Palestine ISD switches back to Skyward to experience greater support, reporting features, and integration possibilities
Contrary to the popular idiom, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. When Palestine Independent School District in Palestine, Texas, about 1 hour and 45 minutes southeast of Dallas, left their SIS and ERP provider for a different option, they soon realized that their decision needed to be reversed.
Mark Schrader, director of technology, and David Atkeisson, chief financial officer, at Palestine ISD reflect on the district’s departure and return to Skyward.
"We knew that the flexibility and support that Skyward has is what our district needs."
Caution: troubling times ahead
Prior to leaving for a competitor, Palestine ISD was a Skyward customer since 2004, using the School Management System (SMS 2.0) software for both student and business operations. In an effort to seek out other options, the district decided to leave Skyward.
“We didn’t have any major issues with Skyward at the time; it was just a matter of exploration,” said Schrader.
When searching for a new school administration software provider, Palestine ISD researched five or six options before landing on one. That decision would become a rocky road for the district.
“The implementation for the new system was hair-pulling,” said Schrader. “There wasn’t a lot of latitude for making changes—it was their way or the highway. A lot of features that we were used to with Skyward were no longer an option for us.”
“Once we finally had everything set up, we had zero flexibility or control to make some necessary adjustments,” said Atkeisson.
After struggling through implementation, Palestine ISD then had to learn the new system. The district then experienced difficult training, backed by poor technical support.
“The technical support was sketchy at best,” said Schrader. “If you had a question, it might take two weeks to get a response, or you might not get one at all. That was a huge negative.”
Furthermore, Palestine ISD felt a lack of control and customization with their software provider.
“If we needed, for instance, to adjust our calendar we would need to submit a work ticket to the support team, which oftentimes took several days before that change was made,” said Atkeisson. “With how frequently calendars need to be changed, especially lately due to the pandemic, this was extremely frustrating.”
The struggle the district faced during implementation reverberated to the rest of the staff as well, with many employees stating that they did not like the major changes compared to what they were used to with Skyward. Palestine ISD recognized these challenges quickly and decided to leave their new SIS.
"We see Qmlativ as the latest and greatest of what Skyward has to offer, and we wanted to be a part of that."
The return to Skyward
Once Palestine ISD realized that they had made a mistake by leaving Skyward in the first place, they knew right away that they wanted to return.
“We knew that the flexibility and support that Skyward has is what our district needs,” said Schrader.
“Skyward is also common with districts around us that we have working relationships with,” said Atkeisson. “Being able to call those districts and ask them a Skyward-related question was something we really missed.”
Upon making the decision to return to Skyward, the district then had to choose between returning to SMS 2.0, or choosing Qmlativ, Skyward’s newest product.
“I don’t think that we even considered not going on Qmlativ,” said Schrader. “We see Qmlativ as the latest and greatest of what Skyward has to offer, and we wanted to be a part of that. We obviously knew that moving to Qmlativ would be a lot different than what we were used to with SMS 2.0, but Skyward was a known quantity to us. After being burnt severely with an unknown quantity, that heavily weighed our decision to go back to Skyward.”
When going from their previous vendor to Qmlativ, the district luckily only ran into one, uncontrollable trouble: implementing during a pandemic.
“I think that even though we have gotten great at doing meetings and trainings online, the migration process would have been a lot easier without everything required to be virtual,” said Atkeisson. “There is a lot to be said for two people sitting in a room together and talking through issues. We had originally planned on migrating that way, but the pandemic didn’t allow that.”
Despite that challenge, Palestine ISD found their implementation smooth. However, with many changes happening quickly in the district, some of the staff were expecting to return to SMS 2.0 and were surprised to have to learn (another) new system.
“I heard a little bit of grumbling from staff about not going back to what they were used to, but it didn’t take long for them to get on ‘team Qmlativ’,” said Schrader. “We’ve got some pretty savvy people here, and I think they will learn any platform that we give them.”
To learn Qmlativ, Palestine ISD staff took to the Professional Development Center (PDC), while others chose to explore on their own. Staff members reported that the user-friendliness of Qmlativ was a large contributor to their success of learning the system quickly.
After getting up and running on Qmlativ, Schrader and Atkeisson quickly became reacquainted with some of their favorite features: support, reporting, and integrations.
"We’re really enjoying Qmlativ, and we are happy to be back with Skyward!"
Support, reporting, and integrations: essential elements to a successful SIS
For Palestine ISD, leaving Skyward for a competitor with poor technical support left them with an increased appreciation for strong support.
“It has been a whole lot nicer for me dealing with Skyward support, which was probably the biggest difference from our previous SIS,” said Schrader. “They have a got some excellent people working there.”
“I never feel like I am asking a stupid support-related question,” said Atkeisson. “Skyward is always there to help me out without judgment.”
While Palestine ISD was left waiting weeks for support with their previous vendor, Skyward responds in significantly less time.
“When I put in a ticket, typically within an hour somebody from Skyward gets back to me to help me out,” said Schrader. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Another big change from SMS 2.0 and from Palestine ISD’s previous vendor were the reporting abilities that Qmlativ has to offer. For Schrader, scheduled reports and pulling data with data mining is much easier, thus making his job easier. He also enjoys that Qmlativ is not grounded in a database.
“Personally, I’m not a database guy, but our previous provider almost forced me to be,” said Schrader. “I don’t have enough time in the day to learn databases. The reporting functions should not require a degree in database engineering to pull what you need out of it—luckily Qmlativ doesn’t!”
With their previous SIS, Palestine ISD also experienced issues with third-party integrations. As a district that values interoperability, this was a major concern. Similar to receiving support, getting an integration up and running could take anywhere from two to six weeks.
“Now with Qmlativ, from the time I put in a ticket to the time I have an integration mockup I can review only takes a day or two,” said Schrader.
Overall, Palestine ISD is happy to have made the switch back to Skyward after some time away.
“As a whole, I think that the availability of accessing Qmlativ whenever you want or need it is great,” said Atkeisson. “With the way our work situations have evolved over the past year and a half, it’s very easy to log in anywhere that you have internet connection.”
In the future, Palestine ISD looks forward to learning more about their Qmlativ system and creating a long-term relationship with Skyward.
“We’re really enjoying Qmlativ, and we are happy to be back with Skyward!” said Schrader.