July 16, 2013

Port Arthur ISD Confidently Advances Student Achievement with eSchoolPLUS

Memorial High SchoolSchool District Profile:

  • Public school district in Port Arthur, Texas.
  • Serves more than 9,100 students at one high school, one ninth-grade campus, two middle schools, eight elementary schools, and one early education center.
  • The school’s mission is to “meet the unique educational needs of our diverse population by providing a comprehensive quality education for students.”

Challenge:

A problematic legacy student information system was frustrating its users—losing important student data and failing to perform the most basic tasks.

Solution:

With only four weeks for implementation, the district made the decision to replace the system with eSchoolPLUS, a recognized  industry-leading system for managing student data and supporting student achievement.

Port Arthur ISD’s Story of Success

With the first day of school fast approaching, officials at Port Arthur Independent School District knew they couldn’t face another year with a legacy student information system that had earned a reputation for being undependable.

In just his first few months as the district’s chief information officer, Dr. Ramiro Zuniga had seen enough to know they were making the right decision. “The user frustration level was the worst I had ever seen,” recalls the 25-year information technology veteran. “We were having difficulty with everything. In some instances, we had data loss. In others, we had issues with basic tasks—such as printing report cards and issuing transcripts.”

Riding the Express Track

With just a month remaining before the start of school, the district signed on for an Express Track implementation of eSchoolPLUS, SunGard K-12 Education’s industry-recognized student information system. While the implementation window was small, the school district’s determination was great.

“Believe it or not, the process was not chaotic. It actually was one of the easiest transitions of my career,” he says. “One of my programmers, Nam Ha, and I spent several late evenings evaluating every field we were going to convert. The templates SunGard K-12 provided were straightforward, so it was easy to do. It just took some time to complete. “

A key to the rapid implementation: SunGard K-12 gave the district access to a cloud-based version of eSchoolPLUS, which allowed the district to begin work before the hardware was in the building. “We had it hosted while we were waiting for our equipment to arrive. A very good idea,” says Zuniga.

Four weeks later, the ink was barely dry on the agreement when the school district went live with eSchoolPLUS—just in time for the start of school. “When school opened, eSchoolPLUS was operational,” he says. “We had teachers accessing the gradebook and taking attendance. We had registration running. And, we had counselors working with scheduling.”

Zuniga’s staff trained trainers, who were dispatched to the district’s campuses to teach educators about Teacher Access Center’s features and gradebook. “I can honestly say that I have not once heard any complaints from the teachers,” he recalls. “The learning curve was minimal. Everybody thinks it is pretty straightforward and easy to use.”

The following summer, the district launched Home Access Center. “We’ve started off giving parents access to view their students’ schedules, grades, attendance, etc.,” he says. “It has been very well-received.”

Considering Educational Possibilities

Now two years later, Zuniga looks back with satisfaction on a decision well-made.

“Our two biggest objectives were to get rid of user frustration and to generate a level of trust among our users. We absolutely have met those objectives,” says Zuniga. “Our users feel comfortable and confident. No longer do they fear having to re-do many hours of work.”

With the knowledge that they are supported by a reliable, robust student information system, Port Arthur educators are now considering future possibilities with confidence.  “Because our transition has been so positive, our users are energized,” he says. “They now ask, ‘What else can we do, where else can we go?’”

Calls from the district’s Information Technology team to SunGard K-12’s customer service center aren’t about issues—but rather, they are about opportunities. “We’re thinking in a different way,” he says. “It’s not so much that we’re calling about problematic issues, but rather to bounce ideas off SunGard K-12 and get input on how we could address new tasks we’re trying to do.”

To advance its mission of “meeting the unique educational needs” of its students, Port Arthur ISD is also working toward using the data to launch an initiative to create four-year career plans for those in grades eight and above. “That’s always the intent—to pursue increased student achievement and prepare our students for a post-high school experience,” Zuniga says. Through Home Access Center, parents and guardians will be drawn into those plans so that these key stakeholders may support student achievement.

“This success is certainly a reflection of Port Arthur ISD, but it is also a reflection of SunGard K-12 Education and eSchoolPLUS. A testament to what we can do together,” he says.

Visit SunGard K-12 Education’s website for more stories celebrating our customers’ success.

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