2020 Leader in Excellence Winners Alexis Bushman by Alexis Bushman Alexis Bushman Marketing Communications Manager Read time: Skyward’s Leader in Excellence award recognizes pioneers, trendsetters, and forward thinkers. The individuals and districts receiving this award inspire us by using Skyward to strengthen their teams, simplify operations, and improve learning outcomes. We are proud to present our 2020 winners... 🥁 Amy Grizzel (SMS 2.0) Software Specialist Sullivan County School District, Tennessee It was clear Amy Grizzel was a standout candidate for the Leader in Excellence award even before we read her qualifications. Why? She received six separate nominations—a new record! Amy is a software specialist at Sullivan County School District, where she oversaw the initial implementation of Skyward. Having put in countless hours studying the software, she is now the “go-to” for all things Skyward. She trains the staff and leads various learning opportunities. She creates video tutorials and sends out emails teaching staff how to accomplish their tasks more efficiently—and while the content of these messages varies, the accessible and digestible level of her instruction is a constant. Amy is a steadfast support resource for her district, always assisting others with patience and working hard to resolve issues. Her work ethic doesn’t expire even when she leaves the schoolgrounds; Amy sometimes spends her personal time reviewing ways the district can take better advantage of its Skyward solution. While Amy has achieved so much for her district—including single-handedly setting up Skyward payroll, HR, and inventory—perhaps one of her most impactful contributions was the implementation of Insurance Tracking to simplify employee benefits. Despite it being outside the realm of her job responsibilities, Amy took it upon herself to employ Skyward to greatly simplify the process. Amy’s hard work and expertise do not go unappreciated. As Ingrid Deloach, business manager at Sullivan County SD, stated, “Amy Grizzel is a critical asset to not only the technology department but to every department within the Sullivan County School District. She has very high expectations for herself, and she constantly works to help others do the same.” Amy has received the Sullivan County Pinnacle Award, given to employees who go above and beyond to benefit the district’s employees, students, and families. Kathy Reynolds (SMS 2.0) Database Coordinator Owen J. Roberts School District, Pennsylvania Kathy Reynolds' title may be “database coordinator,” but perhaps a more appropriate one would be “database superhero.” She certainly came to the rescue of Owen J. Roberts School District in 2013. When she started in her position, the data in the district’s SIS was in disarray. Kathy brought order to the data and, to ensure such disorganization would never occur again, created helpful guidelines for the staff. Now, she prides herself in keeping the data accurate, up to date, and secure. She also hosts group training sessions and provides individual training and support, instilling in the staff her philosophy: “Treat data like it’s your own child’s.” Kathy has used Skyward to streamline district processes, connecting the SIS with the cafeteria, transportation, and the district’s LMS. In addition, the district has come to affectionately call Kathy the “Queen of State Reporting” due to her proficiency in submitting state data. Over the years, Kathy has become the leading support person for the district and beyond. But despite her hard work, she still manages to fit in assisting with miscellaneous tasks, such as scheduling, summer school, and cafeteria monitoring. According to her coworkers, she is always eager to assist in any way she can, asking, “What do you need? How can I help?” Kathy has received the PASBO David L. Nett Regional Chapter Leadership Award for her role as president of the Eastern Pennsylvania IT Data Managers. She has also been nominated for Data Quality Network’s Data Governance Award of Excellence. Scott Herring (SMS 2.0) Data Support Specialist Lehigh Career and Technical Institute, Pennsylvania Scott Herring has been a part of the Skyward story at Lehigh Career and Technical Institute from its beginning. A data support specialist, Scott was a part of the leadership team in 2007 when LCTI migrated to Skyward. Since then, he has been responsible for ensuring everyone is comfortable using the software and understands its influence on their job duties. He knows the software well; as one of his coworkers put it, Scott is a “walking encyclopedia” of Skyward information. The list of Scott’s accomplishments using Skyward is too long to list here. But whether he’s using Skyward to automate attendance notices, developing import processes that save hours in scheduling 1,500 students, assisting parents over the phone, or working with Skyward to use the Standards Gradebook to track students’ mastery of CTE standards, Scott is always striving to improve the experience of others. He is never one to become complacent; whenever Skyward releases a new feature, Scott considers how he can use it to tackle problems. In the words of Josh Herzog, data manager at LCTI, “[Scott] is not one to sit on his laurels when a project is complete. His philosophy is ‘As long as Skyward keeps adding features, I've got to find a way to continue to make things faster and more efficient for the staff so they [can] . . . invest their time directly into the education of our students.’” Not only has Scott been an excellent resource for LCTI, but as member of the Pennsylvania Skyward Steering Committee, he has helped many other schools in their transition to Skyward as well. Scott is the longest serving active member of the Keystone State Skyward User Group. He has presented at user group conferences and at iCon. Maryville City Schools (SMS 2.0) Tennessee Maryville City Schools may serve 5,500 students who excel in academics, athletics, and the arts—but the Leader in Excellence award shifts the spotlight to the 800+ employees who serve students and families each day. In 2017, MCS identified the need to improve the overall business systems available to district support staff and employees. Ultimately, Skyward’s Business Suite was selected and has proven beneficial across the board. In addition to increased efficiency and streamlining of the purchase order, payroll, and human resources processes, employees are now empowered to use an online portal to stay informed about matters related to compensation and leave—matters important to everyone. Finance director Dr. Kathy Smith said, “We are pleased with the many improvements our staff has applied to our processes with the Skyward solution and can see how Skyward has the capacity to evolve as our district grows.” Accounting, payroll, and HR staff are experiencing greater efficiency and decreased operational costs based on time savings, as well as a decrease in the district’s carbon footprint. Other benefits include better substitute and leave tracking, the use of online paystubs, quicker turnaround of expense checks, improved reporting accuracy, and increased access to data and reporting for audits. With Skyward as a trusted partner, Maryville City Schools looks to the future confident they can achieve continuous improvement and excellence in every aspect of education. Bailey Conroy (Qmlativ) Executive Administrative Assistant Saunemin Community Consolidated School District #438, Illinois Most districts have an entire team lined up for an implementation—but for Saunemin Community Consolidated District #438, it was a one-woman show. Starting her role of executive administrative assistant in June 2018, Bailey Conroy was soon heading up the district’s transition to Skyward’s Qmlativ Education Management System. When the district’s superintendent and dean of students resigned, Bailey was temporarily tasked with running day-to-day operations, but she didn’t let that slow her down. Though she worked many extra hours, she effectively implemented Skyward, learned the system, and trained the entire staff on top of her other duties—all within her first year of employment. Bailey’s passion has been the driving force behind her hard-fought success. As her actions demonstrate, she doesn’t back down from a challenge but rather constantly searches out ways to solve problems. As one of her coworkers stated, Bailey is “the epitome of a team player.” Her tireless efforts and commitment to bettering her district community make Bailey a truly deserving recipient of this award. Gloria Hocking (Qmlativ) PEIMS Coordinator/Qmlativ Liason Argyle Independent School District, Texas Gloria Hocking’s smile lights up the halls at Argyle Independent School District, where she works as PEIMS coordinator/Qmlativ liaison. Her priority? To simplify the lives of others. Gloria goes “above and beyond” helping district staff better understand and become more efficient in Qmlativ—achieving this by frequently sending out tips and links, creating cheat sheets, and running Q&A sessions. But Gloria’s impact isn’t limited to her own district. Other districts across Texas contact Gloria for additional help, which she gives wholeheartedly. Gloria is always happy to answer questions and assist others. She is a kind and giving individual who is loved dearly by her coworkers. As Jeanna Sutton, a teacher at Argyle ISD, raved, “Gloria is such an asset to our district! Her positive attitude and joyful personality make AHS a better place!” Gloria has maintained a perfect attendance record throughout the six years she has worked for Argyle ISD. She has been named Staff Member of the Year for the district and received a Supporting Eagle Award and several Staff Member of the Month awards at the high school. Glenbrook High School District 225 (Qmlativ) Illinois Glenbrook High School District 225 takes pride in doing things “the Glenbrook way”—a way defined by ongoing evaluation and improvement and, ultimately, success. To see this philosophy in action, one must look no further than the district’s use of Skyward. Skyward is the “software backbone of [Glenbrook’s] financial operations.” The staff use Skyward to record, maintain, process, and analyze information every day, taking advantage of Qmlativ’s flexible design to configure and customize the experience of users. The district also employs its solution to improve the lives of employees; in 2018, district leaders used Skyward to address more than ten needs raised by employee groups in the district’s collective bargaining cycle. In addition, Glenbrook recently partnered with Skyward UX and business experts, and together they’re working to build a first-in-class open enrollment process for employees’ benefit election process. One thing is clear: Glenbrook constantly strives to discover new ways Skyward can simplify processes or create a better experience for their employees. Dr. R.J. Gravel, assistant superintendent for business services at the district, put Glenbrook’s relationship with Skyward this way: “How has Skyward helped us overcome challenges? It is simple: by serving as a true partner and extended stakeholder in our school district, as we seek to modernize our own processes and operations for the betterment of our school community.” Congratulations to these outstanding leaders who will be recognized in February at iCon, an international conference for Skyward users. Alexis Bushman Marketing Communications Manager Share this story: Want tips, tricks, and feature updates delivered to your inbox once a month? Sign up here!