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Finding First-Class Support

Augusta County Public Schools, Verona

We were pleased with our SIS vendor but Pearson bought them and killed the system…we were blindsided,” said Frank Walters, Augusta’s SIS Manager. The district suddenly faced two challenges.."
Frank Walters, SIS Manager

“Pearson obviously wanted everyone to buy PowerSchool,” Walters said. “And everyone in Virginia recognized Pearson and PowerSchool. People asked, ‘Why wouldn’t you just go with the industry standard?’ We were often criticized for taking a different path and not blindly following other Virginia divisions. But I knew what we needed...and it wasn’t PowerSchool.”

Walters made sure any potential vendor was open to his expectations regarding Augusta’s database. “We needed the ability to access, manipulate, and update the database. Some vendors wouldn’t give us access and couldn’t understand why that was important. Campus offered access.”

Walters said seven vendors were considered and Campus stood out functionally and financially. “No system had more bells and whistles. I didn’t see a better overall SIS than Campus. I told our finance officer we’d save money with Campus and data would be more accurate once we went from disparate systems to everything under one umbrella.”

“Charlie Kratsch (Infinite Campus Founder and CEO) sold me on his vision for how technology can transform education… that districts can’t stay stuck in their old ways and need to adapt so they can use data to make better decisions,” Walters said. “I remember him saying ‘If the SIS you buy today looks the same in five years, you bought the wrong SIS!’ I mention that when people ask, ‘Why has Campus changed this or that?’ Things change quickly in education so why shouldn’t we have something that is dynamic and not static for years?”

Augusta has consistently added Campus Premium Products to the core SIS for an integrated, single solution. A secondary benefit of integration has been increased communication in the division. “Adding Campus Food Service, Messenger, Online Payments and Online Registration brought stakeholders together,” Walters said. “People who had never talked before came to the same table. Together, we looked at business practices that had been in place forever and implemented more efficient procedures.

We have become a bit of glue amongst stakeholders across many departments. We bring people together to talk and then improve business practices that make their lives less stressful and create better experiences for students and parents.”

“When counselors look at transcripts and when parents and students look in the portal…it’s the same reaction: it’s all there and it’s accurate. I have seen the number of help tickets and complaints about inconsistent data dramatically decline.”

“Online Registration (OLR) is the best Campus product we have implemented,” Walters said. “Before, schools were collecting data on phone calls, Google Docs, forms… resulting in piles of papers. Then, six people in six different departments had to enter it. Now, parents enter data online and it goes to all the right places. Staff no longer have to say, ‘I don’t know how that information got there’ because the parent put it there.

The integration is seamless and parents control the information. Parents love that they are doing the data entry instead of writing it on paper and hoping a staff member can read it and get it entered within a couple weeks. Secretaries don’t have to enter the data, they just review it and click accept or reject. They see that OLR works as promised and wasn’t too good to be true.”

“I go to schools during registration events and I’ve seen the difference OLR has made. I see the pride when parents can choose the ‘already registered online’ line, breeze through what they have to do, and are out in minutes. The other parents stand in a line that’s 10 deep and wait to sit at a computer. My goal is to help schools organize and improve their registration processes even more with OLR.”

According to Eric W. Bond, Ed. D., Augusta’s Division Superintendent, having a single solution has been beneficial. “In the past, in addition to an SIS, we had to purchase, populate, and maintain numerous individual applications such as food service, messenger, health records, registration, and grade book,” Bond said. “With Campus, the disparate applications have been incorporated into one application providing staff a single point of access…eliminating the need for data choreography between numerous systems and multiple login accounts.”

“I know you have a ton of other users but we feel like close friends to you and that is highly unusual…it’s a neat concept,” Walters said. “I tell everybody that the Infinite Campus staff is always friendly and professional. I can’t say that about all our vendors.

Most importantly, you’re timely in resolving issues…that’s critical. SIS departments are always under timelines for state reporting, federal reporting, and whatever. If we need it right away, Campus delivers it right away. We have more than a dozen vendors and Campus is the most responsive. Timeliness in response… it’s a game changer.”

“I’ve been doing this for 15 years and previously had my own business selling computers and network systems to businesses,” Walters said. “I know the value of support. 

Campus received a couple similar calls from our staff so they reached out to me. We looked into it and learned we gave the wrong directive in training. But that was great…Campus flagged it and called. You just don’t see that in the support world.”

“Infinite Campus is much more than an SIS,” Walters said. “It’s a messaging system, it’s a food service system…you can do personnel and finance tasks…and more. We customize Campus for what we need now and know it will serve us in the future. Most importantly, Campus is flexible because we can’t tell 18 schools they have to work the same way, we can’t do that. No TWO schools even work the same way!” 

“Other divisions say ‘We don’t have the staff to look at a different system or we don’t have the money.’ My reply: You might want to get a quote from Campus because you may be surprised! You can get by with less staff because you don’t need to make disparate systems talk to each other. And look at the cost of all your systems…rolling them all under one company may save you a lot of money.” 

“If you have a decent product and decent support then you’re ahead of everybody,” Walters said. “If you want a great product and great support, Campus is the obvious choice.” 

“Our schools have realized it’s about more than just collecting data and sending it to the state or to the feds; it’s about the experience parents and students have in the school system. If you’re willing to review your business practices, data collection practices, and reporting processes and then use the SIS to improve each of those, Campus can transform your division. Campus has exceeded my expectations.”

The Campus Support team won two awards at the HDI 2019 Conference in Orlando:
• Team Excellence Award
• Best Service & Support Culture Award

“We didn’t win because we do everything perfectly,” said Gina Montague, Manager, Support Services. “We won because we have a passion for excellence and striving to make things better.”

HDI is the technical support industry’s certification body and annually honors organizations for leadership and innovation; past winners include Marriott, American Express, and PepsiCo.

Full 2019 Travel Issue available here.