Teaching can be distinctly rewarding and abundantly frustrating. From the teacher's perspective, selecting the right school setting and pursuing the correct professional development path--one that supports the potential for financial as well as professional advancement--are the keys to a sense of reward and fulfillment. That's why at Park Hill School District in Kansas City, MO--which serves 9,500 students in nine elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools--our ability to attract and retain the finest teachers and other educational staff is a top priority. It's not surprising, then, that automating our job application and professional development programs was high on our technology wish list, since we employ 650 certified teachers and more than 600 staff members.
Despite the steady advance of technology, however, too many districts still languish in the paper-based hiring process, which relies on that infamous paper file traveling from desk to desk. Once on board, teachers are then subjected to the ongoing challenge of professional development. But it is critical that teachers' professional development courses--whether in-house, online, or part of an external degree program--are reviewed and approved, with results tracked and progress counted toward this certification and advancement. On a district-wide basis, the smooth administration of a professional development program can be a daunting, time-consuming, and labor-intensive task. So when faced with this challenge at Park Hill, we used technology to meet it head-on.
Selecting a Technology Partner
Park Hill strongly believes in the value of technology to drive process, communication, and overall operating efficiency. Our superintendent and school board carefully assess each technology request, then set high standards for information flow and process integration across our network. Any new application must have the ability to interface with existing HR, payroll, and other critical databases. Increasingly, we're a Web-based, data-driven school district, and we've realized significant efficiencies by taking this approach.
Still, while we have a superb IT staff, we were not naive enough to believe that it was best to build applications from the ground up. When you add an application to an established network, all parts of the infrastructure need to communicate and integrate effortlessly. Thus, driving application development and integration in-house would have put a severe drain on our IT resources and prevented us from moving ahead with other important projects. So instead, we chose to select a qualified technology vendor who could work with us to design and build the software, while our internal team handled implementation.
We also knew that we needed a vendor flexible in approach and willing to work with us as a partner from the design phase forward. There was no plug-and-play technology answer to our situation, and rarely do two companies work well together when one is promoting an out-of-the-box solution to a complex challenge. Based on these selection criteria, we chose to work with Netchemia (www.netchemia.com), a Kansas-based technology company that specializes in software solutions for the K-12 market. From past experience, the company had shown they were wilting to truly partner with us in the design, integration, and rollout of new Web-based software.
Managing Web-Based Staff Development
Our professional development tool is thorough in managing the training process. It gives teachers online access to all professional development options available--whether Web-based, instructor-led, in-house, or external. It even moves teachers through the sign-up and approval processes. The tool also automatically checks to determine whether a teacher has an adequate number of hours allocated for development, then routes the online request form to the correct HR executive for review and approval. …