Transparency. Accountability. Empowerment. These are some of the many buzzwords you will encounter if you stop by a school front office. This isn’t to say concepts such as empowerment and transparency are ineffective. Rather, the point is many school districts say these words but fail to apply them in their everyday operations.
However, Streator Elementary School District #44 (Streator 44), located southwest of Chicago, puts words into action. Front office staff communicate with teams in real time. Employees manage their own information and processes without delay. And the entire district saves money while cutting down on manual tasks.
It wasn’t always this way. Streator 44 once struggled with a paper-based payroll method, communication challenges among employees, and a purchase approval process with no gatekeeper. Fortunately, Skyward’s School Business Suite helped Streator 44 reimagine its employee management and financial practices. As a result, the district restored time, money, and independence to every level of their front office operations.
"AT THIS POINT WE ARE SAVING ROUGHLY FOUR HOURS PER PAY PERIOD."
Reclaiming the Front Office’s Time
It’s hard to believe now, but Dr. Lisa Parker, Streator 44’s superintendent, once thought the district would be hiring a new part-time employee due to increasing demands in the front office. Thanks to the automated features in Skyward’s Employee Access, the district eliminated the need for the proposed position and allocated those funds for other district improvements.
“I once worked at a district using multiple databases, each of which didn’t always easily communicate well with the other,” explained Dr. Parker. “That alone makes Skyward stand out, because it interacts and integrates so much easier. From a superintendent perspective, the time savings alone have been key. I am responsible for approving many items and the more I can do with the click of a button, the easier my job is.”
Every payday is a little calmer now too. In the past, Streator 44’s front office spent hours stuffing paychecks or handling employee requests to view pay stubs. With the combination of Skyward’s Employee Access and Payroll solutions, that time has been cut in half.
“At this point we are saving roughly four hours per pay period on stuffing paychecks,” explained Holly Cashmer, the district’s human resources specialist. “By saving me so much time, I’ve been able to continue focusing on new solutions we can add to make our district’s day-to-day processes easier and more efficient.”
"PEOPLE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW HOW MANY DAYS OFF THEY HAD BANKED BEFORE SKYWARD HELPED AUTOMATE THE PROCESS."
Prioritizing Employee Freedom
Streator 44’ satisfaction is extending beyond the front office. The implementation of Skyward’s Employee Access portal has given employees more information and power than ever before. Most notably, employees have a clear view of time off requests and their financial information—a basic need that was missing in the past.
“People didn’t even know how many days off they had banked before Skyward helped automate the process,” explained Dr. Parker. “Now they can view their requests and approvals within seconds and I can approve their requests right from my phone. Even better, the training took less than a minute for each employee.”
The improvements don’t stop at time off requests though. Each employee can view and print items like pay stubs or update emergency contact information.
“We are reviewing requests faster than ever before in the front office, but more importantly Skyward has helped give our employees more control when it comes to their information,” explained Dr. Parker. “Skyward has greatly reduced the number of employee questions coming into the district office and as an added benefit, employee data is more accurate.”
"OUR BUSINESS TEAM RESTS EASY KNOWING OUR BUDGET IS IN LINE!"
Discovering a New Path to Financial Prosperity
Before using Skyward’s School Business Suite to manage financial operations, Streator 44 relied on a deficit reduction plan for several years. Dr. Parker needed to find a solution to the district’s financial woes and began her search with purchase approvals. Without much digging, Dr. Parker discovered Streator 44 didn’t have an approval process. In fact, employees who submitted purchase orders were essentially approving their own requests without an actual process to safeguard against unnecessary spending.
“Some of our staff didn’t even know how much money they had in line items to spend and were spending without a plan,” explained Dr. Parker.
With the problem identified, Dr. Parker turned to Skyward’s Purchasing
solution, where she required the system to take employees through a purchase approval process. While the district is still under a deficit reduction plan, the results are quickly speaking for themselves.
“I am proud to say our financial ranking went from Financial Watch List to the Financial Review List, and I think a big part of that was using Skyward to institute an approval process,” explained Dr. Parker. “Plus, it fit our goal of becoming efficient. Employees enjoy an automated approval process, while our business team rests easy knowing our budget is in line!”
Continuing to Expand
While Streator 44’s changes have been impressive, the district office is determined to improve more in the upcoming year. The first goal on their list? Implementing online student enrollment with the help of Skyward.
“Once we fully implement Skyward’s Online Enrollment feature, I think we are going to save massive amounts of employee time,” explained Dr. Parker “We have approximately 15 employees working two straight days on enrollment. That doesn’t even include the packets and handbooks for each of our 1,500 students.”
The future for Streator 44 is exciting, but so is their present-day culture. Employees have new levels of freedom, the district has more funds than in previous years, and the front office has more time to focus on overall improvements. Needless to say, Streator 44 views transparency, accountability, and empowerment as more than buzzwords. They are truths that describe the district’s new reality.
Follow-up resource: School Business Suite
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