Written by Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper
Secretaries are the secret superheroes of our schools. They are truly required to be a jack of all trades while keeping smiles on their faces. It seems as if a school secretary’s work is never done. Their job descriptions include a long list of tasks such as working as a liaison between the community and school staff, keeping student records up to date and transporting them, answering calls on multi-line phones, and much more. Administrative efficiency can make or break the reputation of a school district.
Unfortunately, many schools aren’t having these resourceful staff members work in the most efficient ways. Secretaries are being overworked. According to Dr. Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), “Sadly, support staff feel over-utilized and under-valued.”
In most school buildings, secretaries are the first people visitors interact with and thus the first impression they have of your school. This first interaction hints at your overall school climate. Is your central office empty because secretaries are filing papers in a back room? Or do your secretaries look frazzled and disorganized with countless stacks of papers cluttering up their desks?
A bad first impression can discourage families from enrolling their children in your school or scare away a potential teacher you were hoping to hire. When the administrative staff is backed up, the entire district is backed up. You want your secretaries to be present, organized, and cheerful. This will create a better perception of your district overall.
How Does Administrative Inefficiency Affect your District’s Reputation?
Consider this scenario. One of your secretaries starts her day with piles of returning enrollment packets that need to be manually typed and logged in the school’s Student Information System (SIS) and a stack of record requests to be typed and forwarded to individual schools. Parents come to turn in registration papers and watch as their forms get added to a large pile of papers.
Meanwhile, phone calls pour in frequently and the secretary answers in a distracted tone as she motions for another visitor to wait a minute. By the time she finds all the volunteer forms for him, she has forgotten where she put those registration papers. Not much has gotten accomplished for your school and the list of essential tasks to accomplish has grown rather than shrunk. She is too busy to help out other staff members.
Here is another option. A secretary in your school logs into the administrator’s side of an enrollment portal and approves new students who have correctly filled out their online registration forms. Those approved flow directly into the SIS and are organized accordingly. Those that are not ready for approval are sent an automated message that their enrollment information needs more attention before the school can accept them into the system.
Then your secretary warmly greets a couple who is considering enrolling their child at your school. She takes them on a tour around the building. When they ask for registration papers, your secretary directs them to where they can fill everything out online. A phone call comes in from another school that needs a former student’s records. Within a few clicks, everything is sent.
A group of volunteers and the hired photographer, who have already filled out the necessary paperwork and submitted background checks online, are walked down to the gymnasium to set up their annual blood drive. The secretary returns to the office, grabs a cup of tea, and asks the principal if there is anything she can help with.
The second scenario is clearly the more desirable one. So how can it be accomplished? Administrative technology transforms these cumbersome traditional tasks into a series of clicks that streamline, organize, and automate a school district’s electronic filing cabinet, allowing your administrative staff to spend more time being personable and present with your community.
Impacting the District’s Bottom Line with Increased Administrative Efficiency
In recent years, the amount of money poured into technology for schools has been increasing, but mainly in classrooms. Technology geared to the administration positively affects the district’s bottom line, and the secretaries’ efficiency and attitudes, by streamlining their daily tasks.
Eva Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy Charter Schools, said in a speech at NYEdTech week last year, “Think differently about what constitutes innovation in education. Understanding how schools are really working and what their needs are for effective and efficient ways of doing things is most helpful.” She later went on to say, “I have found the education space just way behind every other sector in terms of how do we do things fast, better, more efficient. There is enormous inefficiency there, and we certainly could use a lot of products to improve the home-office situation.”
If you expect your students to embrace technology, the rest of your school needs to embrace it as well. This includes your hard-working secretaries. Rather than swimming in pools of paper, many secretarial tasks can be completed more accurately and efficiently with the proper tools. Student registrations, volunteer clearances, and record requests are just a few of the tasks that can be reduced to a matter of minutes and clicks.
When freed from spending so much time on tedious tasks, your secretaries can spend their energy elsewhere. They can answer family’s questions, assist teachers in overflow tasks, and manage schedules. Secretaries appreciate cards and kind words complimenting their work. But the best way to show you realize the complexity of their job is to help make it simpler. Making their job more efficient means they can accomplish more each day without having to work overtime.
Your parents will enjoy the increased attentiveness, your teachers will be less stressed with the extra help, and your secretaries will benefit from the increased focus. Secretaries are everyday superheroes, but even superheroes can use some help from time to time. When you give secretaries the necessary tools to succeed, your entire school runs more smoothly.