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.
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.
- Through the use of scanning software, documents can automatically enter the right file with the right retention settings.
- 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.
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.
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.