Vicksburg Opens the Year with Totally New Data System

By Sue Moore

It wasn’t so long ago that student grades came home to parents via a kid’s willingness to hand over the report card for inspection. For the last 10 years, Vicksburg Community Schools has provided a portal providing online access for grades, assignments, teacher’s comments, discipline, and most anything else that is taught in the school that can be recorded.

A more robust new system being installed by the school district. The application, Skyward, promises even more features than the previous system. The challenge for school administrators, parents and students is to learn and adapt to the new bells and whistles.

That means training on every level must take place, almost in the blink of an eye. Teachers were given access to online training through Skyward’s Professional Development Center in May with practice modules. But it isn’t quite like the real thing that they will be exposed to on Aug. 30.

Students will be introduced to the program on Sept. 4, their first day of the new school year. Parents will be able to access the system on that same day with a tutorial to sent home with their child. The instructions will go home on paper, but that should be the beginning of a major decrease in the amount of paper copies going home in the future.

The parents’ responsibility is to check the information they see on the screen for accuracy and correct it if there are address changes, phone numbers or contact information to be updated. All of the data from the previous system, called Infinite Campus, had to be moved over during the summer so it’s important to check for accuracy, cautioned Don Puckett, Vicksburg’s technology director. Contact information is the only thing a parent or student can request to change. Kids can’t change their grades and a teacher can’t change another teacher’s information.

There will be a kiosk at the Community Tailgate on Thursday, August 30 for parents and students to experiment with, Puckett said. And a series of in-house trainers will be stationed in each school building for support and to answer any questions on navigation, grades and attendance entries.

Besides the student information side of the software, the financial offices of the school district have been integrated into Skyward. Steve Goss, assistant superintendent and finance department head, told the school board that it has been a challenging transition during the summer as his crew has been working between two systems. He believes this system will be a huge improvement.

The plan has been several years in the making with a committee designed to study the properties of the software and the cost. “Portage Schools has been using Skyward and that gave us an extra level of comfort,” Puckett said. “We just didn’t dive into the unknown. The goal is to get rid of the paperwork.”

Skyward is located in Stevens Pointe, Wisconsin and reports that it has 2,000 individual customers with 7 million students using its system in seven states.

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