The Freedom of Flexibility - Independence Public Schools

The technology boom of the 90s sure made a mighty impact on the way we communicate, share, and disseminate information. This impact can be summed up in two words—the Internet. For Independence Public Schools, it was time to replace the district’s outdated and restrictive FoxPro system with a more efficient and flexible Web-based application that could bring more freedom and flexibility to the process of coordinating children’s resource services between the city, state, and local agencies. “There was an obvious duplication of services and paperwork across the 14 school campuses, city, and state agencies,” explains Debbie Marlowe, Associate Superintendent of Special Services for Independence Public Schools. “We also saw poor dissemination of information about the services, not to mention shrinking dollars and high turnover of personnel, who had little continuity of knowledge.” Information was collected into a specified format rather than a database, necessitating hours of manual changes whenever the State of Missouri revised its administrative requirements. While each campus and agency had different eligibility documentation and criteria, it turned out they were all asking for basically the same information. The district then decided to create a single document that met the needs of all agencies and could quickly communicate information back and forth.

MightyData developed a Web-based system that offered tremendous flexibility when combined with a database. This new system was developed in two parts: a back-end that consisted of a database housing all the data and managing all procedures; and HTML pages that utilized a Web server. The low-cost solution allowed existing hardware to be used and because it was web-based, training was easy. The site posted two critical documents on each student, which were kept on a uniform platform. In addition to offering easy modification, the site allows several levels of secure access by all agencies involved. The first document, the Diagnostic Summary, pulls together all the evaluative information on how a student diagnosis was made or not made by a committee overseeing Special Education enrollment. The second document, called the Collaborative Support Plan (CSP), serves as an individual education plan (IEP), detailing the specific services that will be provided for the student once admitted. It also tracks his progress across teachers, case coordinators, and other school administrators. The unique factor here is how many different people contribute data to a primary document.

“What MightyData created,” says Debbie, “is a system that is exceptionally flexible for us and certainly up-to-the-minute because all campuses can access our site with a Web browser. It is quite simple to change data, and to do administrative tasks in no time.” Not only did Debbie enthusiastically endorse the system’s versatility and easy Internet access to her peers nationwide, but she also presented the new system to education experts in Washington, DC, and Denver, as well as the State of Missouri. Since then, MightyData has been called upon to help the Independence School District train its staff and other area districts that implement the system in the future. This will undoubtedly help other school districts better serve their special education students and families. “What was once a horror for me,” recounts Debbie, “is now a simple matter with the FileMaker-based system that MightyData shaped for us. It has dramatically improved the quality of service and communication we can provide students, and at a reduced cost to our taxpayers.” For Independence, that’s the freedom of flexibility that comes with technology to transform.

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