Calling all Leaders in Excellence! Alexis Bushman by Alexis Bushman Alexis Bushman Communications Manager Read time: How would you like to achieve national recognition for your success in education? Do you know anyone who is worthy of recognition as a Leader in Excellence? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, apply to become a Skyward Leader in Excellence (LIE). Skyward created the LIE award as a way to celebrate the accomplishments of our district partners and to share their inspiring successes with others. The accolade recognizes both K-12 districts and individuals who use Skyward to positively impact school management and student performance. As a bonus, winners get free registration for the 2016 Skyward International Conference (iCon) at the TradeWinds Island Resort in St. Pete Beach, Florida, next March. So what constitutes a Leader in Excellence? Here are a few examples: Staff becoming more productive by using tools and information that streamline processes and improve decision-making. Students achieving a higher level of success due to increased transparency and greater organization. An individual or district finding a new, inventive way to use Skyward to solve a problem or simplify a process. An individual taking the lead in helping his/her school or district maximize the impact of Skyward. Education technology should always focus on results over features – and that’s what we want to showcase with this award! A Look Back at the 2015 Winners Leader in Excellence award winners are shining examples of success in education. Let’s take a look at last year’s recipients. Individual Recipients Dr. R.J. Gravel, Director of Technical Services at Glenbrook High School District #225, Illinois Dr. Gravel continuously seeks to develop a better understanding of how Skyward can support instructional and operational activities. In partnership with Skyward, he streamlined human resources tasks and started collecting parent and student information electronically, saving time for office personnel. A longtime proponent of the paperless school district, Dr. Gravel has saved his district countless hours of productivity (and a significant amount of money) by always getting the most out of his technology. As an active beta tester for Skyward, Dr. Gravel takes great pride in helping develop products that meet the practical needs of districts. He also shares instructional materials with neighboring districts and is actively involved in the education technology community. Dr. Gravel's ongoing commitment to making the entire K-12 community better makes him a Leader in Excellence by definition. Charles Mikeska, Assistant Superintendent at West ISD, Texas In April 2013 in West, Texas, there was a massive eruption. A fertilizer plant exploded claiming 15 lives, destroying 120 homes, and damaging 200 more. The eruption was earth shattering; it registered on seismographs as a 2.1-magnitude earthquake and shook homes 50 miles away. Three of West ISD’s four campuses were ruined in the disaster. So were the majority of the auxiliary and support services. The network data center was burned, completely destroying the history, information, and records of students, educators, and staff. When the damage occured, Charles Mikeska immediately sprang into action. He took leadership responsibilities in accounting, maintenance, food service, transportation, and facilities. Thanks in large part to his efforts, the district didn't miss a beat in state reporting. They were still able to gather and submit all the necessary data for the Texas Education Agency's Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS). For his unwavering dedication in the midst of a crisis, Charles proved to be a Leader in Excellence. John Reiels, Director of Technology at Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wisconsin John Reiels is a proud graduate of Nicolet who returned to his alma mater as a technology education teacher in 1987. Reiels has led the development of key technology initiatives that promote student and educator success. Reiels played an instrumental role in implementing Skyward’s Positive Attendance, a new method of taking attendance that shows where a student is present throughout the school day – not simply if a student is absent. The new attendance method gives students the flexibility and freedom required for the school-wide study hall period. It also gives educators a more accurate picture of where students are located at any given time. “We owe a lot of our success with Skyward to John,” said Lori Reinhart, Administrative Assistant to the principal. “He has demonstrated innovation with the inception of Positive Attendance for our resource period, which other schools have modeled. He works with Skyward to achieve the results we need.” What more can we say? John's innovative strategies and active collaboration with Skyward are what the Leader in Excellence award is all about. District Recipients Deerfield Public Schools District 109, Illinois District 109, located north of Chicago, saw a need to increase communication between parents and schools. Administrators turned to the Skyward Student Management Suite. Since the district began using Skyward, it has improved student outcomes by increasing the connection between parents and their children's academic progress, as well as increasing student ownership of their own learning and achievement. District 109 launched Skyward Family Access to give parents of middle school students a direct and ongoing connection to their students' academic progress. Parents enjoy receiving real-time snapshots of grades and missing assignments. With one click, they are also able to access teacher contact information. The increased understanding of a child's daily academic experience has allowed parents to fully partner with educators and staff and work with them to support student learning. District 109 is a high achieving district due, in large part, to the strong support received from parents and the community. Through Skyward, the district has been able to increase transparency and further strengthen these relationships with its stakeholders. Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District, Texas Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD), located in the heart of Dallas-Fort Worth, is making bold changes to the way educators teach and students learn. The district created a 10-year strategic plan in which it will transform outdated practices and provide students with the educational foundation they need to be successful in the 21st century. One factor that helps the district achieve its plan is Skyward’s online scheduling. GCISD has given control over creating class schedules directly to its more than 13,000 students. This new method has allowed students to become more independent and responsible, giving them practice planning for their futures. The impact of Skyward is far-reaching. On the first day of school, GCISD students were in class instead of in the hallways waiting to see a counselor for a schedule change. Thanks to accurate and appropriate schedules, counselors were more readily available to students – they were able to personally meet with all freshmen to get to know them and discuss their transitions into high school. You Could Be Next! Every individual and district using Skyward to advance education is eligible to apply for a Leader in Excellence award. To apply or learn more, visit http://www.skyward.com/leaders. The application period ends on Friday, Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. CST. Winners will be announced in early 2016 and presented with their awards on March 10, 2016 at iCon. Does your district or one of your colleagues deserve to be recognized? Submit an application today! Alexis Bushman Communications Manager Share this story: Want tips, tricks, and feature updates delivered to your inbox once a month? Sign up here!