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The Impact of Increasing Administrative Efficiency

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.

 

#PublicSchoolsWeek All Year Long

This past March, Twitter imploded with the hashtag #PublicSchoolsWeek, drawing attention to our nation’s public schools. The hashtag was part of the “I Love Public Schools” campaign, an ongoing effort to highlight why public schools are essential to develop the future generations that will maintain our country’s status as a world leader. The campaign works to re-frame the current national dialogue around public education to highlight the critical role public schools play as the bedrock of our civic society and their work to prepare students to be successful, contributing members of their local, national and global communities.

The campaign was launched by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, following the organization’s 2017 Legislative Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. where hundreds of superintendents—America’s foremost thought leaders in public education—discussed critical issues facing our schools. During the meeting, AASA’s Governing Board drafted, finalized and adopted the official resolution in support of the campaign.

While the true intention of the campaign is to protect education funding from budget cuts and tax reform that includes tax credits which direct funding away from public schools, this campaign additionally created a platform for Americans to join together and express their strong feelings toward public education. Public schools truly deserve the recognition; 9 out of 10 American kids attends public school, and in many communities the school district is also the largest employer. We joined in the celebration of teachers, principals, superintendents, school board members, parents and everyone who plays a critical role in helping students succeed, because we’re proud to call them all colleagues.

Now that #PublicSchoolsWeek has ended, will its impression fade as it leaves our Twitter feeds? We think not. Some people believe the processes we automate, such aSchool Choice Lottery and Online Registration only last a week, too. Your registrars and administrators would echo us in saying that the process is ever ongoing, throughout the entire school year. There’s too much to appreciate about our public schools for a single week to encompass. Our mission is to celebrate and assist the public school districts we work with every single day, and we hope you will join us.

The campaign website, www.lovepubliceducation.org, includes details on how anyone associated with advocating for the strength of public education can get involved. As the campaign unfolds over the year, this website will be your go-to source for information, resources and more.

In the meantime, we came up with a list of new age ways to show your appreciation for your school district:

  1. Diligently Update your Social Media Accounts – Not only is social media a great way to inform parents of scheduling updates and events at the district, it shows your students that you can embrace their lifestyles as much as you want them to embrace the district’s code of conduct.
  2. Adopt the I Love Public Education Message – Use the AASA toolkit to publish a press release, a letter to the parents, a letter to your school board, and post on social media in support of the movement to protect public education funding.
  3. Save Money for the Classroom – We know it’s easier said than done, but find places to cut your own spending and reinvest it in instruction. Nothing could bring a more positive result and attitude to your community. Check out this Clever Savings Case Study for some ideas.
  4. Protect Your Data – Not only is clean, secure data a mandate of FERPA and HIPAA, it is a sign of good faith to your district. Make sure access is permissioned accordingly to your staff, students and guardians. Check out this blog on equipping the district and training staff to protect network security.
  5. Increase Transparency – As much as student data deserves protection, your community is equally owed transparency in regards to district endeavors, conditions, and processes. One such process is placement in schools of choice, where unfair admissions processes are rampant across the country. Read more here about bringing transparency to this process.

5 Ways Consolidation Can Stifle Growth

Student Information Management is vital to a school district. At the core of a school district’s structure, the student management system can have the district running like a well-maintained car, or one that’s been sitting on blocks for years.

Here is how this can happen.

To simplify, let’s say you’ve gone to a dealership and found what you thought was your dream car. After driving it for a little while, you want make a few upgrades to increase the performance and security of the car.  Unfortunately, your dealer tells you that any upgrade to your car has to be approved by the dealership or your warranty is no longer valid. But by the way, the dealer sell their own upgrades that don’t affect your warranty, but they are clearly inferior to other solutions on the market.

This is what is happening to many districts that want the freedom to pick and choose individual pieces of software to interface with their student information.  Consolidating choices can stifle innovation, and to that end, is it even really a choice?

All SRC Solutions products, including Registration Gateway, are designed to integrate with all Student Information Systems.  We believe that school districts should not only have the choice of how to upgrade their student data management but also the complete and unfettered right to choose how to access it, just as vehicle owners should have the entire auto industry from which to choose a solution to a situational problem.

Closed service providers that try to master every single function, from power steering to tires to the car seats for the kids, can present problems.  Here are a few reasons that putting all your K-12 software eggs in one basket may be more of a problem than you thought.

1. Eliminating the Options…And the Possibilities

Closed  systems don’t allow their clients to think outside the box. By closing their doors and minds to the businesses happening outside their company, they’ve made choices for their customers without consulting them about their needs and desires to innovate and grow.

 

2. Condensed Management and Support

Consolidated service providers become “sole providers” via acquisition of smaller, specialized companies. When an acquired company is absorbed, a lot of department personnel are lost in the merge. Research and Development and Client Relations departments are often completely gutted; their responsibilities simply given over to the existing staff. This not only halts innovation, it can backtrack it. Relationships and plans between customers and the small company are harmed, promises are easily broken or at least, put on a questionable hiatus.

Ask yourself these two questions.

  1. Has the satisfaction with my software providers increased or decreased when they expanded into other areas?
  2. Are my support calls answered as quickly and how much longer do my issues take to get resolved?

3. Too Many Projects,Too Little Time

This one is pretty obvious. If an consolidated service provider says they’re going to provide solutions, from online enrollment to in-the-classroom tools, they’re going to struggle to find the time to deliver on all their promises. Updating software takes a ton of time to design, and then a lot of additional work to implement. This is an example of one big company working harder, not smarter, than all the small companies that work faster and wiser on specialized issues. Ever heard the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none”? Would you rather go to an all-in-one doctor, accountant, and mechanic, or take the time to individually care for your body, finances, and vehicle?

4. Cookie Cutter Products

 

When a large company has only so much time and so many resources to allocate to a particular issue, the end result is a simplified, one-size-fits-all solution. When a specialized organization is able to narrowly focus on solving a common problem, they can customize the solutions to the source. Collecting feedback from customers is the lifeblood of a specialized organization. It’s how they adapt the process to changes in the industry and in modern technology, and they have a lot more time to focus on their smaller range of products, relationships, and services.

5. Can You Be Your Own Competition?

In a psychological way, sure, but not when it comes to business. For the sole provider of software solutions, incentive to innovate fades out with the competition. Promises to upgrade certain processes are easy to make, and easy to break. By keeping customers tied to in-house solutions, they’ve tied their customers hands when it comes to considering competitive options, allowing the company to charge inflated rates for services that simply don’t measure up to those of the specialized companies.

Automation, a worthwhile hassle

Automation: Is Implementation Worth the Hassle?

How much can a change in perspective affect a school district’s central office? Sounds more like life advice from Deepak Chopra than applicable guidance for running a school district. The truth is, a lot of seemingly impossible tasks have been made possible through technology and automation. The issue is that these particular tasks are regular sources of anxiety for central office and administrative personnel, and the idea of letting go of some responsibility is frankly terrifying.

A lot is at stake in a school’s central office – there are kids to worry about, parents to answer to, privacy to protect, and state and government funding to lose. Not exactly a stress-free environment. Letting go of this stress can make us feel vulnerable to error, so it’s understandable that a change in perspective about the technology-takeover is difficult to make, especially for the “digitally-challenged”.

Let’s go through some of these pain points to understand why letting go of the stress is something you can actually do in order to streamline tedious processes without error and in total compliance with state and federal laws, and yes, even with the parents.

Eliminate manual data entry for registrars during student registration.

  1. Why it Hurts: Data needs to be clean, complete, and accurate. Without perfect data, a lot can go haywire – Can you imagine not having the right contact numbers for a student in a time of emergency? Asking a school district to give up some of the control here is scary, for understandable reasons.
  2. A Change in Perspective: Get clean and complete data, with real-time flow to your SIS, by allowing the parents to enter student information and documents Type-ahead data fields prevent error by literally forcing parents to submit data in a certain manner. For instance, they must submit an actual USPS-verified address, and they must submit 2 or 3 or any number of emergency contact information as the school requires before they can complete their enrollment process. Little red asterisks can go a long way, and strictly prohibiting parents from skipping questions doesn’t hurt, either. Parents aren’t bothered by this process; they are thrilled knowing that the school district has everything they need from the guardians to keep their kids safe. They also love that they can have access to an appointment scheduler, allowing them to pick the time that works best for their own schedules.
  3. Relieve Stress, Retain Control: When setting up an online registration system, the implementation team should be responsive and willing to customize a school’s registration system to their needs. We can’t speak for anyone else, but at SRC, this is absolutely true. School districts are assured they can ask all their usual questions to make even the heaviest paper registration packets electronic. Some even choose to make the student handbook a requirement of this system, kind of like accepting the Terms and Conditions to use certain websites. Another thing to remember here is that your registrars still hold the power to review, accept, or deny any data that comes through the online registration system, making sure that incorrect data doesn’t slip through.
  4. Take a Deep Breath: Once approved by the registrar, these student enrollments are sealed, and flow directly into the Student Information System. Meaning the registrar never has to make a copy or pick up a phone to notify anyone that a new student has enrolled. Notifications are automated – everyone who needs to know, knows immediately, and is only given access to the information they are allowed to see. This is guaranteed to be in full compliance with federal laws like FERPA and HIPAA, as well as any state and local retention mandates. So YES, you can let go of this stress!

Get every document needed from parents on time, and know exactly where they are at all times.

  1. Why it hurts: This is not a new problem for school districts. Parents often forget to bring certain documents with them to their registration appointment, and those documents become harder to track down as time passes. Frequently calling and emailing parents to request these documents is urgent and important, but is annoying for both parties. In times of emergency, such as a house fire, parents usually look to the school district for copies of birth certificates and similar precious documents that may have been destroyed. This is just another reason it’s important for schools to be meticulously organized – failing to present these documents to a family in need is not only tragic for the family, it also damages the reputation of the school.
  2. A Change in Perspective: Intelligent Document Management Software. Man oh man, is that a mouthful. Basically, it refers to an incredibly intelligent electronic repository where all documents are stored in digital form. Within the repository, there are all kinds of placeholders to make sure that each document is appropriately labeled and secured, so that each document is extremely easy to retrieve – but only by permissioned users. It also refers to the means of transferring these documents into the system. Physical scanners can be linked to this repository by using a data glyph or bar code related to the individual student and document type. When the data glyph or bar code is scanned, it communicates where the document belongs to the repository and lands in the right folder and the correct document-type placeholder. So when you scan Jane Doe’s 4th quarter report card from 3rd grade, it doesn’t go anywhere except the place holder made specifically for Jane Does’s 4th quarter report card from 3rd
  3. Relieve Stress, Retain Control: So a fancy digital filing cabinet exists, how does that help a school district retrieve documents from parents? Well, there are actually a couple of ways this fancy filing cabinet can make your document dreams come true. First, parents can scan and upload these documents from home. Just like with registration data, registrars must approve and allow the submitted documents to take their place in the repository. Second, imagine the physical filing cabinet in your office calling out every missing document in every folder: Jimmy is missing his immunization record! Susie is missing her permission slip for next week’s field trip! Now imagine that physical filing cabinet pulled out a phone and texted Jimmy and Susie’s parents about their missing documents, and sent them an e-mail as well. By pulling daily reports about missing documents, and setting automated notifications to parents, you can automatically email and text parents until the document is provided. This can happen once a month, week, or every day if you like. It’s still under your control – you just don’t have to physically do it.
  4. Take a Deep Breath: This doesn’t just refer to student documents! It can handle records requests, HR documents, and essentially any other type of business process you may want to automate. Sure, the process has to be built out first – you can’t just go scanning and hoping the repository will figure it out – but there’s really no limit to what you can’t do here. And think of all the trees you can save!

Save a lot of money and time.

  1. Why it Hurts: Because DUH everyone wants to save as much money and time as they can, this isn’t news! This hurts because saving money can require doing less for your staff and student body. This hurts because spending money to save money is risky. This hurts because taking the time to fixate on the details can prevent big issues down the road.
  2. A Change in Perspective: We’ve already been through the ways you can allow staff to stop fixating on the details while still be totally compliant to legal policies and provide great communication to students and guardians. So let’s just think about the time and money it takes to make copies, deliver copies or call around the school to notify other personnel, file documents, find documents, set appointments with parents, buy stamps, lick envelopes, and mail home report cards and policy updates and permission slips, etc. Although individually these tasks can be small, they add up a lot of minutes and cents in the end.
  3. Relieve Stress, Retain Control: When your district utilizes an online enrollment system and/or an electronic document repository, you slice most minutes off of these tasks, and eliminate the printing, paper, and mailing costs that go with them. You also spend money paying your staff to have more productive workdays.
  4. Take a Deep Breath: The software we’ve been talking about isn’t exactly cheap, nor is it easy, breezy right off the bat. Staff needs to be trained on how to use it, and the implementation team on the software side basically needs as much training too, in order to deliver the best solution for the district. But is it worth the cost and the time it takes to get the software in place and the staff up to the task of using it? Absolutely. Most districts recover the cost in their first year and have exponential savings in following years. Staff members become more knowledgeable and comfortable each year, which expands the capabilities at hand. Guardians love that they no longer have to wait in long lines for their registration appointments. As taxpayers, they’re thrilled that their money was used to modernize the school district and make student information more available to them and accessible on their own time.

Going digital isn’t just possible, it’s worth it, and easy in the long run. It’s time to admit manual data entry and document retention isn’t as useful and safe as it feels, and it’s okay to upgrade! Treat yourself and your district to Intelligent Data and Document Management.

Digital Possibilities: Automated Reporting and Retention Compliance

So you’ve gone digital…now what? To get the most out of an electronic record database, automation is key.

But in order for automated reports and retention to work as flawlessly as it can and should, settings must be carefully programmed for certain categories of documents.

It’s simpler than it sounds. Think of a computer’s document library. Clearly labeled folders make for easy navigation, and sub-categories even more so. The folders simply must exist before documents can be routed into them, but within an electronic record database, the routing itself can be automated. The same goes for expiration notification. For example, let’s say that a document category titled “Volunteer Background Checks” has an expiration parameter set for 6 months. Based on the day each document flows into this category, a notification to request an updated document is automatically set for 6 months later. Once the parameter is set, automation can take over.

Furthermore, with electronic records of student documents, reports can pull and export themselves autonomously at a scheduled time.

We really like the export functionality. We used it a lot when we started having applications (for new students) come in. But, it being our first year using the software, I was nervous when my planned two week vacation landed on our launch date. In order to prepare, I created a few reports and scheduled an export to send to the necessary personnel first thing in the morning every day during my absence. This allowed for all involved departments and operations to run smoothly without missing a beat.

— Christine Potenza, Database Administrator, Passaic County Technical Institute

Reports generated by a sophisticated document management software are helpful when it comes to organization and projection for future planning. Compliance with state law around retention schedules, and federal laws such as FERPA and HIPAA, can also be programmed within an electronic record database.

Retention Automation

What is record retention?

All government entities, including public school districts, are required to maintain records under federal and state law. The maintenance of records is a legal requirement and is important for documenting the activities on which state and federal tax money was expended. Records also make policies transparent and preserve the history and knowledge of government entities. For school districts specifically, federal laws such as FERPA and HIPAA are taken into account when structuring state record retention schedules. States may not lessen a federal requirement, but they may extend it. The same rule applies for local government extending upon a state’s guideline. Further, states and/or districts may have regulations where the federal government has none. For example, federal law does not, in itself, require that a school keep a transcript for any length of time. However, many states require that schools keep student transcripts forever.

What is a record retention schedule?

A record retention schedule protects both the district’s interests and the public’s rights by providing guidance to the district about the management of records. A retention schedule tells the district how long to keep certain records and gives the district authority to destroy records when appropriate. It specifies how long records must be kept and includes references to laws that govern the retention period for particular documents. School district personnel should follow their district’s record retention schedule regarding the destruction and retention of all records collected, created, received, maintained, or disseminated by a school district.

How can electronic document management platforms aid with compliance to record retention schedules?

An electronic document database allows school personnel to take record retention out of the hands and minds of staff members. Basically, the responsibility of document organization, retention, and destruction can all be automated within a secure repository.

  • Organization
    • Through the use of scanning software, documents can automatically enter the right file with the right retention settings.
  • Retention
    • Upon the expiration date for the document, it can either be removed from the system if authorized for destruction, or notify personnel that an updated document must be submitted to replace it.

It’s as simple as that.

Automated Reporting

How is it done?

When records exist electronically, organization and tagging are paramount to perfection. Labeled categories and sub-categories allow school personnel to pull some pretty interesting reports. For example, the overarching category “Student Records” is comprised of each student’s individual file. In each student file, records exist within the same sub-category. Simply, every file holds a birth record, a medical record, proof of residency, etc.

From an advanced document management dashboard, a well-managed view of records can be found and automatically updated daily. Things you should be able to view from a dashboard include new enrollments and expiring documents. On the other hand, missing documents are just as important to catch – and it is much easier to catch them when the student file is already built electronically and simply waiting for blanks to be filled.

Another useful function of automated reporting is scheduled exports. This refers to certain reports that need to be updated and referred to frequently, such as new student enrollments. With a scheduled export, your registrar can program this report to be pulled every day. To go a step further, your registrar can schedule the export of all new student medical documents and have it mailed to the school nurse every day.

How can advanced reporting help with budgetary and day-to-day planning?

To plan for coming years, schools need to glean a lot of statistical information from their student records. By capturing data at the time of enrollment, and updating that data throughout the student lifecycle, numerical evidence gives specific and trustworthy insight from automated reports. When done manually, these kinds of graphs are subject to human error. When calculated algorithmically through computer-generated reports, the results are much more dependable.

Reports can be generated based on an infinite amount of variables. For example, if your district captures data at the time of enrollment, they may ask registering parents how many siblings under the age of 5 a student has. From this information, a report may be pulled to show a projection for kindergarten registration. Another example may be a report pulled over the summer to show how many students will reach legal driving age. This would help project for the necessary amount of parking passes that may be distributed at the beginning of the next school year. Reports showing student eligibility for free/reduced lunch may help qualify for grants. Reports showing honor roll qualifiers, their amount of siblings and legal guardians, and allergies may help to plan a dinner event celebrating an Honor Roll Induction. The possibilities here are endless, and school district staff can get creative in order to prepare for an equally endless amount of situations.

Conclusion

Through expiration parameters set for certain documents and data, school districts can use electronic record management to automate compliance with federal, state, and local retention schedules. Additional reporting can aid in day-to-day organization for many different departments, as well as extending projection capabilities to help with planning and budgeting for coming years.

 

How to Prevent Address Fraud in your Schools

One of the challenges that public schools face is ensuring that all enrolled students are registered with legitimate addresses. It has become increasingly common for parents to enroll their children in a school out of district with fake addresses. This might mean that parents are using a family member’s home address, information from an old home that’s within the district or an entirely falsified address.

Districts are noticing this problem within their schools and are cracking down on the issue, enforcing strict policies that include fees for families that get caught enrolling students with inaccurate addresses. After all, educating students who are illegally registered takes seats and funding away from students who live within the district. However, a lot of schools that use paper-based enrollment processes are having trouble confirming accurate addresses. This is why many schools are going digital with online solutions like SRC Solution’s Address Purification Gateway, which automates a process of confirming legitimate student addresses.

If you’ve been debating whether to invest in a digital solution to assist your staff with identifying falsified addresses, here are the answers to the questions you’ve been asking.

How much does address fraud really cost schools?
Address fraud that occurs for a long period of time without interference can end up costing schools millions of dollars. A report by nonprofit organizations Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools and the Center for Popular Democracy found that fraud has cost U.S. charter schools over $200 million in recent years. According to the Washington Post, the 2015 report includes over $44 million from cases that happened before 2014, the 2014 total and the $23 million in new cases of fraud that have occurred since 2014.

The Washington Post also noted that while these figures only represent the money lost in the charter school sector, which educates around 5 percent of the students enrolled in public schools, the total loss for all schools due to address fraud throughout the U.S. in 2015 was about $1.4 billion. A large part of these wasted expenses include the estimated $2,500 spent on printing and mailing of student forms to incorrect addresses.

Ensure your schools are able to put funds toward student programs by preventing costly address fraud.

What are schools doing about the issue?
Officials from Chicago Public Schools have recently discovered several cases of address fraud in 11 of its highly-selective schools, explained Chicago news source DNAinfo. As a result, the district is sending a message to families that this illegal activity won’t be tolerated, charging families with out-of-district tuition fees that they believe to be the fair equivalent of the time and money they would have owed if enrolled correctly. For example, a student attended Payton High School for four years enrolled with a fake apartment address. Once this was discovered, the family was charged with a $45,000 non-resident tuition bill for the four years he attended. They’ve also implemented a life-time ban from all 11 schools for those caught.

“Fraud not only undermines confidence in the school system, it robs a deserving student of an important educational opportunity. With a lifetime ban, we are sending a strong message to parents that this fraud will no longer be tolerated and that consequences cannot be avoided.”

Forrest Claypool, CPS chief executive officer said in a press release, as quoted by DNAinfo.

Address fraud isn’t a problem limited to U.S. school districts. The Black Country and Staffordshire school districts in the U.K. recently reported finding 39 cases of address fraud over the past three years, according to the Express and Star. These students were removed from the school and residential students took their places.

What can you do to protect your schools?
Instead of hiring more staff members to closely monitor all of the new and existing student addresses, invest in an online solution that tracks student moves, performs an address analysis and validates data for you to catch any out-of-date addresses that would be hard to identify when assessing paper documents. Aside from lost time, man power and thousands in funding, address fraud also causes damage to schools’ reputations, which may encourage other families to enroll students with faulty information.

“If a district was to gain a reputation of not being particularly vigilant, there might be an invitation to other parents [living outside the district] to go ahead and bring your child in,” Jay Worona, general counsel to the New York State School Boards Association, told U.S. News and World Report.

The Address Purification Gateway will bring a high return on investment by cutting down on printing and mailing costs and saving funding for legally registered students. Don’t risk your district’s reputation by allowing address fraud to occur in your schools. Monitor both new and existing addresses with the Address Purification Gateway.

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overwhelmed secretary

5 Common Errors with Manual Registration

A digital registration solution can help both parents and staff make the registration process paperless, secure, and efficient. Switching from a manual, paper-based enrollment system to an online registration solution will mitigate risks like misplaced student files and data entry errors.

Many industries have switched from analog to digital in order to save space and increase efficiency. Think about how much easier it is to find the song you want to hear now that you no longer have to go through a CD collection, input the disk into another device, and read the jewel case to find the right song. You simply search for the song within your own digital library or elsewhere online and it pops up and plays. You also don’t have to risk opening the CD case to find that the disk has gone missing, or worse, a different CD in its place. This discovery could mean the entire organization of your CD collection has been compromised. School systems and offices are now feeling a similar relief when it comes to the registration information and necessary documentation of their staff and clients.

With an online registration solution, the common errors that come with manual registration are prevented entirely.  Within a school system, the standard process of registering a child for their education has been that the parent personally fills out the forms, which are handed over to school staff in order to be manually entered into the student information system (SIS) and then filed accordingly, as well as distributed throughout the staff appropriately. A similar process also occurs when new employees are hired and have to submit the same information to the human resources department. SRC Solutions has reinvented the standard by going digital. Here are the 5 most common errors of manual registration that can be automatically corrected and prevented by utilizing a digital system. The examples given below regarding new student enrollment can also be applied to a new hire situation between the HR department and a new employee.

  1. Prevent incomplete data while increasing parent confidence.

Digital solutions actually make parents feel more involved and confident about their student’s registration, while simultaneously preventing them from making mistakes and disrupting the whole process. Normally, a parent is handed a hefty paper packet which asks all the necessary questions a school must ask in order to keep track and take care of a student. When parents fill this kind of information out on paper, it is very easy for blanks to go unfilled, either because the parent is resistant to answer or because human error permits them to skip over a question. When filling out the information online, products such as Registration Gateway make sure the parent cannot move to the next set of questions without answering absolutely everything the school considers necessary. It also prevents them from entering data in an unacceptable format. This ensures that the data flowing into the SIS is clean and complete.

  1. Prevent illegible data while saving time for staff.

Everybody’s handwriting is different, and what is legible to one person is not always legible to the next. The next step in the traditional registration process after parents fill out the paper forms, is handing over that packet to a registrar or secretary to be manually entered into the SIS. Even if your paper registration packet is only 10 pages long, and you only have 500 students in one school, you’re still depending on your staff to manually enter 5,000 pages of information, and decipher 500 different kinds of handwriting. The average manual data entry error rate for humans is 1 percent, meaning that 1 out of every 100 entries is erroneous, explained Ugerboek Software. Registration Gateway eliminates this step of the process entirely. The data flows directly from the parent portal in Registration Gateway, and, after being approved by the school, transfers directly into the SIS. This means no more translating parents’ handwriting, and no misspellings in the data as a result. It also saves hours and hours of time and redundant effort for the staff.

  1. Better control and regulate the student data.

St. Street. Str. (555)123-4567. 555-123-4567. 5551234567. There are many different modes that data can be relayed when you hand a client a pen instead of offering them options to choose from. With a digital registration process, the input of data is regulated according to the administrator’s preference. The data relating to each individual student can be managed on a grand scale to make sure that the data is logged and stored in the most consistent manner possible. This prevents problems you might not expect, such as issues with mailing addresses, contact information, and student transportation information. For example, you may think you notified every parent of a child who lives on Main St. about a situation on their children’s bus route. But if one student has their data logged differently (ex. Main Street), their parents may fail to be informed. Registration Gateway from SRC Solutions, Inc. is completely tailorable to any individual school district’s needs and preferences.

  1. Paper is vulnerable – make your data safer.

Paper is an incredibly vulnerable substance. It can burn, it can be torn, it can turn to mush during a flood, and it can be stolen or misplaced. In cases of fire or flood, school systems that rely on paper files are left without a back-up plan; the data is simply destroyed. Forest Brook High School in Houston, Texas, recently fell under fire for failing to provide student records that proved former students had been enrolled in their school, reported KHOU.com. When investigated by the Texas Education Agency, the school was also found to have student enrollment files that were completely illegible and some students even had two completely different transcripts with varying information. The TEA noted that one of the issues behind the inaccurate, poorly maintained records is the recent floods that have swept through the city, which may have destroyed many of the missing documents. Natural disasters do happen, but the threat of being handled by man is much more common issue and can even be more detrimental to school security. Storing these files electronically not only ensures safety in case of tragedies or computer malfunctions, but it also protects them from the eyes and hands that shouldn’t be handling them, as well as making sure they are constantly in the correct place and easily accessible. To give you an idea of how much time and money searching for misplaced paper documents can cost an organization, the average office spends about 8 hours performing paper management. Business offices with about 1,000 employees waste approximately $48,000 per week due to the inability to locate and deliver needed information, according to the National Association of Professional Organizers. Password protection and data encryption makes every student’s information available to the parents and the appropriate members of the staff, but secures it against privacy invasion. This also prevents infractions upon the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which mandates that schools must keep a complete, organized file for every child and protect it against privacy breaches.

  1. Ensure that parents submit all the necessary documentation and eliminate appointments with parents (or bring it down to the bare minimum)

Many documents have to be submitted to enroll a child for school before they can actually attend school and be sorted into the correct classes. Birth certificates, social security cards, proof of residence, vaccination and allergy records, and other documentation are the parent’s responsibility to provide for the school. Neglecting to bring one of the documents to the scheduled registration appointment means they have to schedule another time to come in and complete the process. With online solutions like Registration Gateway, each of these documents can be scanned by the parents on their own time, and then automatically distributed to the appropriate departments within the school. While some schools do still require an actual appointment with the parents at the end of their digital registration process, this step could theoretically be eliminated. If this is not the case for a certain school, the online registration process can ease the ability to make appointments between parents and administrators, as well as provide a way for the documentation to be submitted before the appointment date, or at the very least prepare the parents to bring all the right documents in at that time.

About Registration Gateway

The only true paperless solution of its kind, Registration Gateway streamlines student registration, re-enrollment and information tracking into a simple, intuitive process. By digitizing and automatically integrating data into existing student information systems, Registration Gateway saves money, increases compliance, mitigates legal and disaster risk and creates new funding opportunities. To read more, click here.

a paper heart torn in half

10 Ways that Paper Will Break Your Heart

  1. Hard to access– Getting and using information within seconds, not days, is the norm in today’s global and mobile world. Paper lacks the immediacy and accessibility of electronic documents, and severely lengthens the time it takes for information to get from one person to the next. Paper can end up in the wrong file, mailed to the wrong address, or even in the trash – like at Intermediate School 47 in the Bronx, where 11 boxes of student documents were accidentally left on the curb. With electronic documents and workflow automation tools, you can create and route documents and data that can reach the right people, right away, without manual intervention. All they (teachers, principals, board members, students, and even parents) need is a device with internet connection and permission to access certain documents.
  2. The right information is harder to find – A study conducted by Deloitte & Touche found that U.S. managers spent an average of three hours a week looking for paper that had been misfiled, mislabeled, or lost. Electronic documents are easier to file and find because they can be indexed using keys like student ID, date, document type or other user-defines criteria. You can even use full-text searching, making it simple and quick to find important documents.
  3. Lack of process automation– Process automation is the intelligent management and routing of information through a business process or workflow. Using document management and distribution software, you can build rules to route, distribute and store electronic documents, reports and other data. At Passaic County Technical Institute, the database administrator used process automation tools to schedule reports to export and send themselves to the proper personnel every morning while she was away on vacation. You can also collaborate between departments or separate schools by sharing documents digitally so they can be reviewed, edited and saved.
  4. Unsatisfactory data collection and output quality – On paper, processes like school registration are muddied by guardians leaving fields blank, or secretaries misreading different kinds of handwriting. Using web-based form technology to collect and exchange information not only speeds up the process, but improves data quality. Software can be implemented in addition to data-capturing form technology to further improve data quality, such as type-ahead addresses verified through the USPS, and address purification mapping.
  5. Higher costs – Reams of paper, mailing expenses, manila folders, printer ink and repair – these things add up quickly. And let’s not forget the time it costs employees to manually enter data, file documents, retrieve them and scan them. Digital processes eliminates all of these costs once and for all.
  6. Slow return of approvals – Utilizing electronic signature solutions speeds up approval processes for external and internal documents. Electronic documents can be signed digitally and routed for the next step quickly, reliably and securely. This can speed up purchase requests, loan approvals, expense reports, contracts and much more. In terms of contact with parents, the electronic signature can facilitate the reception of report cards, permission slips, student handbook contracts, etc.
  7. Liability to regulatory compliance – Regulations such as HIPAA and FERPA require schools to take significant measures to maintain data confidentiality and integrity. Paper-based systems make tracking and managing data more difficult and expensive than digital document systems. Electronic document management systems can provide an audit trail of when documents are received or sent. Built-in security prevents unauthorized access, maintaining data confidentiality. FERPA also requires that parents be given certain student documents upon request within 30 days – with an electronic document management system they don’t even have to ask; they can simply be given an account and password for their student’s file upon enrollment.
  8. Its harmful to the environment– The world has begun to see the value in going green and reducing our carbon footprint. Going paperless by utilizing electronic document management systems and related technology helps cut down on deforestation and pollution.
  9. Improved service– Many customers prefer self-service over setting up appointments over the phone or waiting in line. The enrollment process during the start of a new school year in particular can create a long, long queue in the office. Providing electronic access to all relevant data not only gives customers more accurate and complete information, it makes them happier and more loyal customers. As does allowing customers or guardians to provide you with their relevant data. With certain software solutions, guardians can even access a calendar of open appointments and claim a slot for themselves without picking up the phone or visiting the school.
  10. Cluttered office space – A single filing cabinet holding 9,000 documents usually takes up about 20 sq. ft. in an office. Current estimates from author and efficiency researcher, K.J. McCorry show that 50-70% of space in an office are dedicated to filing and storing physical documents. Statistics also show that 3% of documents in each file cabinet are misfiled, and 45% of documents are duplicated information. That’s a lot of clutter and time spent sifting through it. With a virtual filing system, you’re saving the square footage in the office, around $300 per filing cabinet, and a whole lot of headaches that come with a crowded, less organized workspace.
a boss shakes the hand of a new-hire

How can Digital Workflows Enhance Human Resources Onboarding Management?

Creating, storing and retaining important paper documents for new hires costs schools time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. Meeting compliance regulations and accessing the appropriate data when necessary can also be challenging when administrators have to keep track of paper forms every time new teachers are hired.

Online human resources solutions can streamline onboarding processes by making data easier to access in a system where security breaches are less likely. Districts considering whether to make the transition from paper to digital human resources workflows should take note of these benefits.

An easy switch
If your district uses paper-based workflows for onboarding processes but you’ve been hesitant to go digital due to fear that the switch will take time and effort your staff doesn’t have, rest assured that the transition is a simple one. With SRC Solution’s Human Resources Gateway, you can easily integrate your applicant tracking system, as the software works with most major applicant tracking software.

Every time a new teacher is hired, there information can be integrated into the school's registration software.Every time a new teacher is hired, their information can easily be entered into the human resources software.

Control over new hire documents
With paper documents, there’s always a risk of security breaches. Online HR software ensures that you have complete control over who is able to see and access information about your new teachers. It also helps to mitigate risk by providing immediate access to any data that’s requested by the new employee or during a compliance audit. It’s important that you have essential information ready to go when requested.

If critical files are lost or sensitive data is stolen, schools could risk losing their new hires. According to research by software company Panopto, filling a position that was left open by a new employee because of an onboarding error can cost up to $11,000. Eliminate these risks by storing everything in a secure, accessible system.

More time and savings
As all of your new hire information will be stored in one online portal, this frees up a lot of extra time for your tech teams, which only need to support this one system. School administrators also have more time to focus on other tasks because they don’t have to organize and file hundreds of important documents – online solutions make data entry quick and easy and files searchable. Without the costs required for extra storage space and paper and printing costs for distributing forms to new employees, schools also see a high return on investment after investing in human resources software.

Protect your School’s Network Security

School districts across the nation, such as San Dimas High School (CA), Fulton High School(MO), and Comack Union Free High School (NY) have been hacked by their very own students in the past year, which tells us that when it comes to school network security, we need to protect our servers from threats on the inside.

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are plaguing districts with increasing frequency. For the sake of pure mischief, these attacks saturate servers with so many external communications requests that they can’t respond to legitimate school traffic, such as teachers trying to access online grades or email. These attacks can range from a slight annoyance, such as the single student who brought down Fulton High School’s network for a few hours, to downright disastrous, such as the month-long network shut down at Community Unit School District 303 in Illinois. The scary part is it only took two high school students and their smartphones to launch this devastating attack on the school’s network.

So how do we prevent our networks from becoming liable to DDoS attacks and our most connivingly tech-savvy students?

Teachers aren’t always aware that they can open doors to security risks when they log into school’s network while students are around. Even more dangerous, as teachers access different web apps on the school network throughout the day, it is not unusual for teachers to leave some or all of their accounts logged in at the end of the day.

Properly signing off of each account goes a long way to protect the school network server and database. Allowing the IT department to implement a privacy protocol is a very effective first step towards ensuring digital security, as long as it’s followed by rigorously educating staff on what that protocol is.

Are there more technologically-offensive approaches to preventing DDoS attacks?

  • Disruptions are rendered short-lived if a district has a software protocol that shifts unwanted inbound traffic to a separate IP address.
  • Intrusion detection software can alert IT staff, who can then shut down DDoS attacks before they cause more disruption.
  • Having two data centers is also a foolproof way to sidetrack DDoS attacks. If the first data center becomes flooded with unwanted traffic, IT can switch all users to the second one so that network access can continue uninterruptedly for other school staff.
  • Although currently at a very high cost, DDoS-mitigation software automatically shuts down attacks without the second step of manual intervention.
  • Storing files in a secure cloud and preventing school staff from downloading files onto personal devices can go a long way to protect sensitive data – as long as staff are taking all the necessary precautions to protect login data. This includes changing passwords frequently, keeping passwords complex, never sharing passwords, and logging off of all accounts when leaving a device.
  • Narrowing the amount of authorized personnel from accessing certain information minimizes risk. This can happen on various levels, such as barring almost all school staff members from accessing social security numbers, and limiting teachers’ access to their own students’ information rather than the entire student body.
  • IAM (Identity and Access Management) technology lets users access online resources with a single sign-on that meets district security policies. IAM also puts tighter controls in the hands of IT staff. This includes automating when accounts, resources and certain operations should be blocked.
Registration Gateway