Harrisonburg City Public Schools Stuffs the “Chicken Program,” Implements eFinancePLUS

Posted by Matt Berringer on October 15, 2013

School District Profile:

  • Public school system located in the Shenandoah Valley, Va., which educates about 5,300 students in preschool through 12th grade. Students are served by about 840 full-time faculty and staff at eight schools.
  • The school district is one of the most diverse schools districts in the state of Virginia. More than 50 different languages are spoken by students, 37 percent of which are English language learners.
  • Harrisonburg prides itself on being “a place where learning has no limits and together we work for the success of all.”


School district finances were being managed with a financial and payroll system with limited functionality, resulting in duplicate data entry, mountains of paperwork, and a host of manual processes that robbed staff members of efficiency and time.


Bring school district business operations into the 21st century by installing eFinancePLUS, a best-of-breed system for managing financial and human resources.

Harrisonburg City Public Schools’ Story of Success

HCPSchool_logo_blueWhen D.D. Dawson was named executive director of finance for Harrisonburg City Public Schools, the district was using a financial and payroll system developed for the local poultry industry.

Affectionately known as the “chicken program,” the software required district administrators to do a lot of duplicate data entry and implement a variety of manual processes. After years with the same system, school administrators were very comfortable with their financial practices and a bit reluctant to consider moving away from software that, thanks to their considerable effort, was working well.

However, Dawson, who had been Harrisonburg City Public Schools’ director of technology before accepting her current appointment, believed the district would benefit from a modern financial and human resources management system. “I saw a need to bring our district finances into the 21st century,” she says.

A Change for the Better

As one of her first initiatives, Dawson launched a search for a new system. After an extensive and thorough evaluation of options, the school district selected eFinancePLUS for managing district financial and human resources.

Part of SunGard K-12 Education’s PLUS 360 suite, eFinancePLUS features automated workflows and notifications to increase the efficiency of the accounting, procurement, human resources, and payroll functions. It is designed for quick implementation and provides district administrators with insights into budgetary performance, employee statistics, substantial purchases, and much more.

After some initial hesitation, the staff embraced eFinancePLUS and soon began to leverage the system to increase the efficiency of district processes. “Change is often hard for people. But I can honestly say that every single one of the staff cannot believe the progress that we have made,” Dawson says.

“We know where we were. We know how far we’ve come. And, we can see the possibilities of what the system can continue to do for us in the future.”

Purchasing and accounts payable previously involved a lot of manual processes to ensure the district’s high standards and rigorous controls were maintained. With eFinancePLUS, this has now been automated and greatly streamlined, significantly reducing the opportunity for error and processing time.

“Previously, we did not have a very clean workflow. Staff at our schools would enter purchase orders, and then the information would come down here and our staff would have to re-enter it,” explains Dawson. “Now, bookkeepers at the schools can enter a requisition into eFinancePLUS, and it is already in the system so the purchasing specialist only has to call up that requisition and push one button. There’s no more duplicate entry.”

Gone also are the days when revenues are manually tracked in a spreadsheet. ”Now, all you do is book that revenue to a particular account code and, at the end of the year, you have a very concise and accurate summary,” she says. “This allows us to have a clear, comprehensive, and very accurate picture of the state of our district finances.”

In addition, eFinancePLUS has freed the district from filing mountains of paperwork. “We’re not saving every sheet of paper anymore because eFinancePLUS has such a powerful way to generate reports and archive documents,” says Dawson. “During our routine annual audit, the auditors are always very pleased with the documentation we’re able to provide them.”

Support for a District Human Resources Initiative

As Harrisonburg City Public Schools begins another academic year, the district is launching a major professional development initiative for its staff. The district will be developing targeted professional development plans for all staff members, based on their interests and professional goals.

To support this initiative, the district is implementing eFinancePLUS Professional Development, which decentralizes and manages professional development, from registration to tracking. With the software solution, school districts can track in-house training courses, publish a course catalog, schedule facilities, and manage the wait list for courses. It also allows for optional grading and credit for assignments and supports external participants and instructors.

Dawson expects the product to be particularly helpful with recertification. “Our teaching staff can sign up for courses—whether they’re courses we offer in the district or through an outside consultant or that they take at a local college,” she explains. “Then there can be verification to indicate whether they’ve attended and met all the requirements of that course.” Then at recertification time, Dawson says eFinancePLUS Professional Development offers Harrisonburg “one comprehensive place for all the recertification data we need.”

A Partner for Success

Looking forward, Dawson feels confident knowing that Harrisonburg City Public Schools has a dedicated partner in SunGard K-12 Education.

From the moment Harrisonburg became a SunGard K-12 Education customer, district administrators knew they made the right choice. “We had some wonderful SunGard Professional Development staff come here and actually help us set up tables and train us,” she recalls. “They also helped us ask the important questions about our processes and gave us new ideas about how to streamline them and make us so much more efficient.”

Every day, the school district has peace of mind knowing that help is only a phone call away.

“The technical support that we receive from SunGard K-12 Education is above and beyond,” says Dawson. “If I have a question about something that’s not a pressing need, I will add a case and put it at medium or low priority. Invariably, I am contacted back within 48 hours. If we have a high priority case, SunGard’s staff is just amazing in getting us what we need. They are really responsive and always so pleasant to talk with. And, they always call back, unlike some of the other technical support we deal with.”

It’s this kind of quality customer support that keeps staff members at exceptional schools, like Harrisonburg City Public Schools, looking for more opportunities to innovate and advance their processes so they can provide better service to their faculty and staff and stay focused on preparing their students to succeed in the 21st century.

Visit SunGard K-12 Education’s website for more stories celebrating our customers’ success.

Topics: technology, Case Studies, efinanceplus, staff development, education, Customer Profiles, K-12