SIS – Chawanakee USD in California

September 20, 2016

Moving to PowerSchool has helped improve engagement and district performance for Chawanakee Unified School District

What was once a challenge to manage student data within a difficult-to-navigate Student Information System (SIS) was made easy once the Chawanakee Unified School District moved to PowerSchool. The clean, easy-to-understand user interface has been a hit with both parents and students, and the ability and speed in managing data has improved the district’s performance.

The Challenge

Set in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, Chawanakee Unified School District serves 1,100 K-12 students in five schools.

The district had been struggling with a SIS that created more challenges than solutions, and ultimately affected district operations. Its biggest obstacle was difficulty in accessing and entering data, which took 12 to 15 clicks for tasks as simple as entering a daily discipline log, according to Patrick Wilson, Chawanakee USD’s Chief Business Officer.

Other obstacles Chawanakee users faced with its previous SIS included:

  • Poor navigation throughout the system, causing confusion and too much time spent on even routine tasks
  • Challenging to input and access data, which often went missing
  • A slow teacher’s gradebook that was difficult to use, and eventually abandoned by teachers
  • Lack of integration with other software the district was using
  • Complex system which was difficult for the district to customize, and costly to commission the vendor to customize.

“We had been using a very tedious product that nobody liked. It just wasn’t good from the end user perspective,” Wilson says. “The biggest thing, from a practical standpoint, is that accessing and inputting data was very difficult, and we weren’t able to track data very well. The SIS company also wanted to charge for any customizations; they wanted to do an extra charge for everything.”


Knowing that an effective SIS is essential to a district’s operations, communication, and success, Chawanakee created a selection committee to diligently research and find a new, comprehensive solution. The committee, comprised of school staff who would be the primary end users, wanted a new system that would:

  • Increase productivity through an easy-to-use system that would allow users to enter information quickly
  • Have the ability to create clean reports and export data easily
  • Allow for concurrent enrollments and feature robust CALPADS reporting
  • Provide a hosted option so there would be no need for the district to buy equipment
  • Interface with other systems, including LMS’s via API architecture
  • Feature a lowered cost or be cost neutral

After comparing several SIS’s on the market, Chawanakee chose industry-leading PowerSchool, which met all of the district’s essential criteria. PowerSchool’s strengths, as highlighted by committee, included it being a system that is very easy to navigate and enter data with clean, easy-to-read student information screens. The committee also valued PowerSchool’s API (Application Program Interface) infrastructure allowing it to seamlessly talk to other educational systems, including Schoology, an LMS system Chawanakee had been using.

In addition to a $2,000-$4,000 cost saving compared to Chawanakee’s previous SIS, PowerSchool also provided the district with a secure, hosted option, which meant that the district didn’t need to buy additional hardware.

Another highlight of the PowerSchool SIS for Chawanakee is that the system features robust customization capabilities without additional costs charged to the district. Chawanakee USD can create its own customizations, or download them from PowerSchool’s PowerSource, its industry-leading, community-focused customer support portal offering a wide range of pre-built customizations submitted by other users.

Chawanakee stakeholders also chose PowerSchool to provide efficient functionality such as a single point of login for grades and student information, and faster and more robust student reporting of incidents and other student information.


Chawanakee USD and its users are thoroughly enjoying their PowerSchool experience. “We really like the cleanness of easy-to-read student information screens and layouts that are just so much easier to navigate,” Wilson says. “We feel that PowerSchool will increase productivity and allow us to export reports quickly, allowing for concurrent enrollment with robust reporting capabilities.”

The District looks forward to improved parent engagement via PowerSchool, and the benefits to students’ educational experience this communication brings. “PowerSchool’s clean and easy-to-understand screens are a hit with parents and students. We’ve seen a 20 percent increase in parent logins in just the short time we’ve been using it. Ultimately all of this data doesn’t matter unless there’s meaningful conversations with parents based on it. We want people to be able to look up all of the data, both good and bad, about the child, then utilize that data for the overall benefit of the kids. It’s a small piece of what we’re doing in the system but it’s an important piece,” Wilson says.

PowerSchool has helped solve Chawanakee’s student data management challenges and infuse new capabilities to help the district – and its students – succeed. “PowerSchool is a one-stop shop. You can do it all, easily, from one screen – check attendance, historical grades, and more.”

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