Registration & Lottery – Savannah-Chatham County PS

November 21, 2016

Based in Chatham County, Georgia, Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools (SCCPSS) includes over 35,000 students across more than 50 schools, from Pre-K through grade twelve. SCCPSS manages a school choice/lottery solution for enrollment in its schools. Traditionally, enrollment management was a paper-based, time intensive process.

“My colleagues had worked with [PowerSchool] before, and spoke highly of the company and its project management and consultative approach. I was impressed from the start; I first sat down with [PowerSchool] on January 22nd and by February 25th, we had launched the online application for our Pre-K lottery and were deep into constructing the system.”
–Sabrina Riley, Project Manager for Savannah-Chatham Public School System

The Challenge

The Savannah-Chatham Public School System sought a solution to an increasingly vexing problem: staff for the district’s 30 Pre-K schools had become overwhelmed handling an abundance of paper applications, implementing a manual, site-by-site lottery, and managing through the administrative and policy burdens of a complex process.

“Prior to the online application, the process was labor intensive, difficult to track, and prone to errors. Lotteries were individually handled at each Pre-K school independent of the others. Resources were allocated and a ‘bingo model’ was used to fill available seats and create a waitlist. Because of the independent lotteries, a child could be selected at multiple Pre-K schools, tying up several seats in the district. Communication between the Pre-K schools did not occur at the frequency required to ensure a succinct process with seat assignments and waitlists. In resolving these problems, we would provide additional families opportunities to attend Pre-K, an essential program for ‘frontloading’ success, or in other words, preparing students for their next grade,” said Sabrina Riley, project manager for Savannah-Chatham Public School System. “Another time consuming process was parents applying in person at each individual Pre-K school. This increased the burden on the administrative staff in processing and tracking multiple applications and associated forms.”

The Solution

In early 2013, Savannah-Chatham turned to PowerSchool Registration to provide a customized solution that would satisfy the district’s waitlist and seating policies, as well as Georgia reporting procedures. PowerSchool had previously been selected by Savannah-Chatham to implement the district’s K-12 Online Registration module, so the school system was familiar with the company’s ability to develop and manage a project of significant scale and complexity.

“My colleagues had worked with [PowerSchool] before, and spoke highly of the company and its project management and consultative approach,” reported Riley. “I was impressed from the start; I first sat down with [PowerSchool] on January 22nd and by February 25th, we had launched the online application for our Pre-K lottery and were deep into constructing the system.”
PowerSchool developed and managed a detailed and consultative project plan which guided Savannah-Chatham through a complex process of discovery, design and implementation – and in many cases, uncovered ideas and approaches that had not been considered at the outset.

Among the key challenges: determining the best way to implement lottery logic, based on district policies; defining the type and scope of information requested of Pre-K applicants; and deciding how the Pre-K lottery would handle contingencies and “what if” questions (e.g., How should the online lottery handle a family applying for twins?). In addition, the PowerSchool Registration team trained information specialists, principals and vice principals at all 30 program sites. And Ms. Riley and her colleagues designed a Pre-K lottery website with promotional materials and implemented an outreach initiative to ensure parents and families were comfortable with the online application and lottery process, including addressing any questions.

“Thanks to [PowerSchool Registration’s] project plan, their professionalism, and their responsiveness, we were able to implement and launch the Savannah-Chatham Pre-K online lottery on time, on budget, and with very, very few unexpected problems,” she said.

The Results

When Savannah-Chatham launched the Pre-K program application, the response from parents and families was tremendous. “We knew our marketing messages to families were successful because there was no line at Savannah-Chatham Central Office the day the applications were opened to families, and there were few people in the lobbies of our Pre-K program site locations,” Riley said. She added that the first day Pre-K lottery application opened, Savannah-Chatham received 625 online applications. At the end of the application period, the district obtained 1,675 applications for about 1,317 Pre-K program seats.

Riley said that at the time of the lottery selection in early April 2013, “parents and families were motivated and excited about the results. They felt well-informed from the time they submitted applications, through the lottery and when they learned whether their children were accepted or waitlisted, which was communicated via mail generated from their [PowerSchool Registration] system. Throughout, they believed the new [PowerSchool Registration] online lottery system was transparent, accurate and fair. And when you’re speaking with parents about the education of their three- and four-year-olds, you like to hear that!” She added that another important constituency was also satisfied with the Pre-K online lottery: district and Georgia state officials who required a range of reports, audit histories, records of changes and the like. “With [PowerSchool Registration], producing just about any report took just a few keystrokes,” Riley commented.
Add to all of this the system’s ability to integrate with Savannah-Chatham’s PowerSchool SIS, and the picture was complete: Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools believed everyone was a winner with the Pre-K program lottery system developed by the PowerSchool Registration team.

“My colleagues had worked with [PowerSchool] before, and spoke highly of the company and its project management and consultative approach. I was impressed from the start; I first sat down with [PowerSchool] on January 22nd and by February 25th, we had launched the online application for our Pre-K lottery and were deep into constructing the system.”

Sabrina Riley
Project Manager for Savannah-Chatham Public School System
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