The underbelly of a successful, well-run school district is underappreciated in its complexity. A school district essentially functions as a nonprofit business that manages students, parents, teachers, non-teaching staff, food service staff, transportation teams and fleet, delivery and logistics, facility management and custodial needs, events and fundraising, and so much more. Few people stop to appreciate the multifaceted management requirements of a superintendent, principal, or administrative team for a public school distric, charter school, private or parochial district, or any school facility. Like most other businesses and organizations, the gritty details of its operations are kept cloaked behind the highly functional, bright-and-shiny public-facing persona. However, it is the hard work and smart tools behind the scenes that make that friendly façade possible for your school network.
What software considerations should your district be making? If it’s time to upgrade, where do you begin researching the best of the best? Below are 11 of the most essential types of software your district could need. Keep in mind, there are tons of options and your research should include reading reviews, trialing demos, and having conversations within your network of administrators nationwide.
11 Types of Software Every School or District Must Have
A Robust Student Portal and SIS
SIS is an acronym you’ll see often and it stands for Student Information System or Software. There’s so much information to track, manage, and organize on behalf of your students. You’ll need a database that includes student personal information and family information, parent contacts, lifetime attendance, and other records required by the state and federal education departments. Compare to Edsby which offers a multifaceted dashboard and a collaborative approach to student data.
Grades and Reporting Database
In addition to the SIS, you also need to track assessment scores and grades for each student in a cohesive way. You may be able to rope this information into your SIS or your instruction and curriculum programs. Compare what you find to the robust classroom management of ClassReach which is extremely customizable and especially usable for Montessori or other alternative classrooms.
Curriculum and Instruction Integration
Like Blackboard for higher ed, you may want your teachers to have a robust teacher-to-student platform that offers opportunities to take online quizzes, house slideshows or videos, share documents, and turn in assignments. If so, compare these to CANVAS. This platform is a modern LMS (learning management system) which integrates with more niche programs and apps than almost any other LMS.
Behavior Tracking and Management
Behavior tracking is an essential part of measuring and fostering student success and the well-being of your district. Software can help you track detentions and suspensions as well as smaller infractions, parent contact, and repeat reprimands. Edvance is a great example of a cloud-based approach to behavior and student data that is accessible by students, teachers, parents, and administrators all at once.
You serve hot lunches and your cafeteria staff needs to take payment, manage inventory, plan menus and generally run their restaurant-lite. Software like Lunchtime includes modules for retail point of sale for meals, food stock inventory, logistic needs, accounting, and integrations for free and reduced lunch programs from your state or the U.S. DOE.
Library and Media Management
Another adjunct facet of your district is the library. Your librarian is tasked with major resource management and should have a reliable database of all books and other media in the library which can provide scanning capabilities and fine-reconciliation all in one dashboard. Many districts are enjoying Destiny from Follett Learning which offers a really nice student-facing portal to find and check out materials as well as a staff-facing portal that manages those materials, tracks fines and overdues, and connects to external resources.
Teachers and the district as a whole may want to have a parent portal where parents can sign permission slips, make payments, access grades and behavioral info, schedule conferences, and receive SMS notifications with district-wide updates. Bloomz is a great (free!) portal for students, teachers, parents, and administrators to stay on the same page.
Special Education and IEP Database
Students with IEPs, their parents, their teachers, other aides or professionals such as SLPs, OTs, school psychologists and more need to stay on the same page. Rather than issuing a mass email and hoping everyone has the same information, consider using Infinite Campus which includes a robust and dedicated approach to IEP management.
Fundraising & Event Management
Your district administrators, teachers, parents, PTA organizers, and other fundraising and event coordinating folks will really appreciate a one-stop place to schedule events, organize fundraising efforts, and manage the community support for your school. Though this is especially important for charter and private schools, public schools also benefit from software like FreshSchools which engages the community, helps track raised funds, controls event ticket sales, manages volunteers and so much more.
Accounting, HR, and Business
Your school district is essentially a business – you have to manage your financials and accounts, human resources documentation, and other business dealings all in one place. Skyward is a popular choice for districts because they offer a comprehensive SIS as well as the ERP (enterprise resource planning) functionality you need like HR, accounting, and more.
Staff Scheduling, Attendance, and Substitute Management
One of the most underrated parts of the HR component to your district is the management of teacher absences and substitute availability and scheduling. With a highly-developed substitute management system, you can automate the process of sourcing and scheduling subs when your teachers are out sick which saves time and resources in the clutch. The best of only a few capable software options for sub sourcing and management is Subzz. To learn more about Subzz, check out the features here.
If you are looking for new software to serve any of these purposes, do your research and before you buy, schedule a demo where you can see the program in action and ask any questions you may have.