By Dr. Mark Frost, former teacher, principal and assistant superintendent for Human Resource Services
School districts are like businesses in many ways.
Think about it: At the top is a CEO (superintendent), a Board of Directors (school board), and vice presidents (assistant superintendents). In many communities, the local school district is among the largest employers. Districts often run the most extensive transportation systems and food services in the area. Of course, in the case of school districts, the goal of the company is not profit but to educate students to prepare them for life beyond high school.
Still, most state and federal agency laws apply to school districts, including those related to recordkeeping. School districts and institutions are audited for financial management, legal compliance, EEOC, DOL, OCR, and more, while requirements to produce documents and records under state Sunshine laws or Freedom of Information Acts apply no less. Because most school districts aren’t large enough to employ dedicated human resources administrators, remaining well-versed and up-to-date regarding laws, compliance, and best practices is challenging. Even for districts with dedicated HR support, being entirely knowledgeable on various records requirements remains burdensome.
Keeping up with change
Change is a constant in all school districts — perhaps more than in the private sector. While meeting the social, emotional, and academic needs of students is challenging enough, districts also must respond to and comply with federal and state Department of Education initiatives and requests for information, which can shift as unpredictably as the legislative winds.
Thus, most educators understand the need to streamline the myriad processes inherent to supporting those goals day-to-day and to provide easy access to data and analytics to appease those “shareholders.” But the time to strategically identify the outcomes and functionalities of such automation is too often fleeting. Instead, the pressing responsive and operational needs seem to control each day’s agenda.
Technology use in school districts
Put simply, records are documents supporting an event or action but the management of those records is one of the fundamental challenges facing districts: Who needs to see, approve, or take action on a document? How do we know all documents are present and properly filed? Which documents are eligible for purging? Can we automate the distribution of notifications, reminding staff to submit documents or take action on a request?