St. Johns Public Schools looking to increase efficiency with software upgrade

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By Luke Robins
Clinton County Chatter Staff Reporter

ST. JOHNS – The St. Johns Public Schools Board of Education has approved an upgrade in financial software for the district. The estimated total cost is $113,170, but it should end up saving them money as time progresses.

According to the Director of Business and Finance, Kelly Corbett, the St. Johns Public Schools Board of Education set aside money on a fund balance in order to pay for the new program, School Business Suite by Skyward.

The goal of this new software is to make the business side more efficient, and will ultimately help with making important budget decisions.

“It’s just a great program that’s really going to streamline our business department and really improve the efficiency in what we’re doing. It will really help us make better important decisions as we move through the budget and financial process,” said Vice President William Tennant.

According to Tennant, the new software will make things like managing the payroll, contract negotiations, and keeping track of inventory much simpler. It will provide accurate information as they look towards the future.

“It’s going to improve our efficiency and what we can do,” Tennant said. “It’s going to help us make better informed decisions to move ahead.”

There are seven schools in the district and this new software will help keep track of the satellite accounts and they should all benefit from it, according to Tennant.

This is the system that is used to pay employees, bills, and track all financial transactions, according to Corbett.

She added that a major factor in this decision is that the current software is out of date and the upgrade will help them be able provide the proper information to the state.

“The board made the decision that our current software is quite old and is not really compatible with modern times,” Corbett said. “Every school has to annually upload financial data to the state of Michigan. We have to have software that is compliant and can track to the level of detail required for schools.”

Some things, under the old software, are done by hand and recorded on paper, because the software does not allow for it. This is a slow process for something such as a custodian requesting a sick day according to Corbett.

The new software will make processes like these much quicker. Corbett explained:

“Right now they have to request a day off in paper. It gets sent to the payroll office, then the payroll person has to manually key it in the system to log it. We keep a separate attendance form in Excel as well, because the system doesn’t have a very good attendance tracking system. Under the new system, a person will be able to go in electronically and see how many days they have and say they need to take a day off. The supervisor will be notified electronically and can approve electronically and it will automatically loaded in the software and the person will know if they were approved or denied. The software will streamline this whole process.”

There is some concern over the cost of this upgrade. It will cost $87,751 for the software, data conversion, training, and implementation support. There is also an annual license fee of $25,419 for five years.

Some residents are skeptical if the software is worth the price.

Sylvia McKay, a local resident, said, “There’s nothing wrong with using your brain.”

However, Tennant believes that the efficiency gained with help them save money sooner than later.

“We have an employee that is going to be retiring soon, and once this program gets introduced and up and running, we will probably not have to replace that person,” Tennant said. “We will be more efficient in the terms of the number of people in our business office.”

According to Corbett, there are some concerns moving forward such as adjusting to the new software and extracting old data, but it should be worth it.

Corbett said, “We’re excited the board is willing to take this step. It will be a challenging few months, but it will improve the financial reporting and accountability in the district so it will allow us to make smarter, wiser budget decisions.”

“We feel that it is really going to help us in so many ways and we will, in the end, be saving money from all of the information that we gain from this program,” said Tennant.

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