Being first in the technology world is synonymous with innovation, trailblazing, and leadership. Those who recognize new ways of doing things better, smarter, and more efficiently are considered pioneers. Take San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District. This Northern California district, set in the scenic redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains, stands tall as a first in technological innovation amongst its Golden State peers.
“Our district was the very first California public school district to contract with the PowerSchool Student Information System, and we have never looked back,” says Gail Heagerty, Student Information System and Database Specialist at San Lorenzo Valley USD. “PowerSchool is the best student information system out there.”
That was in 1999 – just two years after PowerSchool launched its flagship product at a time when SIS’s were relatively new in the education technology space. Now nearly two decades later, San Lorenzo Valley USD continues to embrace the PowerSchool SIS for managing student data and also now offers parents a convenient, safe method of online enrollment and registration with PowerSchool Registration.
“We wanted a product that grows with us, and that’s exactly what PowerSchool is doing. It is a company that continues to add new innovative products, like PowerSchool Assessment, PowerSchool Learning, and PowerSchool Registration. We appreciate partnering with a company that looks to the future and helps keep us up with technology improvements to best serve our students,” says Heagerty.
Formed in 1951, San Lorenzo Valley USD serves approximately 3000 students from Boulder Creek, Brookdale, Ben Lomond, Felton, Lompico, and Mount Hermon. It currently boasts a 97% graduation rate, all four of its traditional schools have been recognized as “California Distinguished Schools,” and San Lorenzo Valley Middle School has been named a “Gold Ribbon School” by the California Department of Education.
Throughout its partnership with PowerSchool, clean data has always been a top priority for San Lorenzo Valley USD. The district knows that accurate, consistent, and stable data within a school’s SIS can have far-reaching, positive effects on all of its stakeholders. “I absolutely love working on stable, relational databases and PowerSchool has helped both the district and parents by being able to store clean data,” Heagerty says. “A database is only as valuable as the data stored in it. Here at San Lorenzo Valley USD, we maintain a high quality of data so that it is easy to pull at a moment’s notice for any administrator’s or teacher’s needs.
If student data helps drive school operations, clean data drives things more efficiently and smoothly. Accurate, up-to-date student data helps San Lorenzo Valley administrators make better, more informed decisions regarding school operations, informs teachers in lesson planning and individual instruction, and keeps students on track with real-time updates on grades and academic performance. At San Lorenzo Valley USD, clean data storage translates into better parent engagement and communication, student growth, and teacher empowerment. “PowerSchool makes us more productive employees and has made it extremely easy to access student, staff, and parent data,” says Heagerty. “PowerSchool helps power our school operations primarily because of the fact that administrators have constant access to the system. It’s a very easy, intuitive system to use and admins have a strong understanding of the data within PowerSchool.”
Heagerty cites chronic attendance issues as one example of how the district uses student data. Every school day counts in a child’s education and continuing absences can have a significant impact. With PowerSchool, San Lorenzo Valley USD is able to identify when students are at risk of being chronically absent and is able to step in and help the student.
Parents who are involved in their children’s education lead to student success. Engaged parents help students complete their schoolwork, go to class, gain a better education with better academic performance, with fewer behavioral problems. Like any school district, San Lorenzo Valley USD focuses on improving parent engagement to see these results. In the district’s Local Control Accountability Plan, one of its core goals has been to provide opportunities to participate in school activities and communications. In addition to traditional engagement methods of school newsletters, district committees, booster clubs, parent nights and workshops, the district has utilized PowerSchool to provide parents with real-time, instant access to student grades, attendance, comments, assignments and scores directly from the teacher’s gradebook.
Claire Hackett, middle school teacher who is also a parent of two San Lorenzo Valley USD students, says, “PowerSchool and PowerTeacher are good tools for parents to have easy access to their child’s grades and missing work. Parents are able to get many questions regarding grades answered through checking PowerSchool, which saves us time in terms of parent communication. It benefits students by giving them ownership over keeping track of their grades and work turned in.”
“Our district is dedicated to good communication,” says Heagerty. “One way we achieve that is having all parents and guardians in all grades have a parent portal in PowerSchool, which gives them access to their student’s grades, assignments, attendance, and overall performance. This helps at the student level because an entire ‘team’ is involved in student education, which includes teachers, counselors, administrators, parents, and students.”
Every school district is different with its own unique set of needs and demands. For San Lorenzo Valley USD, PowerSchool is a perfect fit because the system is easily customizable. The district has found it simple to create custom pages, portals, tables and fields, including pages for reporting to the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS), which is the state’s data system for state and federal reporting.
“I love creating custom pages and understand the value of tailoring a system to work best for us. The ability to customize PowerSchool is huge for our district. We started with PowerSchool in the very early days when CALPADS was not even thought of yet. We customized and were collecting immunization data, for example, before it was even added to PowerSchool,” says Heagerty.
San Lorenzo Valley’s most recent customization is a comprehensive student screen with custom tabs for information on students, parents and guardians, emergency contacts, health, CALPADS, and school transfers. The customization has helped registrars because the most pertinent information is all in one place.
The San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District uses PowerSchool Registration to enroll new students and to update information on students returning to schools each year. The best-in-class platform helps the district manage admissions, enrollment, and registration. San Lorenzo Valley uses PowerSchool Registration to streamline its student registration process by moving a time-consuming, inefficient, paper-based process into an efficient digital workflow, and puts all data entered through PowerSchool Registration accurately and securely into PowerSchool SIS.
According to Heagerty, the “online process allows the district to reduce paper waste, improve accuracy, increase efficiency and save parents’ time. My registrars love it!”
As California’s first public school district to embrace PowerSchool as its student information system, San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District has proven to have vision and foresight for a bright future. By partnering with PowerSchool, an education technology leader dedicated to improving the K-12 education experience, the district is fulfilling its mission of “working together to ensure that all students learn and are fully prepared for college and career.”
“PowerSchool is the leader in student information systems and we definitely recognize that in the product and in their support team. The folks at PowerSchool listen, and they listen well. PowerSchool is very dynamic in keeping up with new requirements and with client requests for enhancements. They stay current and listen to their customers,” Heagerty says. “I feel very fortunate to have a job wherein my main task is working in PowerSchool. It’s been a great experience all along.”
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