SunGard K-12 [NYSE:FIS]: The 4 Directives of Academic Excellence
Frank Lavelle, CEO & President, Adam Eberle, Chief Commercial Officer To run a school district is like solving a mathematical equation in a contest. For the CEO and President of SunGard K-12, Frank Lavelle, the trick lies in finding the right mix and balance, between the multiple variables—school boards and parents, students and teachers—before the annual clock announces the end of an academic year. And then the cycle repeats.
Every year, school district administrations are pushing the envelope to identify and act on the ultimate goal: student achievement in the digital era, to ensure that students are graduating with the ability to become productive members of the society. The prevailing diversity of students’ intellectual quotient, however, has been preventing schools from employing a homogenous curriculum or strategy. What’s more, with the advent of virtual schools, LMS, and modern-day K-12 paradigms that are devised to match the aptitude levels of Generation-Z, school campuses are required to accommodate and manipulate colossal amounts of digital data, veering them off their academic trail.
“Education is our focus, and what we do is, make administration, a support to that focus,” asserts Lavelle. Having laid its cornerstone at the crossroads of education and technology, SunGard K-12—now a part of FIS [NYSE:FIS]—has tenaciously camped on the grounds of fostering a coexisting environment among teachers, students, administration, and parents. “At SunGard K-12, we have equal parts engineers and operational district specialists; it is this distinct combination of skill set that allows us to put the focus back on where it always belonged: student achievement,” Lavelle posits.
Of the vast expanse of operational obscurities for a school district, Adam Eberle, Chief Commercial Officer, SunGard K-12, brings data explosion to the forefront, where managements are levied with handling disparate chunks of digital information. “Data silos—as we like to call it—are one of the paramount challenges facing school districts today, with added nuances of newer software programs,” Eberle explains. Over the last decade, academic communities, be it small, medium or large, running a variety of applications, from boutique vendors to intensive LMS software, are spewing enormous amounts of data. But this data is not rewarding, unless valuable insights are derived from it, and SunGard K-12 seals this gap with its smartly engineered K-12 solution, PLUS 360.
A Conglomerated Ecosystem
The indigenous software, PLUS 360 is a comprehensive portfolio aimed to cater to the individual elements of an educational equation. SunGard K-12 sorts these into biotic and abiotic, where biotic includes the living entities, such as teachers, parents, students, school boards, and government agencies. On the other hand, the non-living entities comprise of hardware, managed and professional services, and the myriad software solutions. “There needs to be a bridge between the biotic and abiotic components and PLUS 360 answers this need by creating a union, binding the realms of humans and technology,” Lavelle notes.
At times like school trips, eSchoolPLUS heeds flexibility by allowing teachers to monitor and manage real-time attendance on-the-fly
The SunGard K-12 platform is designed in a way so as to amass the data generated by the constituents of a school, glean insights, and make the resulting information accessible to all the key stake holders.
In a whitepaper published by Eberle titled ‘Redefining District ROI’, he says, “Configurable information management systems that focus on actionable data and executive dashboards are an increasingly important component of a successful school ecosystem.” Paying heed to the particular requirement, SunGard K-12 has developed its student information system, eSchoolPLUS that has adequate role-based authentication features to render context-sensitive content to its users. For instance, eSchoolPLUS displays student attendance statistics, so that in the event of truancy, the teacher can take corrective actions such as providing counsel. A student’s dashboard shows pending assignments, and notifies him of due dates for submission.
eSchoolPLUS supports a multitude of working endpoints such as android smartphones, iPads, and iPhones. Harnessing the potent of mobility, eSchoolPLUS provides the much-needed ubiquity relieving school administrations from the confines of cluttered desktop-based workstations. “At times like school trips, eSchoolPLUS heeds flexibility by allowing teachers to monitor and manage real-time attendance on-the-fly,” evinces Lavelle. “We have made our systems work in close resemblance to that of how humans work.”
The dashboard presented with an adaptable user interface and responsive design is user-friendly and requires minimal training to use. Instead of waiting for the information to be requested for, the advanced predictive analytics algorithms behind eSchoolPLUS instruct the software to push the data proactively to appropriate recipients. “eSchoolPLUS doesn’t stop with taking data and churning them into information, but it also creates profound knowledge that can be applied on the academic side to better support students,” points Lavelle.
To enhance collaboration and consistency of information threads between school districts and its users, SunGard K-12 has a Family App, an innovative initiative that provides a display of repository data that helps drive effective decision making by students and parents. Eberle adds, “It is a fully functioning mobile app, with seamless integration that easily creates and pushes notifications, keeping all parties up to date on relevant information.”
PLUS 360: The One-Stop-Shop
In addition to the wealth of information that eSchoolPLUS offers for school districts to effectively run the community, PLUS 360 is a consolidation of other utility modules such as ERP, finance planning, human resources, assessment and curriculum management.
“For instance, by linking SIS with the finance system, district superintendents can not only work on academic achievement, but also govern the monetary planning that surrounds the goal,” Lavelle postulates.“In a district that encompasses a multitude of schools, administering thousands of students, our platform becomes the essential central nervous system for the entire education ecosystem.”
In one instance, Rose Tree Media School (RTMS), a Pennsylvania school district, with its strength of 3800 students wanted to identify and promptly address issues that would be detrimental to the achievement of their goal. In the parlance of James M. Wigo Sr., Superintendent, RTMS, the struggle was in recording, tracking, and retrieval of data on a regular basis. Upon evaluating a horde of competitors, SunGard K-12 was chosen for its support toward student achievement and operational excellence. RTMS deployed the elaborate PLUS 360 suite which became an instant success by sufficing their student information management needs of extracting valuable and actionable insights from data. Wigo affirms that without doubt, “SunGard K-12 products serve an unbelievably important purpose by helping us accomplish our goals.”
At its core, SunGard K-12’s web-based applications are a frontrunner to the current scenario where corporates and enterprises are slowly yet steadily replacing standalone desktop applications with cloud-based, Software as a Service (SaaS), and architectures to reduce costs of ownership. “Easily pluggable APIs form the crux of PLUS 360, which enables ease of use in transportation of data to the appropriate place and time for the right person,” Eberle states.
Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Economy
Year-on-year, SunGard K-12’s proficiency in exercising its clout in technology has been recognized and rewarded by many authoritative organizations, earning it a battery of accolades. With word on the street, more and more school districts are forming alliances to join the SunGard K-12 family, such as Shawnee Mission, Bellflower, Aldine ISD, and Delaware Department of Education.
At the heart of every other educational institution, there exists a kindled spirit to underpin the growth and development of a nation’s asset—students. SunGard K-12’s future proof education portfolio designed with longevity in mind is helping school administrations concentrate on achieving their goal without having to worry about the arduous journey. With that, it takes a lineup of like-minded passionate technology professionals along the lines of the teams at SunGard K-12 to make that possible. Reiterating the famous adage by Confucius, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” Lavelle says that his employees return home happy after a work day, knowing that they have made a visible difference in shaping up the future of an economy. “Our focus has always been action, accountability, administration, and reform; these are the four pillars that prop up our vision for connecting/supporting a productive educational ecosystem,” Lavelle elucidates. Sure enough, SunGard K-12’s immersive and engaging technology has become a game-changer for school districts that are looking for a restructuring from the ground up.
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