Enrollment: 70,000+ students
82% of those students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals
59+ languages are spoken at Fresno USD
Fresno USD is comprised of 100+ schools
Monthly revenue generated through Scribbles: ~$2,500
Scribbles Solutions used: ScribOrder, ScribTransfer
Fresno Unified School District in Fresno, CA serves over 70,000 students across 100+ schools. With a mission to “nurture and cultivate the interests, intellect, and leadership of students by providing an excellent, equitable education in a culturally proficient environment,” district staff have an admirable focus on serving their community and constituents. This service isn’t limited to student and teacher interaction within school walls; it extends to all services, including records management and processing.
But a few years ago, the records management office had some catching up to do in order to serve students and community constituents in a more efficient and secure manner. Rows of filing cabinets filled district offices, and records were kept in multiple repositories. Requests for records came in through multiple sources, and tracking requests and processes was a huge challenge. The Fresno USD records management and IT department knew there was a way to streamline processes, increase data security for student records management and records requests, and serve constituents faster. They turned to Scribbles Software to help.
The Scribbles Software team sat down with Steffanie Richmond, IT Analyst at Fresno Unified School District to learn more about the district challenges that led them to seek a solution for electronic records management and processing, what steps they took to communicate with community members and ease them into a new process, and advice for other K12 districts seeking to transition to an online student records management system.
The written version of this interview has been edited for brevity. For the full interview, watch the video!
Before you started using Scribbles for K12 student record management and student records requests, what were your challenges?
Oh, where to start! Initially, the student records department was adopted into the IT department when the need for physical space to house records became an issue. We were talking about rooms filled with cabinets– cabinets upon cabinets until it became almost a health concern. It was just so much. Our processes were cumbersome and the staff at the time were extremely change-averse. But our CTO knew there could be a better way to store and manage student records. There was also a common fear that we would lose the records in cyberspace because no one had ever really taken the time to explain to the student records staff what digitizing would truly mean. We also realized they were housing the records in multiple repositories. Getting all the records, all into one repository, was our first milestone. Once we were able to [get everything in one place] and digitize [the records], we began to tackle how to process records requests from constituents.
Regarding records requests, we were taking requests via fax, U.S. mail, phone, email, in-person…anyway you could, probably even a telegram! We slowly started to eliminate these methods one at a time. Despite our success, the process still seemed to be a little sluggish. We still felt like we could do it better. So we did some extensive research and found Scribbles.
What were you able to do with the space your records used to be in?
We run out of space regularly as we continue to grow to meet student and community needs. Our Department of Prevention and Intervention (DPI) was lacking space, and [by using the space formerly inhabited by so many filing cabinets] they were able to [create a space to] assist our student foster and homeless population in addition to having a space for parents to come in and receive services that they may have needed.
What criteria were you looking for in a vendor?
We had a lot of expectations. We needed a vendor who was going to have a turnkey product because we had an entire district with 120 school sites that we had to take on. The task was daunting. We were also looking for a vendor who had a process for financial hardship requests. We needed a vendor who understood that if it didn't serve the needs of our community, then it did not matter how easy it made our life. It either serves the community or we don't use it.
Why did you choose Scribbles?
Scribbles was willing to meet our request for a set of standards and were willing to take a lot of time to meet with us and understand the ins and outs of the platform. Keep in mind, we're an IT department– I don't know if you've ever tried to adopt a new platform in IT before, but you pretty much have to impress everyone, their mama, the janitor, everybody has to be impressed with the product before IT will actually adopt it. If it doesn't rock and roll with ease, forget it, we'll create our own if something doesn't fit or we'll outsource it to a company who is gonna build it for us, especially in Fresno Unified School District, um, where our IT department created our own student information system, Atlas, from scratch. So I'm sure we were a hard sale! But they showed us [the platform] and they met with our different teams, including cybersecurity, infrastructure, and our data center. They also understood that our [priority] is our community. They let us know, “we're with you, we're hand in hand with that. Tell us what we have to do for your community. And we're here for you.”
How do you measure success?
A process that used to take us three days now takes us six minutes. Through our former records request process, we could [turn around a request] in three days [minimum if a] constituent came in, did everything that was necessary on the first try, and brought everything they needed. For transcript requests, let's say for our community colleges like Fresno City College, or for UC Fresno State, if a constituent requested official transcripts, we could print them, sign them, and make them official within about 15 minutes, but then we would have to mail them, which would tack on an additional two to three days minimum. We would measure that all by manual documentation and a spreadsheet– let me repeat that– an Excel spreadsheet! We even had an event that was considered catastrophic to us because two people were in the sheet at the same time adding rows!
Scribbles presented us with quality metrics at the push of a button. It really doesn't get better than that, right? From having to use a pivot table in an Excel sheet to try to figure out how to narrow our data down to specifics to the push of a button through the Scribbles platform, we were able to view basic reports. We could see that a post-secondary request through Scribbles would take six minutes from start to finish.
In addition to shortening the time it takes to respond to and send a records request, what results have you achieved so far?
We have made the process for our past alumni and third-party requesters faster, more secure, and much more efficient than it's ever been to date. We streamlined our internal processes [so that they] are clear and easy to follow. We were also able to reduce the record-centered staff from five to three, and then leverage those other two positions in other high need areas within our department.
What challenges did you face during the implementation and training process?
We were prepared for difficulty, since any change comes with that, [and we certainly had challenges], but we were delightfully surprised. We had some hurdles when we first launched [with getting folks on board with the new process]. With students, for example, the form asked for identification on your application, and we got a lot of selfies, as funny as that sounds. Our technicians would have to [ reach out to tell them we needed a] government-issued ID, passport, etc. So we worked with Scribbles to address some verbiage change on the site to meet our constituents.
Another [challenge we had] was the third-party attorney and legal request. We had one public defender who was [resistant to change] and adamant that they were not going to follow this new process, so we met with the Scribbles team and our own legal team to discuss how we could do this better and think outside the box? We [ended up reaching out to the district attorney’s office to let them know about our new platform where they could easily submit their subpoenas and get a response quickly], and we got all that person’s counterparts on board.
We also had challenges with our older alumni in their sixties, seventies, and eighties requesting records. We knew that there was going to be hand-holding and were not afraid of that. And the techs were ready and patient in helping them [complete the forms]. Our staff understood the importance of getting someone their records securely and safely. And I think making sure that our constituents [understand those benefits] is so important in helping them understand why [they should take that time to go through these steps]. We could take all those concerns and say, “you know what, your records, you may think that they're just some grades, but they have your mother's maiden name, your date of birth, your home address. And if you've never moved or you inherited that address, they have everything. The information is so sensitive. You have to treat it as such. We treat it as such for you; help us help you.”
How did you communicate the process change to your stakeholders?
We had to make it clear that we were not going to process any other method of requests other than an order through Scribbles. The website was something we tackled first. [We worked with the district communications team.] We also added a greeting to our main phone line message for our department, because that was our source of the most traffic– people just called. If someone still needed to speak to a tech, they could, but we wanted them to get the information first.
What advice would you give folks that are seeking to shift to online student records and records requests?
Do your homework, and adopt the technology– it's worth it. Put your energies and the focus on the culture shift. The technology piece is easier to absorb internally, but it's really the people [you serve], your constituents, that you have to [keep in mind] when you're looking at these platforms and [building an] onboarding process. Most importantly, have grace and mercy for everyone to get on board. I don't know where I'd be without my team. I think that they're true proof that you can draw a line in the sand about how you're going to receive your requests and making that technology switch, but you can also extend the grace and mercy to your constituents for them to get comfortable with that idea, to get them there.
If your district is ready to go paperless, make records more accessible to students and families, and even generate revenue, fill out the form below to contact our team today.