School Administration on the Fast-Track

Technology companies that cut their teeth on the private sector's administrative problems are now addressing the needs of education.

by / May 31, 1998
The colonial school was usually one small room with one teacher responsible for supervision and administration of all students. The growth of graded and multiple-room schools led to the emergence of a "head teacher" responsible for the instructional program, grade placement of pupils, facility care and teacher assignments, along with the full-time teaching duties.

Today's school administration functions are more complex, thanks to the information explosion, larger school enrollments, population mobility and complex social problems. This growth requires more powerful administrative tools to streamline the administrative process, resulting in better communication, efficient operations and more student services.

Cutting administrative costs and delivering services more efficiently has become a recent trend. For example, Proposition 223 -- a June ballot initiative in California -- would place a 5-percent cap on administrative spending for the state's 1,000 school districts. If the initiative passes, many districts will need to cut administrative spending. Districts that continue to exceed the new cap face fines of about $175 per student. Other states are also considering similar measures.

The Business of Education

Schools today are, among other things, business enterprises; they, too, have to compete for students, funds and better services. The use of various administrative tools works well for the business community -- minimizing paperwork, improving ways of gathering and summarizing information, decentralizing management and structuring accounting systems to disclose financial performance and strategic planning. These tools can also help schools ease the burden imposed by many administrative tasks, such as:

* Attendance records and projections;
* Scheduling of students and teachers;
* Inventory control;
* School records and data files;
* Library circulation;
* Student files;
* Counseling;
* Personnel files;
* Mailing lists;
* Budgeting, purchasing and management;
* Building maintenance;
* Services, such as health, food and transportation; and
* Population movement.

Administrative tools are also helping schools recognize and provide for individual student differences. By accessing, gathering and summarizing information, school staff can effectively respond to the wide variations in the mental and physical capacities, levels of interest, learning abilities, achievements, purposes and values of students.

Use of General Office Software

Applications for the office are the most widely used by school administrators. The typical administrative software programs include:

* Word processing programs that have simplified the preparation of documents, such as notices, letters and reports, that must be changed slightly or reissued periodically.
* Databases that are being used to store student and personnel information. Databases also provide search engines that save a considerable amount of time for administrators.
* Spreadsheets that store and update tables needed for budgeting, projections and planning. Spreadsheets are powerful tools because the table's cells can be interrelated. Changing the contents of one cell affects the contents of all related cells. Users can make hypothetical entries into some of the cells, and see the effects of these entries on the table as a whole.

Today, the usage of general office programs is widespread, thanks to falling prices, and they provide a great deal of flexibility. For example, school staff can use a database to create a personnel file or a school-equipment inventory file; counselors can keep track of student records and information about careers and college placement; school nurses can store student health information and keep track of extended absences due to illness; cafeteria workers can monitor the nutritional content of school meals, plan menus, order supplies and keep track of inventory; and school custodians can inventory school supplies and equipment and monitor energy consumption.

General software programs are often part of a package that includes other useful office programs, such as time management, e-mail, presentations, the Internet, Web page design and encryption. Currently, Microsoft Office 97 and ClarisWorks Office are the most popular programs.

For additional information, contact Microsoft or Claris.

Specific Purpose Software

Some administrative applications are customized for specific functions and do not fit into the general software categories. These programs can be purchased individually and, if desired, integrated with other programs. The most commonly used programs include:

* Attendance programs that save a considerable amount of administrative work in schools keeping track of attendance period-by-period.
* Scheduling programs that do away with an inefficient or inappropriate scheduling process that can impede instruction, waste resources and cause confusion and poor morale. These programs take information about the offered courses and each student's course selections and actually output printed student schedules. The larger the school and more complex the scheduling process, the more time scheduling programs can save.
* Grade reporting that prints out student report cards, sorted by class. Efficiency of data entry is an important consideration in evaluating report grading programs.
* Financial packages that consist of accounts payable, payroll and a general ledger.

Discipline/Contact Software

Logger, from Alton Consulting Services, is a contact information software that gives administrators, advisers, counselors and teachers quick and easy access to the contact history of any particular student or parent.

Users can input and access information and obtain a variety of reports that provide information on the number of incidents and reasons for the student or parent to have contact with the administrator.

The program can issue letters to parents -- describing any action taken by the school, including discipline and general interview information -- and provide mailing labels.

It requires a 386 or higher IBM/PC compatible computer with 8MB RAM, Windows 3.1, 3.11, 95 or NT. The program can be used on a stand-alone system or connected to a network, and it costs $79.

For additional information contact Alton Consulting Services, 3125 West Taro Lane, Phoenix, AZ 85027. Call or email Bill Alton at 623-581-9601.

Enterprise School

Foundation For Education, developed by the staff of The Enterprise School, is a management software program for alternative schools and at-risk and special-needs students.

It provides discipline records, attendance report cards, progress reports, meeting notes and contracts. Information is easily transferred between the files.

For Mac systems, it requires a System 7.0 or higher, 8MB RAM and FileMaker Pro 3.0 or 4.0. For PC and IBM compatibles, it requires Windows 3.1, 95 or NT, 8MB RAM and FileMaker Pro 3.0 or 4.0.

Foundation For Education costs $295 alone or $430 when bundled with FileMaker Pro.

For additional information, contact The Enterprise School, 1629 Beulah Road, Vienna, VA 22182-1920. Call Principal Michelle Surwit at 703/281-2232.

School Minder

School Minder for Windows 95 provides school staff with accounting, scheduling, grading and library services. It features:

* ACCOUNTrack that provides an accurate and accountable audit trail. It provides journal entries, a checking module, end-of-month processing and financial reports.
* Master Scheduling System that helps schools manage the academic scheduling process. It provides easy data entry; a course request analyzer, which minimizes schedule conflicts; faculty and location scheduling; reporting capability and security.
* Grade Minder that automates class grade recording. It provides four modules: CLASSES, which creates and maintains classes and routers; GRADES, which records scores and calculates period/semester averages; REPORTS, which generates reports; and SET UP, which configures and personalizes Grade Minder.
* Librarian's Edge that catalogs all types of media (books, tapes, videos, magazines, etc.) and provides search modes and circulation features.

For additional information, contact Hunter Systems at 800/326-0527.

Cafeteria Plan

School Lunch, by Rodlan Administrative Software, is designed to manage school lunch programs. Parents or students fill out a lunch deposit slip and present it to the office. During lunch, the teacher distributes the lunch cards. Secondary-school students can keep their lunch card as they would keep a credit card. When lunch is served, the card is scanned and, if it's accepted, the account information is displayed on a screen.

Audible beeps signal the operator when an account is out of money, has already been used during the lunch session or has been closed. The system also informs students of when they are low on lunch money. The operator retains the card when students run out of money. At the end of the each meal period, a report is printed out that indicates how many lunches were eaten and how much money was paid by students or adults.

Parents may call the office and receive a printed summary of their child's lunch record -- total lunches eaten, total money paid into account, the last date the account was used and the amount of the last deposit.

Refunds can also be given by the end of the school year or when a student moves.

The system runs on PC and Macintosh platforms.

For additional information, contact Rodlan Administrative Software, 161 East 1600, North Logan, UT 8434. Call 435/752.9586. E-mail: .


EASY-97 is a powerful student administrative tool. Utilizing Microsoft's ACCESS relational database, it features a master schedule, course data, teacher data, student data, a grade reporting cycle, a monthly attendance cycle, a student scheduling cycle, a progress reporting cycle and other functions.

Users can easily add more data to any table, change the size or types of data, create new tables, forms, reports, queries, etc.

For additional information, contact Eagle Software, 17821 17th St., Suite 290, Tustin, CA 92780. Call 888/324-5363.

Higher Education Administration

Some of the most appealing and exciting changes occurring in administrative functions are at the higher-level educational institutions.

PeopleSoft Student Administration integrates six powerful applications to meet the specific needs of higher education institutions and provides:

* Admission and Recruitment that helps administrators plan, manage and track admissions and recruitment activities for each academic program. It increases recruiting capabilities by aiding in the assessment of potential students with contact tracking, and testing and application databases.
* Financial Aide that provides easy-to-use features for evaluating students for financial needs. It provides full support and integration for every stage of the application process.
* Student Records that helps administrators manage and monitor enrollment. Administrators can define course components and establish guidelines, such as enrollment restrictions and prerequisites, ensuring that only students with appropriate preparations are enrolled. It provides a multiple grading system that uses intelligent grade tables (plus/minus, decimal, letter, three-character), wait-list management, departmental class and room scheduling, etc.
* Academic Advisement that allows students to access their academic records and request degree assessment reports over the phone or the Internet. Students can also obtain information on exemptions and substitutions of academic program requirements.
* Student Financials that tracks student disbursements, charges and payments. The system provides flexible tuition calculation capabilities that use a variety of criteria when assessing tuition, and then it automatically posts the charges to a student's account.
* Campus Community that provides authorized users and departments access to student biographic, demographic and address data.

The system provides a flexible, high-performance, three-tier architecture; a Java client; integrated, online, analytical processing; and universal applications for self-service transactions on the World Wide Web.

Forty-two colleges and universities have licensed PeopleSoft Student Administration.

For additional information, contact PeopleSoft, 4440 RoseWood Drive, Pleasanton, CA 94588. Call 888/773-8277.

Imaging to Streamline Admissions

HighView Image Storage and Retrieval is helping Towson University manage the flow of admissions paperwork. The system uses an imaging system that allows admission personnel to retrieve documents stored electronically rather than relying on paper copies.

It tracks applications, controls the process flow, assists in the decision-making process by allowing shared access to electronic documents, and provides improved customer-service applications.

The system uses the Oracle relational database environment and runs on a Windows NT server. Images are stored in Hewlett-Packard optical-disk jukeboxes.

For additional information, contact Highland Technology, 4303 Forbes Blvd., Lanham, MD 20706. Call 301/306-8200.

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