Beverly Miller has put a new spin on career and technical education, staff professional development, and more through community partnerships and student opportunities.
Enrollment: 3,000 students
Ranked 6th in the U.S. by the Center for Digital Education for innovative uses of technology
Employees: ~700 staff members and teachers
Monthly revenue generated through Scribbles: ~$200
Scribbles Solutions used: ScribOrder, ScribTransfer, ScribOnline
With rapidly changing technology and a global economy, it's essential that schools provide the tools and knowledge students need to succeed. One school district that has taken this mission to heart is Greeneville City Schools in Greeneville, Tennessee. Under the leadership of Assistant Director of Schools Beverly Miller, GCS has become a shining example of excellence and equity in education.
But what sets Greeneville City Schools apart from other districts? We chatted with Beverly to learn more about the innovative strategies and technologies she and her team have implemented to create a tech-forward culture.
Tell us about you and the district you represent.
Beverly Miller: I'm Beverly Miller, the Assistant Director of Schools for Greeneville City Schools. Our district is located in beautiful Greeneville, Tennessee, right in between Johnson City and Knoxville, nestled in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. We're about an hour from Dollywood, about an hour's drive from the Pigeon Forge area and the Great Smoky Mountains. It's just a beautiful place, especially today with the lovely weather we're having at 56 degrees and sunny, which is a little cool for us this time of year.
In addition to my role as the Assistant Director of Schools, I also served as a Chief Technology Officer for the first 17 years of my public education career, and that's a title that I continue to hold today. Before that, I spent 10 years in a private corporate IT career. I intended to be in public education for just five years and return to the corporate field, but needless to say, those plans didn't work out. Now I'm entering my 30th year in public education, all of which has been spent in this district in Tennessee.
Somewhere along the way, over 30 years, I discovered that this is my life's work and that I was meant to use my time, talent, and energy to serve students and educators. I'm very honored to be able to do that today, and I truly believe that the work we're doing in Greeneville City Schools is making a difference for our students and our community.
What is the district’s mission?
BM: Our mission is to cultivate the mind, impact the heart through excellence and equity. We believe that a child is much more than a test score, and an adult is much more than a job title. We strive to be an organization that is always focused on cultivating the mind. Certainly, that's why we exist. We're education. That's our core reason for being here, but also impacting the heart. And going back to the way we do that is through excellence in everything we do, from our operations team all the way through the most important work that takes place in our district–and that's in the classroom between teachers and students.
Can you share more about your role and how you help your district fulfill that mission?
BM: As I shared before, for 17 years, I was solely focused on technology, technology deployments, building out infrastructure, professional development, and getting buy-in in our district and beyond. In addition to technology, though, the teams that I now lead include our business and finance department, our human resource department, all of our operations, which include custodial, transportation, maintenance services, capital projects, all of our grounds maintenance, as well as our school nutrition program. All the teams that I serve and lead are service teams. I firmly believe that instructional technology, as well as all the other departments I just mentioned, exist to serve students and educators in the best way possible and provide excellence and equity in everything we do. So I feel like my role is a facilitator and cheerleader.
We’ve talked about your team at Greeneville and the opportunities you provide to staff and students – can you share more about that and how you went about building those programs?
BM: When I was interviewing for my position, the director of schools asked me what I would do with students who knew more about technology than I did. I replied that those students will always know more than I do, and I have to embrace and welcome that, and not feel threatened or intimidated by it. I even told him that I'd really like to hire them. At first, he seemed unsure of me and my ideas, but we eventually developed a relationship built on our mutual desire for what was best for students. Within a few months, I convinced him to let me hire some really smart high school students, and there hasn't been one day since then that I haven't had some of the smartest 16, 17, and 18-year-olds on my team. Many of these young people have served on our team, so we always let them remain on our team during long college breaks. And some of them go to career and technical schools. As long as they're learning, as long as they're enrolled in some certification program or some college degree program, we want them to come back and help us during the summer.
Some of public education’s busiest times are during the summer months. That's when we're busy imaging devices, re-imaging devices, and preparing for new device deployment and rollout. So, we've expanded that as my circle of influence got a little bit bigger in the district.
I expanded the program to include maintenance and custodial high school techs, an interoffice mail delivery person, and more. Recently, we had a young man who finished an apprenticeship under one of our locksmiths on staff, and now that student left high school as a certified locksmith.
Tell us more about your IT programs and the opportunities you have for students.
BM: We are mostly a Dell shop, and I have been buying IT equipment for 45 years, and the Dell systems are serving us very well. We bought into something called the Dell Student Tech Program. Dell provides all the curriculum and all the support. Our tech leader, whose sole job is to support 950 students, and a hundred staff members, is also the mentor for this program. And our students in the Dell Student Academy are earning industry-level certifications on working on devices and their software certifications. We have right now, and my are fingers crossed, but we have a few students at Greeneville High School that are right now in the number one or two places in the national Microsoft student challenges.
And so we have a Microsoft Academy and IT academy, by which our students leave us with Excel certifications. The last time I looked at industry data in this area, an Excel certification can command up to $5,000 more when you walk into an entry-level job or any job. That Excel certification can be that valuable. We're always looking for ways to make sure that students are ready for post-secondary success, whatever that looks like.
Can you share more about the student-community programs?
BM: We have a program focused on connecting students from the Dell student academy over at Greeneville High School with senior citizens in the community who need technical assistance. The idea came up during one of the town staff meetings, where we learned about the need for senior citizens to get help with technology. The Dell student academy was the perfect partner to help out, as it's just a short walk away from the senior citizen center. The program has been a huge success, and we're thrilled to see the multi-generational interaction between the students and the senior citizens. We are always looking for ways to help people explore, learn, and expand their passions, and this program has been one of the most rewarding initiatives we've undertaken. As the IT team for our entire community, we are proud to support not just our school system, but also the police, fire, public works, and the mayor. By building relationships with our local funding body and attending town staff meetings, we are always looking for ways to help them with IT integration and automation.
Why do you think development programs like this are important to school systems?
BM: In my opinion, building a culture of continuous learning is crucial in public education, not just for students but also for educators. Learning is a lifelong process, and by constantly challenging ourselves and each other, we can ensure that there is no finish line to learning. Personally, I graduated from high school in 1981, the same year IBM sold their first personal computer, and I never could have imagined that I would make a living in technology. My career didn't even exist when I was in high school or college. This is why I think it's important for us to continuously grow ourselves and others, and as long as we are learning and growing, the organization will also grow. It's essential to seek out opportunities for growth and embrace new ideas, whether from colleagues or other sources, to replicate them in our district for our students.
Scribbles is one of the platforms that staff has used to advance professionally. Can you share a little bit about your experience with Scribbles and how it has helped you and your team?
So in 2016, I started looking for a solution in this market space and got invited to hear about Scribbles from a neighboring school district. At that time, I was also launching a new team within the district called the student data privacy team. We started thinking about having an information and data inventory long before cybersecurity was even spoken about. We were already thinking about why we have this data, how it will be used, and how often it is replicated throughout the district. We started looking at Scribbles as a way to get ahold of all those paper documents that were filling up file cabinets and sitting in an un-environmentally controlled warehouse. We embraced digitizing records because we knew that paper documents could be lost in case of a fire or flood. When I looked at Scribbles for this process, I was sold because it kept coming out on top every single time we evaluated a vendor. We started out by digitizing, storing documents, and using ScribOnline. We then saw an opportunity to move into more of a revenue-generating format through the use of ScribOrder. Now with our records being all digital and digitized, we're able to swap those back and forth as needed in a very safe and secure manner. It becomes very easy for us to provide those quickly for maybe an employer who's looking for a transcript or for some type of records that, prior to ScribOnline, we would've had to probably go to filing cabinets, send a fax, or make a copy. That was our typical protocol. But now we can let those employers or government agencies requesting that information interact through an online portal and request those records. We charge them for doing that, and in all the years, we have since generated a substantial amount of money for which we have made the decision to invest 100% of that into making sure that we go back and clean up all the backlog of data files of paper files that we had. A beautiful thing is also the online transfer of student records. ScribTransfer is a beautiful thing because we can very quickly and easily transfer those student files without any paper or faxing. Personally, as an old IT person, I think paper presents almost as many challenges in this data privacy scenario. We really have to start by looking at just a big data inventory. And that data inventory can't just be on our digital data. It has to include all of our paper data as well. And so, you know, in the spirit of that, we were able to use Scribbles to digitize all of our paper records, which has been a tremendous help in terms of being able to access that information quickly and securely. And as I mentioned earlier, we've also been able to generate revenue through the use of ScribOrder, which has allowed us to invest in the cleanup of our paper files. Additionally, ScribTransfer has been a game-changer for us in terms of being able to quickly and easily transfer student records without the need for paper or faxing, which has helped to improve the overall security and privacy of that information.
Overall, I would say that Scribbles has been a critical tool for us in terms of improving our data privacy and security practices, as well as our ability to access and share information quickly and securely. It has also helped us to generate revenue and invest in the cleanup of our paper records, which has been a significant undertaking for our district. I highly recommend Scribbles to other schools and districts looking to improve their data practices and streamline operations.
How would you recommend districts get started in building a program like yours?
BM: To get started with building a program similar to ours, well, we began with a small team of stakeholders, including representatives for student data, employee data, finance, and HR. We worked outward from there, examining our data on employees and students and focusing on how we could manage and protect that data. It's essential to have internal conversations with all leaders in the organization to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding data management and protection.
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.