2016 District Leaders in Excellence Alexis Bushman by Alexis Bushman Alexis Bushman Marketing Communications Manager Read time: The Leader in Excellence Award is our way of recognizing districts that have used Skyward to make a tangible impact in their schools and communities. EdTech is never a standalone solution, but when used as a tool to support people-centric practices, it can be a difference maker. We thank this year's recipients for serving as model examples of that philosophy. Without further ado, here are our winners, presented in alphabetical order: Center Grove Community School Corporation Indiana A Skyward district partner since 2007, Center Grove Community School Corporation in Indiana has implemented many effective programs to improve student outcomes while reducing costs. The district’s Mobile Minds program connects students in grades 6-12 with iPads to expand their ability to use technology to access and complete assignments. Teachers are also able to keep students updated on classwork through the program. The district has reduced costs by transitioning to paperless report cards and using Skyward’s message center to communicate with students and parents. Center Grove has also created electronic forms, automated attendance, and implemented Skyward’s Food Service module, in addition to other paperless initiatives. The district has experienced significant savings each year as a result. Family and Student Access have greatly improved the ability of teachers and administrators to communicate with students and families on issues regarding attendance, lunch account balances, or academic and general communication. In addition to Skyward’s Student Management Suite, Center Grove has also adopted the School Business Suite to transition employment applications and onboarding processes to a paperless model. Using Skyward’s system has allowed staff to quickly integrate new modules as well as update existing ones. The human resources module has allowed the department to become nearly 100% paperless. Center Grove has received multiple awards and recognitions. After receiving a “Summer of eLearning” grant from the Indiana Department of Education, the district used funds to host a state eLearning conference. Five hundred attendees from schools throughout the state participated in the professional seminar. The district was also a Mira Award finalist in 2013, presented by Techpoint for excellence in technology in Indiana. Center Grove was recognized again in 2014 by the Indiana Department of Education for excellence in digital learning. A $100,000 grant was awarded for the district to expand its Mobile Minds initiative into middle schools. Center Grove also received a top ranking in 2015 for the second year in the Center for Digital Education and National School Boards Association’s Digital School Districts Survey. The survey showcases exemplary school boards’ and districts’ use of technology to govern their district and improve operations, as well as to communicate with students, parents, and the community. Lewisville Independent School District Texas Lewisville ISD has continued to be a leader in public education since partnering with Skyward in 2011. With innovative programs, including the district’s Strategic Design and 1:X™ initiative, the Texas district has blazed a trail by demonstrating what 21st century public education can look like. The district has expanded student opportunities for flexible and virtual learning, leveraged technology for increased student safety, and worked to close the digital divide. In the 2014-2015 academic year, more than 2,600 Lewisville ISD students were enrolled in some type of online or blended course, allowing the district to meet specific individual and family needs and reach students who might otherwise drop out. Lewisville ISD has not allowed funding cuts to negatively impact the quality of instruction provided to students. Instead, the district has found ways to reduce operating expenses and work more efficiently. Annual paper costs have been reduced by more than 20%, saving the district more than $100,000 in each of the last two years. With more information available online to parents, campus staff have been freed to accomplish other tasks instead of answering phones and printing documents. The district has even produced a series of videos in a parent awareness campaign highlighting the many resources now accessible through Skyward, so parents can also maximize their use of the system. “Whether it's having real-time access to student grades and information in Family Access and on the Skyward mobile app, or receiving notifications and reminders via Skylert or Message Center, Skyward has allowed the district to build a network of connectedness with its parent community, which has benefited our students,” said David Koonce, director of information management. The district's partnership with Skyward has yielded positive results in terms of facilitating digital learning innovation and parent engagement, as well as reducing costs and increasing efficiency. When LISD embarked on its multi-device 1:1 initiative three years ago (1:X™), the staff had to overcome several logistical and administrative hurdles, beyond simply handing devices to students. The district was able to utilize Skyward to offer online parental agreement forms and fee management to create a smooth process for parents. LISD currently has nearly 40,000 students participating annually in the award-winning program. In addition, when the district's Virtual Learning Academy required a system to help manage its expansion, LISD leveraged the capabilities of Skyward’s solution to save tens of thousands of dollars in additional annual licensing fees, and hundreds of labor hours across the district. Lewisville ISD has received several awards including Outstanding Achievement by a School District Technology Department, presented by CoSN in 2009. The Lewisville ISD 1:X™ program was an Apple Distinguished Program award winner in 2014. The district was also selected by President Obama to attend the first National Connected Superintendents Summit in November 2014, as one of the top 100 school districts leading the nation in digital learning. Sauk Rapids-Rice School District Minnesota Although the district is always looking to improve, Sauk Rapids-Rice School District in Minnesota has seen impressive positive results throughout its 25-year history of partnering with Skyward. The district passed a voter-approved operating referendum after countless failures and inadequate funding, which demonstrated newfound community support and involvement. According to state exams, student achievement at Sauk Rapids-Rice has increased in certain subsets by more than 50%, and as of 2013, has been exceeding the state averages in every grade level and category. Student and community engagement have also increased by more than 25%, according to the district’s surveys and event attendance. In addition, every high school student now has a laptop, while students in grades 5-8 have an iPad to access programming. The district’s Board of Education passed a three-phase initiative aimed at providing every child with an increase in access and opportunities through technology. The middle and high schools were recently recognized by the state Department of Education for innovation and for closing the achievement gap. Sauk Rapids-Rice was also recognized by the state for its financial practices in the last four consecutive years. The high school principal was recently selected as Minnesota’s Principal of the Year and the district’s superintendent was also selected as Minnesota’s Superintendent of the Year. “Skyward has increased and enhanced communication between and amongst students, staff, and families,” said Dr. Daniel Bittman, superintendent of schools. “Without Skyward, we would not be able to share information and partner to the degree we have. Communication remains a district priority, and Skyward makes that possible!” “Skyward has helped us implement a comprehensive, easy-to-use system that has been cost effective, saving staff time and frustration,” Bittman added. “It has also helped us communicate effectively and efficiently with each other and our stakeholders. This system has made our lives remarkably easy, while encouraging us to take chances and remain innovative.” Leader in Excellence recipients will be recognized at iCon, the premier event for the Skyward community. This year's conference will be held March 9-11 at the TradeWinds Island Resorts in St. Pete Beach, FL. Alexis Bushman Marketing Communications Manager Share this story: Want tips, tricks, and feature updates delivered to your inbox once a month? Sign up here!