Important Types of Software Every School District Should Have

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.

Cafeteria Software

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.

Parent Communication

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.

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Should I Sub?: Weighing the Pros and Cons of Substitute Teaching

Teaching is difficult – whether your students are Ph.D candidates or Pre-K kiddos. Managing a classroom of any group of people, motivating learning, side-stepping unwanted behaviors, encouraging collaboration, and fostering growth is a big undertaking for any person. When you add the challenges of teaching when you don’t know the staff, students, or classroom as well as the everyday teacher, it’s truly amazing that substitutes do what they do SO well.

If you’re considering becoming a substitute teacher, you should consider all of the pros and cons from insiders who know the industry well. Like with any job, substitute teaching has big benefits and notable drawbacks which need to be assessed before you make a commitment to sub in your area. We have laid out a few of the biggest pros and cons of substitute teaching below and we recommend speaking with teachers in your local district(s) to get more insight before you take the leap.

Pros and Cons of Substitute Teaching

Pro: You make your schedule

Substitute teaching is a great option if you have a flexible or part-time job, college course schedule, or freelance gig. It can supplement other income or works well if you’re the primary care parent and your children are school-aged. If you have a doctor’s appointment or a vacation, you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to take time off – you call the shots.

Con: Subbing can be unstable

Because of the flexible nature of subbing, it’s also not super reliable income-wise. You may score a maternity leave and work every day for months and then go weeks or longer without a gig. You’re competing with other subs in your district of choice and the more available you allow yourself to be, the more work you’ll get. Substituting is almost-never full time.

Pro: You get to try lots of grade levels and subjects

Subs never have to be bored. You may teach any subject K-8 or K-12, depending on your knowledge level, background, and interest. Spending a week teaching kindergarten, high school physics, fourth grade, and Phys. Ed. might be overwhelming to some, but it ensures that you’re always on your toes.

Con: It can be difficult to plan ahead

On the other hand, being on your toes can be added pressure. Substitutes have to be flexible and ready to take on whatever job comes that day. If you’re not as comfortable with smaller children, kindergarten may be a big awakening for you. The same is true for older teens, specific subjects, or schools with a different “way” of doing things.

Pro: It’s a foot-in-the-door, if you’re looking for full-time

If you are a certified teacher looking to score a full-time teaching gig, subbing for a year is a great way to develop rapport and trust with a district while you test out whether or not you would be happy there, too.

Con: You’re sometimes seen as *just* a sub

It can be tough to prove yourself when people see you as a babysitter and not the talented, skilled teacher that you are. We like to see this as a chance to prove the cynics wrong.

Pro: The students are excited to switch things up

As kids, we always loved the substitute because he or she was a new face for the day and a chance to switch up the routine. You will often be welcomed with excited and curious faces.

Con: Sometimes, students see their teacher’s absence as a “free” day

Classroom behavior management is sometimes difficult for substitutes – especially those who are new – because students assume the sub won’t hold them accountable or that the material will be easier.

Pro: Your plans are usually laid out for you

All the fun of teaching without the rigor of planning your day? Count me in!

Con: You sometimes have to wing it

The trouble with following someone else’s plan is that sometimes the plans laid out were done in a rush, aren’t clear, or leave out details. It’s always good to establish rapport with the other teachers nearby to ask questions.

Pro: There is excellent software to manage your jobs

Substitutes in 2018 are lucky! For decades, district employees or teachers had to get on the phone late at night or early in the morning, dialing subs off of a list, hoping that someone would be available for the upcoming school day. Now, there is software that manages teacher absences, substitute availability, and scheduling. You can learn more about substitute management software features here.

Con: Too many districts don’t have a substitute management software

Do you work for a district that still does things that OLD way? If so, you may want to gently suggest a substitute management platform to your district or school administrators. These advanced tools will automate the substitute hiring process for subs AND district staff so it’s a win-win for both parties. Have your administrators contact us – we’d love to chat about the benefits for their school.

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Choosing The Right Substitute Management System for Your District: A Four-Step Guide

Substitute Management Software

You teach third grade and the students are presenting the results of their science projects tomorrow. You have spent Sunday afternoon sick in bed and by the evening, the worst is confirmed: You need to take a sick day. While people with other types of jobs can shoot off an email, take some medicine, and head for bed, you’re only getting started. You need to find a sub. In some districts, an administrator can help you do this and there’s a phone tree in place. In others, teachers find their own subs. You are already feeling ill, worried about how your students will fare, and now you need to track someone down in the evening after-hours or at dawn tomorrow to take your place. You deserve a break. You need automation.

For decades, taxi cabs were hailed from the street-side. If you had to stand on the sidewalk in the rain to get a taxi, so be it. Over time, the industry automated and now we use an app on our phone to catch a ride faster and more seamlessly. What if securing a substitute was that easy?

Benefits of a Substitute Management System for District & School Staff

A substitute management system allows substitute teachers to set their availability ahead of time in an interface that is visible to district employees and teachers. Using this system, you can book substitute teachers online without having to a make a phone call at all. The software can be accessed 24/7 by any staff member with access, making scheduling a breeze whether it’s at 10PM when Mrs. Collins falls ill, or at 5:30 AM when Mr. Jackson has a family emergency.

Further, the application allows districts and schools to track teacher absences and substitute work time to analyze patterns and stay on top of immediate needs. This online solution takes the headache, the time spend, and the uncertainty out of sourcing and managing subs.

Benefits of a Substitute Management System for Substitute Teachers

Being a substitute teacher is a flexible and sometimes unreliable art form. Wondering until 7 AM every day whether or not you’ll be working to make money, whether or not you have the availability to run errands or do other things, not being able to plan your day until after dawn… these things are just #sublife.

When you work with districts that automate their process in the Cloud, there’s no more uncertainty. You choose which days you want to be on call and which days or times you need to be unavailable. The system makes it easier for you to be booked the night before rather than morning-of and there’s less back-and-forth with the district or school. Further, your time and your schedule are tracked for you on the platform so you always know where you need to be and when.

How to Choose the Best Substitute Management Software

Not all substitute management options have your back. Follow these steps to ensure that you make the right investment into a system that will provide all the best benefits of finding an online solution:

  1. Research Your Options
    If your district, school, or daycare is ready to make the switch to an online solution, you will need to look at what options are available and cross reference your process with what each system offers.
  2. Request a Demo
    You wouldn’t feel right buying a car without a test drive. Test drive the apps or software options you’re considering. If the company doesn’t offer a free demo, that could be a red flag. You should see for yourself how simple (or confusing) the interface is, and how your teachers will use the system before you purchase.
  3. Call and Ask Questions
    How do I onboard my usual substitutes to the platform? Can I see the availability of subs I haven’t worked with before? Is there a set number of teachers who can use the system at one time? Does the system track teacher absences? What happens if the system isn’t working? There are probably a million questions you’ll have before you implement an entirely new solution across your entire organization. Make sure you work with a company that is receptive to your concerns.
  4. Compare MORE Than Just Pricing
    If you’re going to invest district dollars into a new system, you want to know that it has ALL of the features you need and that you’re going to have top-notch customer service, too. The most inexpensive option is not always the highest quality option.

If you are tired of the runaround with filling absences at the last minute and you would like to learn more about Subzz, request a demo today. We are excited and ready to answer your questions and help you make an informed, confident purchase.

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Why You Should Invest in Training of Substitute Teachers

Substitute Teacher Training

While there’s a heavy focus on hiring permanent school staff, it’s equally important to screen substitute teachers and ensure you’re hiring the best possible candidates. Substitute teachers can greatly affect student (and parent) behavior. They can spend days, weeks or even months teaching and interacting with students. They can mean the difference between education stalling or continuing uninterrupted in a teacher’s absence. However attracting and retaining substitute teacher is a challenge that perhaps almost all schools and educational institutions will agree on. A very effective way to attract and retain substitute teachers is to invest in substitute teacher training.

Training substitute teachers attracts more substitutes and keeps them active for longer because it relieves substitute teachers from anxiety over lack of basic teaching competencies and meets the majority of their primary expectations of being a substitute teacher. Also, training improves substitute teacher quality, which increases confidence and success in the classroom. This success and confidence encourages individuals to continue doing a job that they enjoy. The most significant concern of substitute teachers is classroom management. Training can quickly give substitute teachers the tools and know-how to avoid or eliminate 94% of inappropriate classroom behaviors. Moreover, training allows substitute teachers to develop competence in various teaching strategies as well as provide them with supplementary materials such as fill-in activities to make classrooms run smoothly and effectively. Competencies in classroom management and teaching strategies as well as an ample store of fill-in activities can drastically reduce the anxiety of substitute teachers and create a more satisfying experience

Several institutions are already investing in substitute teacher training. For example, check out the substitute teacher training program of Utah State University.

Training, therefore, is the most effective method of managing a quality substitute teaching pool that sufficiently meets the demands created by teacher absenteeism. Training alleviates substitute teacher concerns over inadequacies in the classroom and meets their primary expectations of substitute teaching. It also improves substitute teacher quality, which leads to higher job satisfaction.

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