"I see no reason why every school doesn't use the ViewWise document management system."
Lisa Sanders, Administration Assistant to the Special Programs Dir.,
Milan Special School District
Nestled halfway between Nashville and Memphis, in western Tennessee, is the town of Milan. Milan boasts approximately 8,000 residents who take particular pride in their school district. Milan was the first community in the state to organize a private endowment to support academics, underscoring the high level of commitment by its citizens to a quality education.
The school district is referred to as the Milan SSD. SSD stands for "Special School District", meaning even though the district is relatively small, it is self-contained with its own school board and superintendent, and it controls its own budget.
Nine years ago, the Milan SSD purchased the ViewWise document management system, but through a series of their internal events and changes, they never fully realized its wide array of beneficial features. For the first five years, Milan SSD used ViewWise only to scan archival copies of special education documents that were backed up in a server. When a request was made for a copy of a student's file, they would print hard-copy and either mail or fax the file to its destination. This was both costly and labor intensive.
A special education student's file can consist of up to 1,000 pages of information including, multiple Instructional Education Plans (IEP), psychological examinations, Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA), Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP), and much more. Each year the child stays in school, the file grows. The scanning can be time-consuming, while the paper and mailing are expensive. Inevitably there will be an overflow of paper that slows the retrieval process and often costs extra for off-site storage.
In 2008, Lisa Sanders became the Administrative Assistant to the Special Programs Director, and the ViewWise system became her central workflow tool. Prior to that, she served as Computer Lab Manager for grades K-4, and as a secretary at Milan Middle School. While she hadn't had any specific technology training, it was her experience as the Computer Lab Manager that inspired her to use the school's technology to the fullest while exploring every possible benefit. She got that opportunity with ViewWise.
Special Programs includes more than Special Education. It also encompasses Early Childhood, Homebound, and Title 1 students. Sanders wanted to use ViewWise for all of it, but she didn't know where to start. All she found at her new worksite was an old-style desktop PC dedicated to ViewWise, a second old computer for everything else, and an old scanner capable of scanning one page at a time. The scanning of a 1000-page file would take an extraordinary amount of time.
That's where Computhink's commitment to customer service improved the user experience. Sanders called Computhink and was introduced to one of their dedicated Technical Support Representatives. Sanders worked alongside technical support adapting the capabilities of ViewWise to the record-keeping needs of the school district. Says Sanders, "Technical Support went the extra mile, and I couldn't have done it without them."
Technical Support helped Sanders build a server/scanner station from scratch. The district's new scanner is capable of scanning 100 pages at a time, and Computhink Technical Support repurposed the technology so the functions that used to require two separate workstations could be done easier on one.
Today, every Special Programs child is represented in ViewWise in alphabetical order. "Basically, every child has his or her own drawer," says Sanders.
For Special Ed., within each drawer is a fairly standard set of documents, including annual IEPs, Psychological Profiles, FBAs, BIPs, doctors' reports, and requests for student's records, all by year and secured within ViewWise. There is an "Other" tab that can include personal things such as recommendation letters and the EXPLORE Assessment that all 8th grade students in the state are required to take. Sanders also has a drawer reserved for all the miscellaneous documents associated with the scope of her duties. Documents including procedural safeguards, such as invitations to IEPs and other meetings, may have to be produced at a moment's notice, and ViewWise not only makes that possible, ViewWise makes it easy.
One by one, Sanders made electronic records accessible for almost 2,000 past and present Milan district students. Now, when other districts make requests for student records, Sanders can email the file quickly and efficiently directly from ViewWise with a click of her mouse. The law requires the district to keep the records for three years, but thanks to ViewWise, Milan has records that go back 10 years. That can come in handy when adults who passed through the system years ago need to apply for services later in life and need the school history to support their claims. If they decide at any point they want to purge or retire older files, ViewWise has built in retention policies that can be applied to any document with rules specific to Milan's wishes.
"The efficiency of ViewWise frees me up to do other important things," says Sanders. She is also responsible for the records of the 112 students in early childhood, as well as for all the records of students who are homebound. Homebound students' files carry with them a separate set of documents including doctors' justification notes, homebound forms, and contracts for teachers providing tutoring to homebound students, and teachers' time sheets, all of which are managed electronically in ViewWise.
"Everyone at Computhink is so smart and helpful," says Sanders. "They know ViewWise inside and out." In fact, she can't decide which she prefers, ViewWise itself or the helpful people at Computhink. "What I've experienced with Computhink," say Sanders, "is that they're just good people."
"Paper, postage, time, and storage space," says Sanders when describing the ROI package associated with ViewWise. The paper savings alone is monumental. Each time a district requested a file, someone at Milan SSD would have to print out every piece of paper and either mail or fax it. Now they simply press a button. Sanders sees this as a major savings in time and paper cost. She also believes that when you consider more than 2,000 files with an average of 200 to 400 pages each, it's easy to envision how storage would quickly become a costly problem.
Sanders sees no reason why every school doesn't use the ViewWise document management system. She backs up that claim by going to other schools in the surrounding communities and explaining her methods. "I visited a school where the people wanted to learn more about ViewWise and I couldn't believe what I was seeing," she continued, "They had thousands of files in manila folders, with filing cabinets and boxes that were overflowing." In that type of situation, retrieving a document from the archive would entail traveling to a storage facility and digging to find the records.