Case Study: State College Area School District (SCASD)

State College Area School District

“DocFinity saves us time, which equates to saving money.”

Dennis Younkin, Business Manager

State College Area School District (SCASD) is comprised of a large number of employees and a substantial student body. Located near a Pennsylvania university that is almost as famous for its football as it is for its academic programs, State College is almost equidistant from the metropolitan areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The school district serves approximately 7,300 students.

As is the case with most school districts, the support staff is faced with increasing work loads and diminishing resources. The district is hiring new teachers and information is expanding, yet the support staff population remains constant. As Dennis Younkin, Business Manager for SCASD describes, “Our school’s support staff is constantly striving to find ways to do more with less.”

Losing time and manpower with paper retrieval

All of the schools in the district face daily challenges with respect to records retrieval. Ongoing projects and daily operations are sometimes impacted when support staff has to take the time to locate archived paper records—a task that often requires more than an entire day.

Like many school districts, SCASD’s file retrieval system is somewhat outdated. Buildings are old, and space is extremely limited. Storage is relegated to whatever is left after office space is claimed; the space that is left for storage is usually less than ideal. Paper files are often difficult to locate, and are not necessarily protected in the event of a disaster. SCASD still stores some information on microfiche, which their staff recognizes as an obsolete technology.

Younkin envisioned a better way to store and access information, but it was difficult to imagine a large-scale solution. He elaborates, “Changes in technology move slowly in public education. We don’t make unilateral decisions, and change is slow in coming.” Younkin spearheaded an initiative to address the school district’s storage and retrieval issues. He recommended implementing a solution on a small scale, then rolling it out to different departments.

Scaling the implementation for growth

SCASD employs approximately 1500 faculty and staff to serve their student body. One difficulty that the school district was experiencing was an accumulation of their bi-monthly payroll reports. Their paper-based system was extremely inefficient.

SCASD had to print out a large number of payroll reports—ten reports per payroll period. The size and number of reports was constant regardless of whether the school district was printing payroll information for 1500 employees or for one. Before they implemented electronic archiving, their process involved printing the reports on paper, then either archiving or shredding them. This process occurred bi-monthly as well as twice in the middle of each month. It also occurred in every instance where an employee missed a paycheck. Each incidence of printing used an entire ream of paper, which subsequently took hours to manually feed into a shredder those reports that didn’t require archiving. Younkin recognized Payroll as a microcosm of the district’s paper storage problems. Clearly, there had to be a better alternative.

In 2005, SCASD took steps to address and resolve their paper buildup. Initially they had considered renting an offsite physical storage facility to store their paper reports. After evaluating that and other options, they decided to store and retrieve their information electronically using DocFinity's software suite.

DocFinity’s document management software was a logical choice, since it provided instant access to information through any Web browser. It also addressed concerns about disaster recovery and compliance with federal regulations. Younkin recommended implementing DocFinity in Payroll as a prototype, then expanding electronic document management throughout the district.

DocFinity storage of SunGard Pentamation reports

SCASD receives payroll reports through SunGard Pentamation, which provides student information systems, special education management, and fund-accounting-based financial and human resources management software to K-12 education districts and schools.

SCASD uses DocFinity software to capture and store Pentamation’s payroll reports. The school district had been looking for a software solution that included both scanning and reporting capabilities, and chose DocFinity for its ability to address both parts of this equation. DocFinity was also a logical choice because it could store Pentamation reports and integrate with SCASD’s other computer applications. The latter capability will be significant as SCASD expands its use of DocFinity to other areas of its enterprise.

Younkin elaborates that service beyond the sale weighed heavily in SCASD’s decision to use DocFinity as a software vendor. DocFinity's reputation for customer service and their location within the District played important roles as well. SCASD was looking for a company that would partner with them to understand their business needs, and address their needs in an efficient and responsive manner.

Users’ impressions

The accounting and business offices at SCASD have been delighted with the results of the implementation. Employees are particularly relieved that they no longer have to waste time and paper; shredding an entire ream (fed into the machine two pages at a time) for payroll reports is now a thing of the past.

Initially, users had some difficulty letting go of the physical paper; however, soon after DocFinity implementation they realized how much more efficient it was to have instant access to documents. With DocFinity, they could access specific reports without having to wade through extraneous information. Since industry regulations mandate long-term storage of specific information (seven years for scheduled payroll reports; 100 years for student information), the school district expects that their investment in DocFinity will provide continual returns.

Expanding the prototype to other departments

With the success of the payroll reports implementation, SCASD opted to electronically store school board minutes with DocFinity. New minutes are converted to PDF; archived school board minutes are being scanned. The district indexes minutes by agenda topic, and has found electronic storage and retrieval to be an ideal medium for research and indexing.

Instant access to school board agenda topics is invaluable not only for its ease and convenience; it also supplies the district with an immediate historical perspective. This provides important supplemental information that is valuable for decision-making. DocFinity will also provide the district with the ability to go back and research any issue—contracts, records, certifications, background checks, etc. As a result, SCASD staff will be able to respond more quickly to public requests for information.

Future Plans

Younkin is pleased with the potential that DocFinity offers. He states, “Right now, we’re just scratching the surface.” Tom Mitchell, the Information Systems Manager at SCASD, anticipates using DocFinity to format and store student records—including permanent transcripts—as well as payroll records in the future. He recognizes the software’s flexibility for use in their Human Resources office, and sees great potential there for future implementation.

Younkin hopes to digitize internal office documents in the near future. He cautions that the biggest hurdle to implementation is users’ mindsets. He explains, “We have to convert the mindset. People should be thinking differently any time that they have a document.”

Younkin is inspired to show other departments and other school districts what can be accomplished with the implementation of DocFinity software. He believes that after other departments see what can be accomplished with electronic document management, other offices will follow. He elaborates, “DocFinity saves us time, which equates to saving money.”