Lawrence school board agrees to purchase ‘user-friendly’ student information system

Lawrence USD 497 school board

Students, parents, teachers and administrators will benefit from Monday’s decision to replace the Lawrence school district’s cumbersome student information system with a new user-friendly platform, school board members were told.

The board approved Monday the purchase and installation of the PowerSchool platform for all district schools for the 2018-2019 school year.

PowerSchool will cost the district $202,405 annually and will require the district spend another $131,589 in one-time installation costs, said Kathy Johnson, the district’s director of finance. However, the district will save $71,595 annually in future years because PowerSchool will make unnecessary multiple systems the district currently uses, which come with an annual cost of $274,000, she said.

In moving to PowerSchool, the Lawrence district will join about 80 percent of the school districts in the state and a large number nationwide, said Jerri Kemble, assistant superintendent of leading, learning and technology.

Among the systems PowerSchool will replace is the current student information system Skyward, the district’s learning management system, special education IEP system and library management, said Terry McEwen, director of assessment, research and accountability.

“PowerSchool is a student information system, first and foremost,” he said. “But it is also a platform for learning. It also is a platform for application systems, and so it begins to integrate all these disparate systems into a single system, all of which talks to itself. You eliminate the need for all these extra third-party vendors so our systems can talk to each other.”

It will also integrate with other systems the district currently uses, including Google Suite, Outlook email and the school fee payment program, McEwen said.

The replacement of multiple programs will make PowerSchool much more user-friendly for students, teachers, parents and administrators, said Kirsten Wondra, assistant director of learning and technology. Parents will be able to track their children’s progress in real time rather than waiting for report cards, she said.

West Middle School Principal Brad Kempf said it seemed he was taking a step backward when he came to the Lawrence district from Emporia.

“I came from a district in the PowerSchool world,” he said. “PowerSchool has a dashboard that with one click, you can see how a student is doing in assessment tests, attendance, tardiness. Everything is right there for you.”

In other business, the board agreed to adopt a performance-based superintendent evaluation tool, which board members characterized as a “job description”-type model. The process will start with a superintendent’s self-evaluation and end with a full evaluation via conference with the board, at which agreed-upon improvement goals will be discussed.

Board members used the new tool to evaluate interim superintendent Anna Stubblefield in February. Board president Shannon Kimball said by state statute, the board must evaluate the new superintendent, who will start July 1, 2018, twice per year in that person’s first two years on the job.