2018 Leaders in Excellence Alexis Bushman by Alexis Bushman Alexis Bushman Marketing Communications Manager Read time: The Skyward Leaders in Excellence award recognizes pioneers, trendsetters, and forward thinkers in districts nationwide. We applaud the individuals who use Skyward to inspire teams, improve operations, and transform learning outcomes throughout their schools and districts. We also celebrate this year’s district winner, which serves as a shining example of how edtech can strengthen culture while connecting the school and community. We are proud to present our 2018 individual winners in alphabetical order, along with our district winner: Scott Anthony Management Information Systems Manager Consolidated High School District 230, Illinois For the past six years, Scott Anthony has been responsible for using Skyward and enterprise solutions to efficiently integrate and improve multiple aspects of instruction and business for Consolidated High School District 230. When changes to Skyward need to be made within the district, Scott takes the lead in delegating these responsibilities to district staff. Under Scott’s leadership, Skyward has become the “glue” of day-to-day operations. District 230 uses Skyward in creative ways, such as managing their Advisory Period 2, which is devoted to social-emotional learning. The district also uses Skyward to help organize its Relay for Life event registration. Student and Family Access have made an extraordinary impact on learning: 94% of parents log in more than once per year (over half log in more than 20 times), and over 1.1 million emails were generated to parents and students in the past year. To put this in perspective, the district enrollment stands at just over 7,500 students—that's about 146 emails per student last year! A team-oriented leader, Scott inspires infectious success within the district and beyond—even taking part in site visits to help other districts replicate processes and implement a better experience. Scott serves as a board member of the Illinois Steering Committee and organizes annual regional Skyward review sessions. He is also on the Illinois SkyCon Conference committee and has presented at SkyCon and iCon. His leadership has influenced the district’s many awards and frequent media recognition for being among the most rigorous high schools in the nation. "Scott is a collaborative and approachable leader who is being recognized for his knowledge amongst colleagues,” says John Connolly, chief technology officer. “His willingness to help out other districts and network has been contagious.” Darby West Hernandez PEIMS Coordinator Stephenville ISD, Texas Big changes came to Stephenville ISD’s Skyward solutions in the past year, and Darby West Hernandez stepped up to guide their successful implementation. The district added transportation support for students on bus routes and food service tracking for free and reduced lunch. Darby and other district staff built aligned career pathways and enhanced the process of tracking and reporting student transfers to administrators and parents. Throughout the process of implementing and streamlining these new solutions, Darby gave key input, shared information, trained staff, and listened to feedback. Her colleagues trusted her to find solutions, especially with regard to managing the movement of data between systems. Her support was invaluable this year as staff transferred existing information from Skyward to a new learning management system. Under her supervision, redundancy was kept to a minimum and data can now be accessed on multiple platforms. Darby maintains a strong network of Skyward peers. The management of Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) data, which ranges from student demographics to finance information, also keeps her in close contact with fellow educators in Texas. “Darby has been a problem solver and key consultant in controlling redundancy of effort in moving already captured data to new platforms,” remarks Deborah Hummel, executive director for finance and operations. Stephanie Kaack Data Coordinator Manteno CUSD 5, Illinois Stephanie Kaack made history this year with four separate nominations for the Leader in Excellence award. According to her colleagues, Stephanie never shies away from troubleshooting just about any issue with Skyward the district encounters. She is a leader for support staff at all levels of the district, and along the way she encourages staff to embrace every aspect of Skyward—but she doesn’t stop there. Stephanie is always available to train staff, identify problems, and follow up to see how Skyward solutions are working. She’s willing to get answers and show people how Skyward is an indispensable tool to make their jobs easier. On the student side, Stephanie has helped teachers get on board with online grading, tracking students, tracking discipline, modernizing attendance, producing report cards, and scheduling counseling. On the business side, purchasing, payroll, tracking staff professional development, and many more activities have been streamlined through Stephanie's influence and knowledge of Skyward technology. Her expertise in data mining and custom forms have essentially tailored Skyward to the exact needs of the district. Outside the district, Stephanie serves as the Social Networking Coordinator for the Illinois Steering Committee and has presented at Illinois SkyCon and iCon. “Stephanie is all things Skyward to everyone in our district,” raves Tom Steele, technology director. “She knows the product inside and out—probably better than most Skyward support staff!” Macon County Schools Tennessee Five years ago, the leadership team from Macon County Schools never imagined what was ahead for their district as they embarked on their Skyward implementation. The small, rural school system serves approximately 4,000 students, and was facing a serious disconnect between schools, which had no unified approach to grading and attendance. Parental involvement had decreased, with communication challenges magnified by economic stress—for example, parents were forced to take time off work to register their children for school, a 30- to 45-minute process that could only be completed in person at the school. Macon County implemented Skyward solutions and set in motion big changes to combat these challenges. Online gradebooks from Skyward provided a unified gradebook across all schools, and Family Access made real-time grading information available to busy parents. Although the support staff in the district is quite small—supervised by David Flynn, technology director—these changes were manageable. The Skyward mobile app gave families a greater connection with teachers. Over 2,000 parents used the option the first year Skyward was available. This summer, Macon County added food service and online registration to their Family Access offerings. Parents have instant access to balances and purchases on students’ lunch accounts. Online registration eased the burden of having to miss work to register a child, and slashed the time requirement from over half an hour to just a few minutes—a huge PR success for Macon County. Macon County’s accomplishments have generated buzz in the Upper Cumberland region, where they are recognized as a pioneer in Skyward—a source of great pride for the district. They’ve set their sights on adding online food service payments next year, to keep the momentum going strong. “Skyward has changed our district for the better,” remarks David Flynn, technology director. “I am always looking for the next piece to keep us moving forward.” Congratulations to our outstanding winners! Each individual and district will be recognized this spring at iCon, the premier event for the Skyward community. This year's conference will be held March 7–9 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!