Donna Steele has spent much of the past 21 years supporting the Northwest Independent School District’s (ISD’s) counseling staff as a member of the Student Data Services team. On the eve of her retirement from the district, she looked back on her career with gratitude and humility, noting that her collaboration with district staff was the highlight of her many years at Northwest ISD.
“I started with the district at Northwest High School as the student records manager. This job gave me the experience I needed for my position in Student Data Services working with eSchoolPLUS,” she says. “Most of my career has been spent working with counseling staff at the secondary level. District course catalog, master scheduling, transcripts, and graduation requirements have been my focus. It has been my pleasure to work with such a wonderful group of people for 21 years.”
In 2013, the Texas Legislature passed Texas House Bill 5, which made substantial changes to the state’s curriculum and graduation requirements, assessment program, and accountability system. To support Northwest ISD in meeting these new requirements, Steele implemented eSchoolPLUS Career Planner. Through her considerable effort and innovative thinking, she created a model for other districts in the state to follow.
“In implementing the new graduation requirements in Texas House Bill 5, I was determined to do whatever I could to make this transition easier for the counseling staff,” says Steele. “This is where eSchoolPLUS Career Planner came in.”
Career Planner is a tool for developing and tracking an academic path for each individual student. Based on the plan chosen, users can select from a list of courses that will meet that plan’s requirements. The software solution enables counselors to create course requests years in advance and to ensure that students are working toward meeting graduation requirements. Through Home Access Center, students and parents and/or guardians can enter course requests and track their progress toward graduation.
As she reflects on the expansive effort, Steele recommends taking edtech initiatives “one step at a time.” “My advice to anyone starting a project like this is to make sure that all the pieces of this puzzle are ready to be put together. Just take one piece at a time, making sure it is exactly like you need it to be, and then move to the next piece,” she says. “Overall, I’m pleased with the way it turned out. The eSchoolPLUS Texas team was a tremendous help throughout this process.”
In August 2015, Steele was recognized as an Information Technology Innovator in SunGard K-12 Education’s Lead without Limits Awards Program. From nominations from educators and school administrators from across the country, Steele was selected as the individual who best leveraged technology to innovate operations.
The Lead without Limits Awards Program recognizes school districts, schools, departments, administrators, and educators that leverage technology to help improve student achievement and/or school or district efficiency. Information Technology Innovators, one of the Lead without Limits Award categories, enhance the educational process with technology. Nominees’ information technology efforts support student achievement and/or improve school/district efficiency.
Nominations for the Lead without Limits Awards are accepted through an application form available on SunGard K-12 Education’s website. For guidelines and selection process, please see the Lead without Limits Awards Program information online.