs, I think we will also see an increase in job satisfaction because people will be able to dedicate their time to more interesting projects and to helping the kids. I think over time this will also result in a reduction in our costs,” said DuBus.
Ability to run reports, meet state requirements, and improve funding
“Our funding is completely dependent on accurate reporting,” said DuBus. “Before using Skyward we had to create a lot of our own reports to meet the requirements, which on average took us 8-16 hours a day for one to two days. With our new system the reports already exist—we are able to just hit a button and go. And without a doubt we are far more confident that the information is accurate. Skyward has a tremendous amount of experience with those reporting requirements, and they proactively stay on top of any changes. If the requirements change they immediately provide us with an update; that takes an enormous amount of pressure off of us and gives us a lot of confidence.”
The district has a flexible school-day option for the alternative school that created compliance issues in the old system. “When we told Skyward about this issue their response was ‘we already have something written and ready for you’,” DuBus said. “That showed me how proactive they are and how much they truly understand our business.”
“I feel like we have literally jumped 30 years into the future, like we are finally doing business in 2009 instead of being stuck in 1979,” DuBus said. “With Skyward...we will be able to easily meet…any other needs we have down the road.”
An up-to-date district with a partner for the future
Follow-up resource: K-12 Information Management Systems
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