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South-Western City School District, Grove City

We were looking to move from a COBOL-based system we had written to a 21st century system just as the state was buying eSIS licenses for districts. eSIS wasn’t the best technology out there and we wouldn’t have picked it but compared to a million dollars, free looked pretty good!"
Robert Kramer (seated), Programmer on the Data Center team, and Bryan Mulvany, Executive Director of Information Services

Previously using a home-grown system, Ohio’s sixth largest district took a chance when the state offered eSIS for free.

“We were looking to move from a COBOL-based system we had written to a 21st century system just as the state was buying eSIS licenses for districts,” said Bryan Mulvany, South-Western City School District’s (SWCSD) Executive Director of Information Services. “eSIS wasn’t the best technology out there and we wouldn’t have picked it but compared to a million dollars, free looked pretty good!” 

For seven years, SWCSD tolerated various eSIS issues...the worst being state reporting. “They didn’t have dedicated analysts and kept bringing in different people,” Mulvany said. “We had to educate them all on EMIS (state reporting) terminology and all kinds of things. They were not up on state reporting and certainly not knowledgeable of Ohio state reporting.”

Mulvany said requesting state reporting changes was expensive, as they weren’t necessarily included with the product. “To get them to do anything was often an uphill and expensive battle. Frankly, we never got the impression they cared that much…often it was, ‘that sounds like an Ohio problem.’” 

eSIS shortcomings extended beyond state reporting. “Ad hoc reporting was rudimentary… it was terrible,” said Robert Kramer, SWCSD Programmer on the Data Center team. “And if something in the core SIS was broke - unless it was totally broken - you worked around it. If you wanted an enhancement, you got your checkbook out because you paid through the nose for those.” 

Despite the issues, SWCSD wasn’t considering a new SIS. That quickly changed when Pearson purchased eSIS in 2010. “One of the first messages was ‘we’re going to discontinue eSIS and if you switch to Power- School we’ll cut you a deal the first couple years,’” Mulvany said. With end of life 18 months away, SWCSD issued an RFP.

As the SWCSD selection team reduced the field to three finalists, it brought more users into the selection process. “Teachers, principals, nurses, librarians, special ed professionals…we included every walk of life in the district so that nobody felt left out,” Robert Kramer said. “Ultimately, Infinite Campus was selected by more than 70% of the users.”

We have talented people here who know how to develop software and have ideas…and Campus listens."
...a release every four weeks. I don’t think one has been missed yet and we’ve been on Campus for years."

1,480 Tools in the Core SIS

The Infinite Campus student information system (SIS) offers more core functionality than any other SIS. We help the K12 community efficiently serve students; data is entered once and immediately available across the district or school. 

“That’s what we love…we can continue adding other aspects of Campus to our operations and bring more under one umbrella,” Mulvany said. “The entirety of Infinite Campus is what makes it so great! All student- related data in a single system, that’s the genius of Infinite Campus.

Not having to support data sharing between online payments, online registration, IEPs/ETRs, business intelligence, and data visualization has been a real advantage for our team. We focus more resources on helping end users improve student learning versus supporting the operation of, and data sharing between, different systems. Another benefit is that you’re not teaching people how to log in to and navigate eight different systems. You instantly gain efficiencies with nomenclature and language. With multiple interfaces you can’t even talk to one another because everything, down to the buttons, is different. In Campus, it’s all tab-based and there’s consistent navigation on the left side…so helpful for talking to one another about the system and really, just for doing your jobs.”

In eSIS, Kramer said customizations were incredibly difficult, at best. “In Campus, you can do almost anything in terms of filters and data through ad hoc reporting and customization of tabs and fields,” he said. “If the data is there, you can filter on it…it kind of amazes people when they come to work here from a non-Campus district. 

And if you use Crystal Reports like we do, outline links allow for a seamless integration from the end-user perspective. Our users run reports in a landing page and don’t even know they’ve technically left Campus. No login is needed and parameters can be passed so users seamlessly go to the other system.”

SWCSD implemented Tableau, an optional product, to visualize student and district- wide data. “We’re next to Columbus City Schools and for years they had talked about all the things they could do with their separate data warehouse system,” Mulvany said. “When we integrated Tableau with Campus… it was the solution that I had wanted for years. For example, Robert recently created a dashboard that shows the correlation of a student’s class grade and their score on a state-mandated test. So, we can see if all kids in a class are getting A’s but they’re not all passing the state test; that makes a difference for kids. Tableau lets us see if things we do in a classroom are leading students toward success.”

“We have been able to do so much more with how Campus handles addresses,” Kramer said. “We loaded every single address in our county, and even some from surrounding counties, into the system. In the beginning, the biggest win was people weren’t typing addresses…they just picked them from the list, which eliminated duplicate data entry. How Campus manages households is just phenomenal.”

Getting new users up to speed and managing releases is easy with Campus. “I absolutely love Campus Community,” Kramer said. “When training, the first thing I have users do is make a free Campus Community account. Then, they can choose how to learn from all the different methods like videos, simulations, curriculum, study guides, and documentation. 

The documentation is fantastic, accurate, and engaging. eSIS documentation was like a mind-numbing white paper. At best it put you to sleep and at worst, it was out of date…which was shocking because they did so few updates.” 

SWCSD also utilizes Infinite Campus University (ICU) for comprehensive, ongoing product training. “We use all aspects of ICU…the Lunch and Learn Sessions, Teacher Tuesdays, and join all the webinars that keep us current on constant changes,” Kramer said. “Our users can look for it, find it, and learn it…and be empowered to be self-sufficient!”

“The Campus Parent and Campus Student portals are immensely powerful,” Kramer said. “We’re using them as intended and for more. When the state sends results on a state-mandated test, they provide a pdf of each student’s results. Because the way our tools are set up, we actually load the individual pdf’s into a database so a parent can go to Campus Parent and see their student’s individualized pdf; those additional parent communications are really powerful. 

From an ease-of-use standpoint, teachers can communicate directly with parents from within the system they use every single day. And, we love that parents can decide how we communicate with them...such as, on which phones.”

We have talented people here who know how to develop software and have ideas…and Campus listens,” Mulvany said. “We can get on the phone with the analysts about enhancements or a product implementation and talk it through. With our prior vendor, paper was just passed back and forth; there were no conversations. It’s nice to work with a company that’s easy to work with. 

Communication is just so important in a big district like ours. A powerful way we communicate is by having an auto-dialer integrated with our SIS. We can easily send to subsets of kids in our database to communicate about a late bus, for example. Before, we never had enough information, like bus numbers, on our auto-dialer to send those targeted communications."

“It’s very obvious Campus understands the importance of processes and quality release testing to make sure releases are solid before putting them out the door; it is impressive,” Bryan Mulvany said. “For releases, we can see every last detail so it’s easy to get ready and then roll enhancements out to users. We take enhancements right away and something we love is the consistency of Campus…a release every four weeks. I don’t think one has been missed yet and we’ve been on Campus for years.” 

“We can tell it’s a well-run company with a great process structure,” Robert Kramer said. “Professionalism is demonstrated in all aspects.”

More than 200 in-house developers focus on new tools and FREE product enhancements. Last year, 527 SIS enhancements flew out from Campus to customers.

“In the last couple years, we finally made the jump I envisioned when I came to SWCSD,” Mulvany said. “With our COBOL-based, homegrown systems, WE were developing software and dealing with state reporting changes. WE had to come up with a user interface and how to collect and report the data. That just seemed like such a waste of time to me. There are people who built businesses, like Infinite Campus, that provide K12 software. We need to help the district integrate it and start answering the questions that make a difference for kids.”

“We weren’t searching for an SIS until faced with an end of life,” Mulvany said. “But in the end, it was definitely for the better…no question.”

Full 2019 Travel Issue available here.