Fort Osage R-1 School District is a public school district in Independence, Mo., with an impressive tradition of caring and innovating. It serves almost 5,000 students at about a dozen schools, including an early childhood center, six elementary schools, a middle school, a high school, a career and technology center, and an academy for K-12. Approximately 780 faculty and staff seek to support student success by ensuring that each child has opportunities to learn and achieve.
The faculty and staff of Fort Osage R-1 School District in Independence, Mo., are committed to student success.
In the classroom, district educators rely on a student information system for managing student data and tracking student performance. And, just as important to the realization of the district’s mission, staff members are managing the business of education with eFinancePLUS, which helps them accomplish critical financial, procurement, payroll, and personnel functions.
Recently, the district launched a series of initiatives associated with eFinancePLUS that have enhanced its purchasing and payroll processes.
Redesign a cumbersome purchasing process to simplify the district’s business operations and allow employees to obtain the resources they need, when they need them. In addition, recreate its timekeeping and payroll processes to reduce administrative burdens and provide employees with increased access to their information.
Chose [PowerSchool’s] financial and human resources management system to support the district’s purchasing process, reduce the volume of checks, strengthen the audit trail, and be responsive to employee needs.
For several years, Fort Osage considered opportunities for providing its staff with the purchasing power they need while maintaining the rigorous controls necessary for a public school district.
According to Gayla Hirst, business applications coordinator, the successful resolution of this issue had positive implications for student success. “Ultimately our job is to educate children,” she explains. “So, the less time we have people doing busy work and the more time teachers and staff have to do their job, the better off we are.”
Dr. John Ruddy, assistant superintendent of support services, says the district has taken a two-pronged approach to improving the process—first launching a purchasing card (PCard) initiative, followed by an ePayables solution for paying vendors. This work has been enormously successful and has had ancillary benefits of reducing the volume of checks the district prints, tightening the security of its financial information, improving the rigors of the audit trail, and eliminating the need for petty cash in district buildings.
Fort Osage launched its PCard initiative with the eFinancePLUS PCard module, which is designed to enable districts to administer credit card use. “With the PCard module, our district staff can make a purchase, and it can be tracked in eFinancePLUS,” explains Ruddy. “The purchases don’t feel any different to the end user. And, we are able to collect the receipts and track the expenditures the way we would for any other purchase.”
Ruddy says the initiative was enhanced by features offered by the district’s bank. “We’re able to print our tax exempt status on the PCards, so employees don’t have to carry around letters,” he says. “And, we were able to put appropriate controls on the cards, so people aren’t overspending.”
Hirst says the initiative has reduced the burden on the Purchasing Department staff. “We love the product we see in eFinancePLUS. You can look at a vendor transaction just the same if you use a PCard as if you’re writing a check or doing a P.O. The different kinds of transactions are easily identifiable,” she explains. “It really streamlines people’s time and makes it easy for users to run their audit trails on their budgets.”
With the success of the PCard initiative, the district considered how it was making payments to its high-volume vendors. To address inefficiencies, Hirst says the district contracted with PowerSchool to develop a custom software interface between eFinancePLUS and the bank’s ePayable product, which permits the district to create a payment and place it in a Visa account for the vendor to retrieve.
“The custom software that we have is fantastic,” she says. “Our users do their purchasing exactly the same way they always have. But when the purchases come into the Purchasing Department, the vendors are identified as ePayable vendors. A file is created when we run the batch. And, after we upload that file to our Visa site, the vendors retrieve their payment through the card.”
According to Hirst, the check-free process is a hit with district staff. “It’s made our job so much easier. We really don’t like printing checks—you send your bank account out to the world when you put a check in the mail,” she says. “So, we’ve reduced paper. We’ve reduced our time stuffing envelopes. And, PowerSchool’s custom software identifies the transaction for the kind of transaction it is—so it really gives us the ability to look at how we spend.”
For Ruddy, the process is both secure and efficient. “After the payment is pulled, the card resets to zero until we send another transaction. So, there’s a lot of security with this payment,” he says. “And, our payments are usually net five or net six, rather net 30 or net 60. So, there’s a convenience factor for vendors, which get their cash much sooner.”
According to Hirst, the district also recently invested in the eFinancePLUS Employee Access Center, a convenient portal that provides employees with online access to pay history, benefits, leave, and much more.
“The learning curve was so short on this,” says Hirst. “Right off the bat, we stopped issuing paycheck vouchers. And that’s a huge help to our Payroll Department. We’ve saved paper and reduced wear and tear on the printer.”
Most importantly, Employee Access Center has improved employees’ access to their information and reduces the burden on district staff. “We believe employees are entitled to their information. They should be able to have access whenever they need it. And with Employee Access Center, they do—and our employees absolutely love it,” she says. “The phone calls into the Payroll Department have been dramatically reduced, because people can take care of what they need.”
In addition, Fort Osage also recently chose to implement a solution from TimeClock Plus, a PowerSchool preferred solutions provider for automated timekeeping, in part to address the Affordable Care Act mandate of providing health care for employees working more than 30 hours per week.
“Accuracy in accounting for people’s true on-the-clock time with the district is critical when you’re trying to determine if you have to enroll that person or not,” says Ruddy. After evaluating a number of vendors, the district chose TimeClock Plus, in part because of the company’s preferred solutions provider status.
For Hirst, the vendor’s relationship with PowerSchool is paying dividends, particularly in accommodating the complexities of the district’s chosen timekeeping process. “I think the best part of using a preferred partner is that both PowerSchool and TimeClock Plus are dedicated to make the integration work. I’ve experienced other third-party vendors saying, ‘Oh, this will interface,’ and it’s unrealistic and it doesn’t,” she says. “And, another reason to use products that interface well is because the expectations about what we have to track change all the time. So, we have to be ready.”
And ready Fort Osage faculty and administrators are—feeling confident in their ability to innovate their processes in this increasingly dynamic landscape of K-12 education with PowerSchool’s administrative software.
We love the product we see in eFinancePLUS. It really streamlines people’s time and makes it easy for users to run their audit trails on their budgets.
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