In May 2015, Ric Cargas, database and information systems manager for Council Rock School District, Pa., was recognized as an Operational Efficiency Pacesetter in SunGard K-12 Education’s Lead without Limits Awards Program. From nominations from educators and school administrators from across the country, Cargas was selected as the individual who best leverages technology to improve the efficiency of school/district processes.
As database and information systems manager for Council Rock School District, Cargas manages the process of evaluating and implementing technological tools for the district. Among his notable accomplishments, he recently led an effort to implement a new elementary standards-based student report card. His involvement in this initiative’s implementation process prompted Cargas to design a report that is helping administrators and teachers gain a better understanding of student achievement and identify opportunities for growth.
When Council Rock implemented PerformancePLUS AssessmentBUILDER, Cargas identified the need to centralize bubble sheet processing at the building level. He developed a program and set up a shared server on which all bubble sheet image scans are saved and read. The consolidated process has greatly reduced the administrative burden on educators, who now have more time for instruction.
Cargas also implemented student active directory authentication for the district’s students to use Home Access Center, the eSchoolPLUS family portal. The effort has increased student utilization of the portal by eliminating the requirement for them to have another login and password to remember.
Cargas says that he identifies initiatives by constantly evaluating district tasks, processes, and systems with the mindset of “how can we do this better?” “It’s important to me to become a master of our systems and have a deep understanding of our users and their processes,” he says. “I invest time to keep informed of future system versions and features and new technologies and to collaborate with users, both internal and external.”
The Council Rock administrator says that “golden nuggets”—initiatives that eliminate redundancies and manual efforts, improve productivity, and reduce costs—arise out of these efforts. He prioritizes initiatives by “maintaining a healthy balance between having our systems determine our processes and not allowing our processes to confine our systems.”
Cargas offers these five keys to a successful technology rollout:
- Effective Planning. Effective planning involves “including key stakeholders in major decision making, taking time to meet with users that will be affected, understanding their process, and realizing the impact it will have on them.”
- Great Communication during the Entire Rollout Process. “Not being too technical in explaining the new system/process and communicating how it benefits the user adds to a smoother implementation.”
- User Testing. “In addition to making sure the new process/system works, having users test the system enables them to become comfortable and includes them in the process.”
- User Training. “User training gives them a clear understanding of the new system/process.”
- User Support. “When your users know that they can count on your support, they are more willing to try new things and be acceptable to change. This time can also be used to encourage them as well and celebrate wins with them when they learn the new process/system.”