Allentown School District in Pennsylvania Has Moved Light Years Ahead
What does “Going Green” mean for your school district? With the challenge of an economic recession and looming budget cuts, school districts are forced to think critically and creatively about district spending. A green initiative for your district not only benefits the environment, but saves money as well.
As the fourth largest district in Pennsylvania, Allentown School District challenged itself by looking into a paperless future for the district of over 18,000 students and 2,400 employees. Where did Allentown see a good place to start? By purchasing the Skyward School Business Suite™ to manage the district’s finance and human resources information.
Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Allentown School District has a diverse population of students who come from 41 different countries and speak 24 different languages. Because of its size and diverse population, Allentown recognized its needs were different than other districts in the area. The district required a finance and HR solution that would save time and be more paper efficient so the staff could spend more time away from administrative tasks and focus on student needs.
In 2008, Allentown began the process of researching a new business system for its district. Trevor Jackson, acting chief financial officer for Allentown, was a part of the discussions in weighing the pros and cons of different systems. Jackson said the previous system was functional and knew how to get the job done, but left no opportunity for growth and advancement to expand with the district’s green initiative.
“Not everyone was using our current system and we had staff members who were going to use the new system who were not very familiar with working with computers,” said Jackson. “We required a system that was user friendly and could handle the large amount of electronic journal entries, timesheets, and report writing that we wanted to make paperless.”
After a comprehensive evaluation of all possible solutions, Allentown chose Skyward. They recognized that Skyward could help achieve Allentown's district goal of being paperless in two years because Skyward has been using its own software to make the company operations paperless for years. By electronically scanning in all payroll, HR, and budget information, Skyward removed a hallway lined with file cabinets and drawers full of reports. Allentown saw that just by converting the payroll check register to Skyward’s electronic Payroll module, they could transform hundreds of pages to a digital file that could be accessed at any time.
Allentown’s conversion to Skyward was unique. Because the system they were previously using was a home-grown system, the Skyward conversion team put in extra hours to assure the conversion was seamless.
“The level of attention Skyward afforded us during our conversion was excellent,” said Jackson.
Jackson also commented on how calm and confident the Skyward conversion team was. New implementations can be very stressful and hectic and Jackson said Skyward assured Allentown that nothing was a big deal to them.
“We all wondered, ‘Are all Skyward employees required to go through training on how to remain calm during a busy time?’” said Jackson. “Everyone worked hard and stayed late to make sure all of our cross-referencing fields matched.”
During the conversion, Skyward also worked closely with Allentown to ensure all of the district’s timesheets and payroll information converted accurately for the district's over 2,400 staff members. As a part of Allentown’s paperless goal, the district also purchased Skyward’s Employee Access to allow staff to go online to view their paystubs in an electronic format. Not only will this save the district money in printing costs, but it will provide a detailed electronic history for staff to view their paystubs at any time.
Saving Money and Moving Light Years Ahead
Another way Allentown will see cost-saving benefits for the district is by selecting software that is School Interoperability Framework (SIF) compliant. Because Skyward is SIF compliant, it works with existing software that Allentown is using, which assures the district that data entered in one application is shared throughout the other programs, leading to improved accuracy and reliability of the data without incurring expensive custom development costs. This will also eliminate the paper shuffle between district offices by allowing data to be entered only once in a single application.
“Our IT director had high marks for Skyward being SIF compliant,” said Jackson. “This will help verify that our data is accurate, which will enhance our reporting and decision making, all while cutting back on our excessive use of paper when creating budget and financial reports.”
The additional add-on modules Skyward provides in its School Business Suite are also being looked at by the district to assist with its paperless goal. Jackson said Allentown is looking into purchasing the Inventory module to manage its inventory costs with tighter control of warehouse and inventory levels. Allentown also purchased FastTrack, which is a 100% web-based applicant tracker that allows the district to post and review job applications anytime and anywhere with an internet connection. Once the applicant is hired, all of his/her information is automatically transferred into Allentown’s Employee Access and Payroll, eliminating the need to sift through paper applications to re-enter the new hire’s information.
“By using Skyward, we have moved light years ahead,” said Jackson. “The greatest benefit we’ve experienced so far is that we are shifting the approval process for purchase orders from a paper-intensive task to a completely electronic approval process that requires no paper to be printed. We are looking forward to working with Skyward in the years to come to see how far we've grown in our green initiative."
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