A note to our readers: While this article provides valuable insights and strategies for school administrators to enhance their planning process, it's important to note that no single solution can address all of the challenges mentioned. At Sparkrock, we offer a modern Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system designed to integrate seamlessly with many other solutions like Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRM), and Student Information Systems (SIS) through our APIs. We encourage you to explore our offerings and engage with our team to understand how our ERP can align with your specific needs.


Welcome to part 2 of our back-to-school series. Ah, August, the blissful final month of summer break. But while students are still lounging around on vacation, schools are busier than ever preparing for the new school year. The impending start of school brings a seemingly endless checklist of tasks and responsibilities that one must tackle before the first bell rings.

Administrators are working around the clock on:

With all of these responsibilities, it's not surprising that school administrators work an average of 58+ hours a week. Every time something gets checked off the list, two more get added. It's overwhelming, stressful, and ultimately unsustainable. But luckily, it doesn't have to be this way. 

Embrace ERP Solutions For a Better Back-to-School Season

According to the NASSP Survey of America's School Leaders and High School Students, 70% of administrators said they spend more than 6 hours weekly on administrative paperwork. That's over 10% of their average workweek!

When asked how they would prefer to spend that time, 72% of respondents said they would like to spend more time engaging with students, and 69% replied they would use that time to support teachers better. Visible, empathetic, and engaged administration is critical to breed success in a school district. But how can administrators possibly achieve everything they need to accomplish?

With the right tools and preparation, it won't just be wishful thinking. Modern cloud-based ERP solutions like Sparkrock 365 can play a significant role in helping schools prepare for a smoother back-to-school transition. These flexible and convenient systems can integrate various organizational administrative and operational functions, including finance, human resources, inventory management, scheduling, and more.

Here's how an effective ERP solution can take the weight off of your back-to-school checklist:

Filling Staff Vacancies

As record numbers of teachers continue to leave the classroom, it's integral that schools fill vacancies as quickly as possible. Using Sparkrock 365, administrators can add, modify, and approve job requisitions to streamline their hiring process.

Onboarding New Staff 

Keeping track of new staff information, documentation, and training can be unwieldy. In Sparkrock 365, administrators can create onboarding tasks and assign them to new employee groups, then track when it is completed. This reduces manual workload and errors. Providing self-serve access for employees enables them to complete forms and submit documentation to HR directly.

Schedule Staff

Due to staffing shortages, many schools have had to be more creative than ever when staffing classrooms. With the ability to track employee qualifications and availability, ERP systems can help districts allocate their limited staff to meet their students' needs best.

Plan Training and Professional Development

HR can use ERP solutions to schedule and track employee training events. On Sparkrock 365, administrators can register employees for professional development and integrate the event with their scheduling to eliminate double booking. It will also automatically update qualification information for that employee based on training completion. 

Prepare Staff and Community Communications

Sparkrock is an ideal complement to Dynamics 365, Microsoft's Customer Relationship Management system. Administrators can pull relevant data from Sparkrock 365 to incorporate into Dynamics-crafted newsletters to be shared with staff or community members more regularly.

Streamline Workflows With Better Communication

School administrative departments are often siloed, which can make it difficult to collaborate on tasks. ERP systems eliminate manual data entry and duplicated processes with automated, integrated workflows based on a single, centralized database of information. This can help streamline workflows and improve productivity across departments as you enter a new school year.

Improve Decision-Making 

Sparkrock 365 provides easy-to-use financial reporting allows you to view and analyze data flexibly. Access to real-time reports generated by Microsoft Power BI and powerful visualizations help facilitate deeper insights into operations and better predictive analysis. For example, fixed asset reports can identify what resources will depreciate soon and need replacement.

Automate Purchase Orders

The Employee Self-Serve Portal helps districts make timely and proactive budget decisions by providing the ability to view purchase orders, enter receipts of goods and services, and view posted invoices and memos. Authorized employees have access to enter purchase requisitions or payment requests and the ability to check their budgets in real time. 

Transcend The To-Do List and Focus on Meaningful Impact

Administrators empowered by Sparkrock 365 find themselves with a newfound luxury: time. With the help of an ERP system, they can focus on what really matters such as:

School leadership should transcend the mere management of tasks. Their impact should reverberate through the lives of students, staff members, and the community. Set a course for success by embracing the power of Sparkrock 365. Schedule a demo today to begin your journey towards a smoother back-to-school season.

A note to our readers: While this article provides valuable insights and strategies for school administrators to enhance their planning process, it's important to note that no single solution can address all of the challenges mentioned. At Sparkrock, we offer a modern Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system designed to integrate seamlessly with many other solutions like Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRM), and Student Information Systems (SIS) through our APIs. We encourage you to explore our offerings and engage with our team to understand how our ERP can align with your specific needs.


The school bell is about to ring once again as summer break draws to a close. While the halls have been quiet, the upcoming season signals the start of a bustling period.

The foundation for a fruitful academic year is laid through the careful planning of dedicated school administrators. Their efforts during the summer months pave the way for success in the year ahead.

Even though summer break serves as a true respite from the routine and fast-paced nature of the school term, it is in this limited span that school administrators hold the power to make a significant impact. 

In part one of our back-to-school series, we are sharing some key actions to check off your list before the start of the new academic year:

1. Reflect & re-examine

Consider this previous year's accomplishments, challenges, and areas for improvement. Evaluate what went well for the district and determine how to navigate the missteps better.

2. Plan

Set goals, develop action plans, and establish priorities for the upcoming school year. Review your current curriculum against student achievement rates. Meet with building principals to discuss scheduling, professional development opportunities, and budget.

3. Attend PD

Find local, state, and national conferences relevant to your role as a district administrator. Explore new educational trends, best practices, and innovative strategies to enhance your leadership skills and knowledge.

4. Collaborate

Build a community of practice with fellow district administrators, principals, and teachers to exchange ideas, share successes, and discuss challenges. A solid professional network fosters innovation and provides valuable insights into common issues in the education sector.

5. Update policies

Refine district procedures by reviewing existing policies, researching new ones, and ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal regulations.

6. Engage the community

Strengthen ties with parents, community leaders, and local organizations. Share educational goals, solicit feedback, and explore partnership opportunities that benefit students and the district.

7. Conduct school visits

Go to the different schools and classrooms in the district to help gain firsthand insights into the learning environment. Seeing the physical space (better yet, unused space) in schools can help reimagine their purpose.

8. Analyze data

Assess student and school performance, and identify trends or areas of improvement. This data-driven approach can inform decision-making and help identify strategies to address achievement gaps.

9. Develop a communication plan

Ensure you have an effective dissemination of information within the district. This can include regular newsletters, online platforms, social media channels, and other means to keep stakeholders informed and engaged.

10. Reset

Take care of yourself during this last month. Engage in activities that help you relax, recharge, to maintain personal and professional priorities. Whether spending time with family, pursuing hobbies or taking a vacation, self-care is essential for sustaining your effectiveness as a district administrator.

Empower Your District With One Unified Data Source: How an ERP Can Help

An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is critical for successful school planning. School administrators use ERP tools to manage day-to-day operations and strategic vision.

Here are some ways an ERP can help your school district plan for the academic year ahead:

Attendance Patterns

Student and teacher absenteeism has become increasingly pressing in US and Canadian schools. When managing teacher absenteeism, an ERP solution helps administrators determine patterns in absences and secure necessary pathways for the upcoming school year.

They could provide additional support services to their staff, such as:

Staffing Needs

Many teachers plan their retirements in the summer, while others announce their departures unexpectedly. With an ERP system, administrators can track staffing patterns and determine where there may be gaps in positions. By identifying potential staffing needs early, districts can begin hiring new staff members and ensure that all jobs are filled before the start of the school year.

ERP software can also streamline teacher recruitment, making finding and hiring qualified candidates easier. Now is the perfect time for HR to focus on standardizing this. Instead of manually inputting and extracting data, HR can easily add, modify, and approve job requisitions. This streamlined process ensures the school district finds and places a suitable candidate efficiently. As many schools face a shortage of qualified teachers, it's crucial to use this time wisely.

Resource Allocation

Since 2020, school districts have witnessed a consistent rise in the usage of tech tools month by month. A 2022 report from LearnPlatform highlights this trend, indicating a near tripling of the average number of tech products accessed by school districts in recent years. With this increase, it becomes evident that a substantial portion of resources could be underutilized.

This data is essential for school leaders as they prepare to allocate resources for the upcoming academic year. And, the Director of Technology need not "bury their head inside spreadsheets" like one educator in a South Jersey district did to access this critical data. An ERP system can seamlessly identify, track, and manage resources more efficiently. Analyzing the usage of EdTech products allows administrators to discern patterns in resource utilization, enabling them to pinpoint areas for enhancement.

Subsequently, school leaders can generate reports on student scores from their Student Information System (SIS) and compare the resources utilized in previous classes. Strong test scores could align with the efficacy of specific educational resources. Armed with this information, administrators can then confidently remove unused tools and enhance resource optimization, allocating funds toward areas proven to yield value.

How ERP Systems Help School Administrators Build Greater Harmony

As the final days of summer unfold, we can all look forward to an academic year that promises challenges and opportunities like never before. Just as diligent planning has been the cornerstone of your school's success, the tools you choose are equally pivotal.

A modern ERP solution like Sparkrock 365 can empower you to optimize resource allocation, streamline operations, and foster a collaborative ecosystem while being agile in the face of the unexpected. It's more than just software; it's a partner in your journey to elevate education. 

Sparkrock 365 is designed to amplify your efforts, align your goals, and maximize your impact.

Now is the moment to transform challenges into opportunities and ensure every student, educator, and administrator can thrive in this evolving educational landscape. Reach out to us today to discover how Sparkrock 365 can empower your school district, ensuring preparedness, resilience, and success. Let's embark on this transformative journey together.

Catch part two of our back-to-school series next week!

Design is an intrinsic part of our everyday behaviour and determines - to a certain extent - the quality of our lives. It plays a crucial role in shaping the functionality of our homes, the utilization of technology, and even the effectiveness of education and healthcare systems, all with the aim of enhancing our overall well-being. Likewise, nonprofit organizations can greatly benefit from embracing design-thinking principles when it comes to volunteer engagement. By mastering the art of design thinking, nonprofits organizations can optimize their processes and create more rewarding experiences for both volunteers and the communities they serve.

Like most design intends to do, design thinking is a practice that uses a creative toolkit to solve a host of problems and streamline processes. What makes it unique is that it is human-centred and helps the people it solves problems for. The process is also collaborative and action-focused. Consequently, it tackles all kinds of challenges that lack structure or method by reframing the problem with human behaviour at the forefront. 

Design thinking can be considered radical because it is uniquely rooted in questioning, unlike any other implementation process. It requires addressing the questions at hand, assumptions about that problem, and the implications it has as a result. But what is the value of design thinking, especially in the context of engaging volunteers?

Volunteers are the backbone of many organizations, and they are esteemed in a way that is quantifiable yet infinite. Most - if not all - nonprofit organizations want their volunteers to feel valued and engaged with the work that they do. These organizations want to provide a positive environment for their volunteers, making them feel like they're contributing to the overall mission. Design thinking can help. It opens up new possibilities for volunteers, resulting in a better experience for everyone.

Because it is so rooted in human need, questions that design thinking can answer are, "What is the experience of volunteering like?" and, "How might we make it better?" In this article, we will explore the practical application of design thinking methodologies, with a specific focus on the Five Phases of Design Thinking. By examining these phases within the context of nonprofit organizations, we will provide concrete examples to illustrate how design thinking can transform volunteer engagement and create more meaningful experiences for both volunteers and the communities in which they serve.

The Five Phases of Design Thinking

As mentioned, design thinking is a process concerned with solving complex problems in a highly human-centric way. It consists of five steps or phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. While these steps work in tandem with each other, they aren't necessarily sequential or need to be followed in a specific order and can be iterated on at any given time, specific to your organization's needs. 


Design thinking is so human-centred that it requires a level of reframing to understand volunteers' perspectives and their needs. Empathy, therefore, is critical in problem-solving because it addresses and understands specific consumer behaviour and aspirations first and foremost and helps to uncover opportunities on a needs basis; when you know "who" you're solving a problem for, design thinking informs the "how" in which you solve it. 

This phase involves observing and engaging with volunteers on a deeper emotional and psychological level, allowing the design team to internalize and empathize with their experiences. 

Imagine a nonprofit organization focused on providing educational support and mentorship to underprivileged children in a local community. Let's call them Hopeful Steps. They conduct one-on-one interviews and focus group discussions to reveal volunteers' motivations and challenges. Some are passionate about the cause but face time constraints, while others are unsure about how to contribute effectively. Additional surveys of the children and their families highlight specific educational needs and aspirations. 

Armed with this understanding, the organization can tailor their volunteer engagement strategies to address the unique needs of both volunteers and the children they serve to create more meaningful and impactful experiences for everyone involved.


When applying design thinking to volunteer management for nonprofits, the "Define" phase is another crucial step. After gathering valuable insights about potential solutions, the focus shifts to reshuffling and sorting through this information to gain clarity and definition. This valuable data is organized into a creative brief that combines strategic direction and creative inspiration.

Hopeful Steps, the nonprofit we discussed earlier, carefully analyzes the insights gathered during their empathize phase. They discover that a recurring theme among their current volunteers is a desire for more structured and flexible volunteer opportunities that fit into their busy schedules. The volunteers expressed that they would be more engaged if they had clear guidelines on how to contribute effectively and saw the tangible impact they make in the children's lives.

Ideate and Collaborate

In this next phase, the focus shifts towards generating creative solutions collaboratively. Armed with a comprehensive understanding of the volunteers' needs and the problems at hand, the organization can foster an environment conducive to divergent and innovative thinking. This phase encourages the exploration of diverse options, ensuring that all potential ideas are embraced and thoroughly assessed. The creative brief serves as a guiding lighthouse, keeping the team aligned and heading toward strategically viable solutions aligned with the organization's objectives.

During collaborative brainstorming sessions, the Hopeful Steps team explores various ideas to enhance volunteer engagement and educational support for the children. Everyone is encouraged to propose even the most unconventional and provocative ideas.

One that emerges is to establish a "Buddy System" where each child is paired with a dedicated volunteer mentor. The mentorship program would provide one-on-one support to the children, addressing their specific educational needs and personal development goals. This approach aligns with the volunteers' desire for meaningful engagement and the children's need for personalized assistance.

Other ideas begin to surface, such as creating a digital platform that connects volunteers with different skill sets to children who require specific academic or extracurricular support. This solution provides more flexibility for volunteers while ensuring that children receive assistance in areas they need most.


The "Prototype" phase holds immense significance as it emphasizes the value of experimentation and transforming ideas into tangible models. Through iteration and prototyping, valuable insights emerge, shedding light on any potential gaps, barriers, constraints, or flaws in the design. This process is highly beneficial as it allows for continuous improvement and refinement of ideas. 

For the "Buddy System" mentorship program, Hopeful Steps decides to pilot the initiative with a small group of volunteers and children. They match each child with a dedicated volunteer mentor and set up a structured framework for their interactions. Through this prototype, they can observe how well the mentorship program works in practice and gather feedback from both volunteers and children.

Simultaneously, they start building the digital platform for connecting volunteers with specific skills to children in need of academic or extracurricular support. They create a user-friendly interface and test its functionality with a select group of volunteers and children to ensure its effectiveness and ease of use.

Even if redesigns or rejections occur, they are viewed as essential components of the collaborative process, fostering teamwork and driving the ultimate goal of creating something meaningful and useful for volunteers and the organization alike. 


Testing a viable solution holds immense importance, as it is crucial in validating and refining the solutions developed through the design thinking process. Engaging volunteers with a vested interest in the addressed problem is essential to ensure success. By asking open-ended questions that elicit constructive responses, such as "What problem could this solve for you?" or "How could this solution impact your experience?" nonprofits can gain valuable insights and feedback from the volunteers themselves.

The mentorship program set up by Hopeful Steps might expand to include a larger group of volunteers and children. Interactions and progress are closely monitored, seeking feedback from both volunteers and children to understand their experiences. This feedback helps assess the program's strengths and identify areas for improvement.

Simultaneously, they decide to launch a digital platform for connecting volunteers with specific skills to children in need. Volunteers and children are encouraged to provide feedback on the platform's usability and whether it adequately meets their needs. The organization pays close attention to the data and usage patterns to gauge the platform's effectiveness in matching volunteers with the right support opportunities.

This continuous optimization process is where design thinking shines, as nonprofits can use their findings and learnings from testing to refine and enhance their volunteer engagement strategies until they effectively solve the problem. By embracing this dynamic and flexible approach, nonprofits can ensure that their volunteer management efforts remain relevant, impactful, and responsive to the needs and aspirations of their volunteers.

Optimizing Nonprofit Volunteer Engagement with Sparkrock 365

Design thinking, as an intuitive problem-solving approach, becomes even more powerful when coupled with an ERP system like Sparkrock 365. 

Our cloud-based ERP solution offers a wealth of data insights that enrich the design thinking process, enabling nonprofits to make informed decisions and create impactful solutions. By integrating Sparkrock 365 with other data analytics tools, organizations can gain valuable information about their volunteers' needs, preferences, and engagement patterns. 

This data-driven approach allows nonprofits to make informed decisions, identify areas for improvement, and optimize their volunteer engagement strategies accordingly. The combination of design thinking's human-centric approach and data-driven decision-making empowers nonprofits to create more impactful and personalized experiences for their volunteers, leading to a stronger and more engaged volunteer community.

If you want to learn about our cloud-based ERP solution for nonprofits, we invite you to view our online demo here.

We've reflected on the key elements your organization should focus on as we've moved into a post-pandemic world, but there are individual components that will further gauge the overall health of your nonprofit organization and set you up for success. One such element is conducting a regulatory audit. Audits are part of good governance and a best practice for nonprofit organizations. Not only do they assure your organization's compliance, but they also provide transparency and accountability to all stakeholders.

Although they can be time-consuming and costly, audits help ensure compliance with laws and regulations, reduce the risk of fraud or other financial irregularities, and improve your organization's functionality. An audit will help strengthen the organization's financial reporting, assuring donors, funders, and the general public that your organization is fiscally responsible, and will help prepare and inform you for any future opportunities or bottlenecks.

Understanding the Two Main Types of Audits: External and Internal

Before we dive in, it's important to clarify that in addition to the varying components of this process, the two overarching types of audits conducted by organizations are external and internal.

External audits are conducted by an independent third party, a governing body such as the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), and other stakeholders, for example, as part of a grant agreement or as a loan condition. This type of audit is often used to verify the accuracy of financial statements and other documents and is typically used by stakeholders, such as investors, creditors, and lenders annually.

Alternatively, an organization can conduct an internal audit. Internal audit reports are used by management and can be conducted on a more regular basis, (i.e., more than once a year, or after a major change such as a pandemic) to ensure that their records, processes, and financial statements are closely examined and iterated in planned intervals. In this article, we'll focus on the latter.

Understanding the Objectives of an Internal Audit

An internal audit aims to evaluate internal control, a process effected by a nonprofit's board of directors, management, and other personnel, designed to provide reasonable assurance. Internal auditors are responsible for the audit and are appointed by the organization, usually in the form of a committee, and their findings are integrated by management.

Here are main components of an internal audit:

The internal audit will determine if these five components of management control are present and operating effectively, and if not, the goal is to provide recommendations for improvement. Now that you know the why of internal audits, let's get to the how. 

Five Steps That Will Guide You Through the Process of an Internal Audit.

1. Set up an Audit Committee

An audit typically requires access to various components of your organization to assist the board in maintaining the organization's financial credibility and integrity, all while maintaining compliance with laws and regulations. As such, it's important that your committee includes members of the board of directors and involves a sub-committee comprised of voting members independent of your organization's management and employees. Roles within the committee can be delegated within the authority of the committee.

It's important to note that when your organization is creating this committee, the auditors will not have direct operational responsibility or authority over any of the activities that are audited. While they assist in determining ideas for improvement, they aren't responsible for implementing internal controls or completing the development of procedures. They are, however, responsible for reviewing the timeline, confirming expectations for the upcoming work, finalizing pertinent dates, and reviewing the materials needed. 

2. Begin the Audit Prep Work

Once the audit committee has outlined its goal and raised any existing concerns or issues about a specific financial area they want to ensure is included in the work plan, they will need to put together the documents and information required to complete the audit. This process should include:

This preparation allows the committee to delegate responsibilities to your team, so they can answer the questions and gather the necessary documentation before the audit. 

3. Inform Employees

Communication is key for any organization, especially in high-pressure situations like an audit, which can often have a negative connotation. Before the audit, you should brief your employees to ensure they are ready to answer any questions that fall within the scope of their roles and the deliverables within them.

The audit will include interviews with various departments, so communication between management and the audit committee is typical throughout the process. Management should have regular check-ins with the audit committee and communicate any changes in timing or expectations. In return, the audit committee will regularly update management on outstanding items or milestones.

4. Have a Post-Audit Meeting with the Audit Committee

Once the audit has concluded, there is usually a post-audit meeting with the committee to conduct an initial review of the results. At this meeting, several critical topics of discussion will encompass the findings of the audit. An outline of these, as well as accounting principles selected, audit adjustments, management disagreements, and any difficulties encountered while performing the audit, will be organized into a document for a potential action plan.

5. Have a Post-Audit Meeting with the Board of Directors and Management

The audit results should also be communicated to the board members and other important stakeholders, including the general public. A positive nonprofit audit result is something to strive for, as it's indicative that the organization is reputable, trustworthy, and financially stable. While the audit itself is done, thorough preparation for the board meeting requires having a complete understanding of the organization's financials and journal entries to be able to answer potential questions. 

The final step is to prepare an action plan for implementation. After reviewing the results with the board and management, the final step is to prepare an action plan, discussing improvements and proposed solutions for implementation.

Like everything else in organizational financial governance, thorough preparation and communication are the cornerstones of a successful internal audit. 

Enhancing Internal Audits with Sparkrock 365

Conducting a robust internal audit is an essential aspect of good governance and financial management for nonprofit organizations. With the help of Sparkrock 365's modern cloud-based ERP solution, the audit process can be further streamlined. By leveraging our platform's comprehensive financial reporting and management tools, nonprofits can enhance their internal controls and ensure compliance with laws and regulations. 

Sparkrock 365 enables the efficient compilation of financial statements, bank reconciliations, payroll data, and grant details, further simplifying the audit preparation process. Moreover, its centralized database and communication features facilitate seamless collaboration between management, the audit committee, and employees during the audit. 

As the audit concludes, Sparkrock 365 equips organizations with valuable insights to develop actionable improvement plans, fostering transparency and accountability to all stakeholders. With thorough preparation and the aid of Sparkrock 365's ERP solution, nonprofit organizations can achieve successful and effective internal audits, paving the way for a reputable, trustworthy, and financially stable future. Check out the rest of our nonprofit resources here, and be sure to contact us before your next audit - we'd love to help!

School districts have always hinged on crystalline policies and procedures for their staff and students, especially around performance. These directives serve as the backbone for systematic order and strategic planning. While the district establishes some, other policies are mandated by State and Federal law. It is the job of the Board of Education to uphold these policies and procedures, and they often revisit them for timeliness and effectiveness.

In the Golden Age of EdTech, many districts likely felt they were navigating without a compass when acquiring and implementing EdTech resources. An example of this rapid adoption can be seen in the Norwalk Public Schools in Connecticut, where EdTech tools soared during the pandemic. More than 3,000 apps were accessed during the 2021 school year, compared to just 183 in the 2018-2019 academic year. Most of these apps lacked formal district approval, as they were often provided to educators as part of a free trial during remote learning.

However, with an increasing number of administrators now scrutinizing EdTech through a more discerning lens, the moment has arrived for schools to construct a robust blueprint for tech integration. Since district leaders are consistently gauging staff and student performance, it's only fitting for them to create a refined evaluation system for EdTech and not just an Acceptable Use Policy. They must establish specific metrics that define adequate data usage and efficacy for teachers and students. The question is: what are the metrics to measure them?

As administrators look for ways to improve student outcomes, they must also be mindful of the effectiveness of their EdTech investments. School districts can ensure that their EdTech resources are used effectively and efficiently by creating a comprehensive evaluation system.

How To Create Effective Evaluation Tools And Policies For EdTech

The first step in creating an effective evaluation system is establishing clear metrics for measuring success. These metrics should include data on teacher and student usage and efficacy. It's not enough for a tool to be theoretically effective - it should also be widely adopted and used by the intended beneficiaries.

In the initial stages of tech adoption, school administrators need to adopt the mindset of an EdTech investor. After all, administrators are investing in these tools at a hefty cost. A case in point is the Mississippi Department of Education spending millions on a virtual tutoring service. Despite educators singing its praises, the data painted a different picture - it was not a hit among students. This instance highlights the urgency for districts to evaluate not just the theoretical effectiveness of a tool but also its actual deployment. A tool's potential is only realized if it's actively used.

One prominent (and successful) EdTech investor always asks to see the company's customer retention rates. His magic number? 90%. After all, satisfied customers are more likely to continue using the product, and a high retention rate indicates that the EdTech solution is delivering value and meeting the needs of educators and students alike. District leaders should always ask to see the vendors' current data on student and teacher usage and retention rates, and more importantly, they should gather this information from districts similar in size, class composition, and demographics.

Here are 15 questions every school district should ask during the initial planning stages:

  1. What is your current customer retention rate?
  2. How has your customer retention rate changed over the last couple of years?
  3. What strategies do you employ to maintain high customer retention rates?
  4. Can you share case studies or data demonstrating your success in maintaining customer retention?
  5. Do you have any statistics on the average usage of your product by staff and students?
  6. How do you measure user engagement with your product?
  7. Can you provide data on how frequently your product is used by staff and students on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis?
  8. What is the average user session length for staff and students?
  9. Are any features or aspects of your product used more frequently than others?
  10. How does your company support schools in driving student and staff usage of your product?
  11. How do you handle data privacy and security related to user data?
  12. Can you share any testimonials or case studies from schools with high usage rates among staff and students?
  13. What tools or metrics does your platform offer to help administrators track and improve usage?
  14. Do you provide training or resources to help staff and students get the most out of your product?
  15. How do you handle feedback and requests for improvements in terms of usability and features?

Review this data with your team against the current tools within the district when the vendors provide it. Also, consider adopting an EdTech rubric to evaluate its efficacy within the needs of your school district.

Future considerations should include:

Collecting and analyzing data regularly will help determine whether or not the EdTech resources are meeting the needs of teachers and students. Additionally, data can inform future decisions about which EdTech resources should be adopted or discontinued.

Once clear metrics have been established, school districts must develop a process for collecting and analyzing that data. This process should involve teachers and administrators to ensure that all perspectives are considered when evaluating EdTech resources. When possible, it should include feedback from students about how they perceive the effectiveness of these tools in improving their learning experience.

Guaranteed Higher EdTech ROI With Sound Policies And Procedures

School districts must develop a plan using the data collected from their evaluation system to make informed decisions about which EdTech resources are most effective for their district's needs. This plan should include strategies for using the data to inform future decisions about which technologies should be adopted or discontinued. Additionally, it should guide how best to use existing technologies to maximize their impact on student learning outcomes.

By taking a comprehensive approach to evaluating their EdTech resources, school districts can make informed decisions about which technologies will best meet their needs and help them achieve their educational goals. This approach leads to a more discerning technology investment that increases staff engagement while lessening initiative fatigue. Furthermore, it's fiscally responsible. The process and results provide transparency to the community and Board of Education, increasing support and buy-in.

Lastly, school districts can make wise investments in technology that benefit teachers and students by establishing clear metrics for measuring success and developing a process for collecting and analyzing this data.

How Sparkrock 365 Can Help

Ready to make your next EdTech investment? Sparkrock 365 might be the perfect solution for your school district. We offer an all-in-one finance, HR, payroll, and scheduling solution purpose-built for school boards and districts. Our modern ERP system offers a user-friendly interface and robust features, empowering administrators with powerful data and analytics.

We'd love to share what we've learned and help you plan for your next technology investment. Reach out and speak with one of our education product consultants today! 

If you're not ready to chat, we encourage you to browse our education resources and view our 7-min demo to see if our product might fit your school district. No need to wait to schedule a meeting; sign up and watch on your own time.

As the Canadian economy faces the challenges of a downturn, the role of human services becomes vital, particularly for nonprofit organizations. Economic recessions can lead to the following: 

As a result, individuals and communities turn to human services for support. But when large volumes of people need the same help, yet financial support dwindles, strategic approaches and collaborative efforts are needed to ensure the well-being of Canadian citizens.

Why Human Services Are At Risk as Canadian Bank Stocks Plummet

The economic landscape in Canada has seen its share of fluctuations, with recessions affecting diverse sectors and communities alike. Most notably, according to the Financial Post, major Canadian banks' stock prices have dropped due to the worsening economic outlook. Even though human services may not directly receive funding from banks, this financial setback could still indirectly impact them. Let's consider the reasons why.

Recessions often lead to a decrease in available funds. During the Great Recession, total social sector revenue saw a significant decline. Nonprofit organizations might receive funding from foundations, many with assets invested in the financial markets. An economic recession can reduce the value of these investments, resulting in smaller grants from those foundations. Additionally, banks tightening lending standards can make securing loans more difficult for for-profit entities. As a result, an economic recession can create a highly competitive environment for limited resources. 

To make matters worse, a recession typically increases demand for human services. More individuals and families require assistance with basic needs such as food, housing, and healthcare. With reduced funding, it may be even more challenging for organizations to meet the growing service demand. It is essential to recognize this pattern and proactively prepare for the surge in demand by:

These are all crucial strategies for human services to navigate these challenges.

Is Your Human Service Organization Prepared for a Recession? Here Are 3 Strategies that Might Help

1. Strengthen Collaborative Relationships: 

Partnerships with other organizations can be beneficial during a recession. Together, they can share resources, knowledge, and expertise, enabling them to pool their efforts and provide comprehensive support even in challenging economic conditions. Collaborative approaches can also enhance advocacy efforts and increase collective influence.

While the COVID-19 pandemic wasn't the result of a recession, its aftermath in job loss and mental health issues are similar. Many human services partnered with other nonprofit organizations during that time to provide relief. Here are a few collaborative partnerships that helped during this challenging time:

2. Diversify Funding Sources:

Relying on a single funding stream can make human services more vulnerable during a recession. To mitigate this risk, use a variety of different funding sources. Below are some ideas:

Government Agencies

Government agencies at the local, provincial, and national levels often provide grants for human services. Contact Human Services (HHS) or the Canadian Social Development Department for grant opportunities. 

Private Foundations

Private foundations offer grants to support various causes, including human services. Canada.Grant.Watch, or FoundationSearch Canada, provide searchable databases of foundations and their grant opportunities.

Nonprofit Grant Directories

Online grant directories and databases provide comprehensive listings of grants available to organizations. Imagine Canada's Grant Connect allows searching for assistance based on criteria such as focus area, location, or funding amount.

Access to different funding sources can ensure financial stability and reduce reliance on a single funding stream that may be affected by economic downturns.

3. Evaluate For Effectiveness And Allocation:

Organizations need to use their limited resources wisely while proving their effectiveness. By emphasizing outcome measurement, they can prove their value and efficacy to funders and stakeholders.

Also, they need to identify their high-value-impact areas within their assessment. These metrics build a compelling case for continued funding, support, and strategic resource allocation. Additionally, they can yield significant cost savings by reallocating resources from less effective departments.

Final Thoughts

In times of economic uncertainty, human service organizations are crucial in providing support, fostering resilience, and promoting well-being in Canadian society. By recognizing the potential impact of economic downturns and adopting proactive strategies, they can better navigate the challenges and demands of recessionary periods. It is imperative to harness this knowledge, leverage available resources, and encourage collaboration to continue providing essential services to those in need.

Investing in a modern Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system can help enable better decision-making, and that's what human service organizations need during challenging times. For one organization, an ERP allowed them to report back to their funders and demonstrate the positive impact that funding had on their outcomes. Read their story here. This proof of efficacy is vital to maintaining continuity in funding for years.

Sparkrock 365: Empowering Human Services Through Challenging Times

As we embrace the challenges and opportunities within the human services sector, our commitment to empowering organizations to weather economic downturns and meet the growing demands of communities across Canada remains steadfast. By fostering collaboration, diversifying funding sources, and prioritizing effectiveness, Sparkrock 365 stands alongside human services organizations, enabling them to deliver essential support and make a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadian citizens. 

Together, we can navigate the complexities of uncertain times and build a more resilient and compassionate future.

We want to help you prepare for challenging economic times and are happy to share what we've learned about your industry. An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Tool can help provide accurate financial insights and help you evaluate your organization's performance with less effort.

Let us take you through the benefits of a fully-integrated, single platform for financial management, human resources, scheduling, payroll, and the key features we've built to help human services thrive. Reach out to us here.

James Hunter once said that for a business to thrive, it must have healthy relationships with the "CEOS" of the organization - not the Chief Executive Officers, but rather the

While nonprofits differ from businesses, they still require strong relationships to survive. Executive directors (EDs) prioritizing each of these relationships find greater success for their nonprofit.

The Role of an Executive Director

An executive director is constantly asking:

"Is this action, person, or decision serving our organization's greatest good and mission?"

The success of a nonprofit's mission largely rests on its shoulders. Versatility is needed as they must manage many demands and carry out different tasks on any given day. They're in a constant state of securing, maintaining, and improving. EDs are responsible for the following:

They're managing more than just the daily operations too. They're also a leader and spokesperson, developing strategic plans to tackle issues effectively and ensure all activities remain focused on achieving their mission.

Knowledge and Best Practices

Effective EDs will be able to work collaboratively with a board of directors and executive committee while also advocating for the organization in the local community and beyond. They need to understand public policy, current trends, and best practices in their sector. These best practices reinforce the power of connectedness, for instance:

A skilled executive director is more than just passionate about their work. They set the tone and culture for their organization, build relationships with stakeholders, and ensure proper financial management. They're committed to transparency, accountability, and trust.

Managing Focus and Organization

An essential skill for an ED is the ability to maintain focus despite constant interruptions. EDs are constantly pulled in different directions, with staff, board members, and donors all vying for their attention. It's easy for them to become consumed by the details of their organization, which can hinder their ability to have a broader perspective and implement innovative ideas.

That's why keeping a high level of organization is crucial in this role. It allows EDs to streamline their daily work while maintaining efficiency, despite the constant demands on their attention. Having a structured system in place can help with:

This ensures that nothing important falls through the cracks and is especially helpful in staying on top of deadlines, which are critical in their fundraising efforts. Missing a grant deadline or failing to follow up with potential donors is costly. So, being organized prevents these kinds of errors.

A Balancing Act in Effective Board Governance

It's challenging to manage competing demands and input from board members, but effective board governance is critical for nonprofit leaders. Board members help maintain:

Many members have full-time jobs outside of an organization, which means that while they may have input during board meetings, they may need help to carry out tasks outside of them.

In Boardsource's Leading With Intent Report, executives should evaluate board expectations and time allocation to ensure adequate board governance. The three areas that need more focus are:

  1. Creating a diverse and inclusive board, 
  2. Understanding organizational context, and 
  3. Building community relationships beyond fundraising. 

The best way for executive directors to navigate their internal hierarchy is to:

If EDs can do this, they'll create strong partnerships and lead their organization to success.

Managing Fundraising Efforts

Fundraising is a crucial skill that nonprofit executive directors must possess. Limited government funding, unstable income, and inaccurate budgeting issues can make it difficult for nonprofits to plan for future growth or maintain current operations. Without a visionary, strategic fundraising strategy, they will struggle to stay afloat and achieve their mission.

Strong fundraising skills help EDs secure resources for the nonprofit's operations. This involves working with donors, developing grant proposals, and creating campaigns to nurture the organization's current and potential supporters. At the core of these initiatives are relationships and visibility. Maintaining healthy relationships fuels the financial health of nonprofits. With accurate financial data to power these relationships, nonprofits can bolster their position. 

With real-time access to their organization's financial health, EDs can create intuitive plans for tracking and achieving their goals.

Maximize Your Impact: How ERP Tools Help Executive Directors To Drive Results

The Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution offers an all-in-one solution with multifunctional capabilities that are as cross-functional as an executive director. By efficiently managing various relationships and completing daily tasks, ERPs provide EDs with the organizational oversight they need to succeed. This allows them to increase productivity, fulfill responsibilities, and maximize their time on high-value tasks. According to BDO, executive directors can mitigate risk for their organization by aligning and leveraging technology to enhance stakeholder relationships, a critical best practice in nonprofit management.

Take, for example, The Canadian Museum of History. This nonprofit needed to implement an integrated financial and HR solution. The museum faced inefficient workflows, a lack of integration, and difficulty tracking financial data. But with Sparkrock 365's robust technology, the museum streamlined its financial processes, automated HR functions, and gained real-time visibility into its financial data. With sound financial management, EDs are empowered to find more sustainable opportunities for their organization.

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport struggled with manual data entry, lack of automation, and difficulty accessing real-time financial data. With Sparkrock's solution, the center was able to: 

ERP solutions empower executive directors to make informed decisions for their nonprofits. Sparkrock 365 helps manage their focus, relationships, and fundraising efforts by offering a holistic view of their nonprofit operations. Real-time data enable directors to identify areas for improvement and allocate resources effectively. Understanding customer needs and preferences becomes easier through seamless integration with their customer relationship management system. And detailed fundraising reports enable executives to track progress and make targeted decisions for future programs. 

To help plan your next technology investment, read the in-depth guide to our product, Sparkrock 365. Let us take you through the benefits of integrating HR management with finances, payroll, scheduling, and the key features we've built to help executive directors fulfill their nonprofit's mission.

Is your school district at risk of losing its valuable educators? 

According to a recent survey, a staggering 65% of educators have been actively browsing other job opportunities in the past year. In normal times, district leadership would find that unsettling. During an unprecedented teacher shortage? 

Downright nerve-racking.

Employee expectations are on the rise. Workforce expectations shifted dramatically, and now employees want more from their employers. In a post-pandemic world, more people are asking for:

And yet, schools are constrained by contracted salaries, limited funding for perks, and zero flexibility when it comes to the time and place of work. With these limitations and soaring student behavioral issues, teachers feel drained and overwrought, all significant contributors to a toxic workplace.

So what can be done to meet rising employee expectations? 

The solution is simple: Improve the employee experience.

3 Ways HR Can Improve the Teacher-Employee Experience

Many people still believe that employee experience is all about perks, but it's much more than that. It's about communication, culture, being heard, and being supported professionally and personally. Improving the employee experience will increase: 

These things aren't only on the minds of employees. Teacher recruitment, staff well-being, and retention are top priorities for K-12 human resources professionals. The Director of Human Resources is integral to the functioning of the school district. They can be one of the most influential in improving the employee experience by helping leaders shift from a transactional to a human-first approach.

Here are three ways that the Director of HR can improve employee experience:

  1. Build trust and respect
  2. Prioritize employee recognition
  3. Provide opportunities for growth

Build Trust and Respect Through Meaningful Communication 

Communication is vital to building trust and respect in the workplace. HR has an essential role in creating a welcoming and inclusive work environment. The Director of HR can facilitate relationship-building with employees by engaging in personalized employee experience conversations.

These conversations can help HR:

An intentional plan for how the conversation will proceed will make the discussion productive. For example, HR could initiate the conversation by acknowledging the employee's contributions to the school district. This discussion can be followed by exploring the employee's interests in professional growth. Finally, the Director of HR can collaborate with the employee on a plan to support them with necessary resources and follow-up conversations.

Meaningful, transparent communication will build trust and respect between staff and central administration. In turn, fostering a culture of trust and respect will positively impact the overall school environment.

Prioritize Employee Recognition To Encourage Engagement 

An engaged workforce is more likely to be:

But how do you boost engagement when teachers have never been more exhausted? The answer is prioritizing employee recognition. Recognizing staff members' contributions and hard work can help them feel valued and motivated to strive for excellence.

Though well-intentioned, recognition must be more than just an all-staff email appreciation or an assembly shout-out. It needs to be timely, specific, and authentic. 

Teachers and school staff frequently work outside contracted hours and support their students by attending games, concerts, musicals, and other extracurricular activities. In-person or handwritten acknowledgments of these efforts are highly effective. Writing a personalized thank-you note or showing gratitude in person can go a long way in boosting morale.

San Diego Unified School District created a successful employee recognition program, a platform that allows teachers to receive awards from their peers, administrators, and even parents. This strategy allowed them to promote a culture of appreciation and recognition that benefited both employees and the district.

Recognizing and acknowledging the contributions of staff members will help prevent burnout. It can also increase their motivation to continue going above and beyond for their students.

Provide Opportunities for Growth By Creating a Culture of Continuous Learning 

87% of millennials rate "professional or career growth and development opportunities" as important to them in a job. And yet, more than half of districts do not provide or offer teachers coursework to improve their teaching. A Director of HR that prioritizes opportunities for professional growth will have a more profound impact on employee experience. 

HR directors can provide professional development support by offering opportunities for ongoing learning, such as:

In addition to offering training opportunities, the HR Director can provide instructional coaching to help teachers improve their teaching techniques and classroom management skills. An example can be pairing teachers with experienced mentors who can offer feedback, guidance, and support. Coaching programs can be delivered through professional learning communities, where teachers can collaborate with peers and learn from others' experiences.

Schools can also look to other districts for inspiration on how they provide professional development programs. The Los Angeles Unified School District provides teachers with access to resources such as workshops, seminars, and online courses that help them stay up-to-date on best practices in teaching. This district also offers mentorship opportunities with experienced educators who can guide them in improving their teaching skills. By providing these resources, LAUSD has fostered an environment of growth and learning for its teachers.

HR directors can also encourage staff growth by creating a culture of continuous improvement and upskilling. By fostering an environment where educators feel comfortable taking risks and trying new strategies, HR directors can promote a growth mindset that encourages staff to improve their skills and knowledge continually.

K-12 Schools Need a Strategic Partner for Improving Employee Experience

Employees want to know that their input is valued and considered. It's evident to educators when district leaders are talking the talk but not walking the walk. 

Show employees you're committed to improving employee experience by:

Building a great employee experience within an organization requires the right modern technology. This is where an ERP system comes into play. By leveraging the power of data, particularly in the HR module of an ERP system, organizations can unlock valuable insights that contribute to their understanding of employees' needs, preferences, and performance. 

With the ability to collect and analyze employee data, including demographics, compensation details, performance evaluations, training history, and attendance records, an ERP system equips organizations with the necessary tools to make informed decisions. By harnessing the potential of this technology, organizations can implement targeted strategies, foster a positive work environment, boost employee engagement, and ultimately drive overall organizational success.

To help plan your next technology investment, read the in-depth guide to our product, Sparkrock 365. Let us take you through the benefits of integrating HR management with finances, payroll, scheduling, and the key features we've built to help K-12s thrive.

What happens when US public education experiences the most seismic shift of funds ever seen?

As school district leaders and administrators face the looming expiration of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds in 2023 and 2024, many are taking a hard look at their bottom line.

School administrators are much more selective regarding educational products and curricula. They want viable tech resources with high adoption and customer retention rates. With the unstable economy, teacher shortages, and expiring funding, districts have pumped the brakes on their heavy-handed pandemic spending. Schools must exercise even more discernment in how they allocate resources moving forward. An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution can assist school districts in being more than ready for the drying up of federal funds.

Federal School Funding Sources: A Breakdown and What's to Come.

Congress passed three pieces of legislation due to the pandemic: CARES Act, CRSSA Act, and ARP. Each legislation has its own ESSER fund: ESSER I, II, and III, respectively. These funds must be obligated by September 2022, 2023, and 2024.

ESSER funds provide support to K-12 public schools. Many districts used ESSER funds to purchase technology for remote learning, improve air ventilation and filtration systems, and hire additional staff members. While it's not necessarily a shock to district leaders that these funds have an expiration date, they will need to begin planning now to:

  1. Ensure allocated funds are used effectively before the deadline; and, 
  2. Determine how they'll account for positions paid for by these funding sources.

With a recession, districts must tread carefully in using funds to pay for personnel. According to EdWeek Market Brief, educational consultants advise school districts to spend their funding sources on infrastructure and large, one-time costs instead of ongoing salaries and benefits for staff positions.

The best predictor of what's to come is to examine past funding cliffs in the wake of a cooling economy. This phenomenon has been around for a while, and districts have had to pull at their purse strings to bear the brunt of a funding freeze and recession.

During the Great Recession of 2008, many states experienced significant budget cuts, leading to many funding cliffs. Many schools struggled to maintain programs and services, leading to teacher layoffs and larger class sizes. New York state, for example, was forced to cut education spending, which led to widespread layoffs of teachers and school staff, larger class sizes, and program cuts. In 2009, the Rochester City School District laid off over 200 teachers due to budget cuts. These budget cuts and layoffs didn't end in one year, either. The New York City public school system made significant cuts in the following years, with a proposed dismissal of over 4,000 positions.

So what does this mean for public education in the next five years? Some dark days may be ahead without careful financial planning and school management. Thankfully there are resources to drive better decision-making for schools now. Most districts lacked the proper technology back in 2008; fortunately, that's not the case today.

According to a survey conducted by McKinsey, more than 90 percent of districts have yet to use even half of their funding. Based on this survey, they predict that:

"Nearly $20 billion in ESSER funds may not be obligated by the deadline because of various factors, including administrative hurdles, limited internal planning capacity, and talent and vendor shortages."


When making level-headed decisions with limited planning capacity, an ERP solution can help a great deal. ERPs help school districts plan strategically and efficiently by providing comprehensive, real-time data on the following:

This vital data helps school districts make empowered, data-driven decisions that optimize resources and allocate funding where needed most.

ERP Solutions Can Help School Districts Prepare for Funding Cliffs in Several Ways.

Resource Optimization

School districts can save costs and maximize outcomes by identifying areas where resources can be better aligned and used, including staffing, facilities, and supplies. An ERP solution can help school districts identify underutilized resources and optimize them to their fullest potential or help eliminate excess weight.

Financial Planning 

Financial planning becomes more effective with an ERP solution because all financial data integrates into one system. School districts can easily track budget and expenditure data and ensure well-managed finances. In turn, this helps them be better prepared for funding cliffs. Now they can efficiently manage their funds for optimal use. Additionally, with more significant financial insights, districts can plan multi-year budgets in the wake of financial constraints.

Improved Decision-Making

An ERP solution creates an environment where data is readily available and accessible. This data can inform financial decisions and resource allocation and identify cost-saving opportunities. With real-time data, administrators can readily view the financials and inform decision-making on fees, asset acquisition, construction, or other initiatives.

Streamlined Workflows

An ERP solution can automate repetitive administrative tasks such as contractor management, time-sheet management, and excursion approval. Freeing up valuable resources minimizes time-consuming, mundane tasks so administrators can focus on more impactful, strategic projects. The time saved on administrative work allows district leaders to invest in maintaining effective student engagement and educational programming, even during a funding cliff.

Stronger Communication

An ERP solution can enhance communication between schools, districts, and other stakeholders. School districts can use grant money management and communication tools to maintain, engage and communicate with organizations and alternative funding sources. Monetary efforts and goals can also be tracked and managed with these resources.

Build Greater Planning Capacity Now for Greater School Sustainability Later With an ERP

An ERP solution is a valuable tool that can help school districts prepare for funding cliffs. It allows administrators to allocate their resources more thoughtfully and strategically to have the greatest impact on any student's educational experience. Staff can see the real-time status of funding projects as improvements and additions are being managed, and these necessities can be prioritized with complete transparency. With the help of an ERP solution, educators and administrators can plan for successful, sustainable educational programming within their budgets, despite funding cuts.

In addition to these benefits, an ERP solution can also increase data accuracy and transparency, enabling more ethical management practices. This is especially useful in the face of tighter funding-- administrators can learn to do more with less. Employee retention climbs as benefits and features become more tailored to district needs. With dynamic planning, budgeting, and budget projection tools within an ERP solution, district management can make determinations that lead their school to success and sustainability.

To help plan your next technology investment, read the in-depth guide to our product, Sparkrock 365. Let us take you through the benefits of integrating HR management with finances, payroll, scheduling, and the key features we've built to help K-12s thrive.

Ah, June, that blissful time of year when students find it hard to sit still, and teachers eagerly anticipate the arrival of their well-deserved summer holidays. June can be a tough time for many reasons, and discipline is one of them. We often associate discipline negatively in schools, but let's not forget its importance.

Discipline helps maintain a safe and productive learning environment for both students and staff. Unfortunately, many teachers feel unsupported in this area, contributing to burnout and frustration. And with a significant increase in principal turnover in recent years, new administrators may struggle to establish and enforce effective disciplinary procedures.

The good news? There are ways for administrators to re-establish discipline and support their staff and students during these final days of the school year. Here are five strategies to help schools overcome that year-end slump.

5 Discipline Strategies to Overcome Year-End Academic Fatigue

Schools need proactive approaches to discipline, and they need to be consistent. Teachers should receive the support they need to manage classroom behavior, especially during the last month of school.

Discipline cannot be effective without the support and collaboration of all staff

Educators play a critical role in creating a positive and supportive learning environment. When equipped with the right: 

All personnel effectively respond to student behavior and misconduct.

A school's discipline policy is only as strong as the staff who uphold it, so we must give educators a seat at the table. Through collaboration, educators and administrators can come up with new and fresh ideas.

Each discipline style includes one common thread: 

They're all rooted in empathy and understanding. 

It's hard when the little indiscretions add up inside the classroom walls. Teachers can only take so much, but kids will still be kids. So remember that corrective action needs to be for empowerment, not retribution.

Let's take a closer look at those strategies:

1. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a proactive approach to discipline. It focuses on teaching and reinforcing positive behaviors, rather than punishing negative behaviors. This includes: 

PBIS reduces the need for punitive discipline by emphasizing positive behaviours and targeting support. This fosters positive learning communities, which perpetuates higher school morale.

But to create a PBIS program that is not "program rich, impact poor," administrators need ongoing training. With high teacher turnover and student behavioral issues, continued PBIS training is an investment with a huge ROI. That's because teachers cite student behavioral issues as a leading cause of their burnout. Since PBIS is an evidence-based practice, it's worth keeping it as continuous professional development for all staff.

2. Restorative justice practices emphasize repairing and restoring relationships rather than punishing. This approach involves bringing together the parties involved in a conflict to:

This empathy-driven approach builds better understanding and support. Some schools don't use this for peer-to-peer conflicts either. Restorative justice works well in repairing student and teacher relationships, too. For example, a teacher refers a student to detention or in-school suspension. Before receiving the consequence, there's a standard procedure. The school building principal can meet with both parties to discuss the incident. This promotes student voice and student agency. And it helps to mend the crucial student-teacher relationship. Restorative justice practices can create a more positive and collaborative school culture.

3. Trauma-informed care recognizes and addresses the underlying trauma that may contribute to a student's behavior. Many students carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Sometimes school is the only safe place for them. So, they tend to lash out. Trauma-informed care creates a more supportive and inclusive learning environment for all students.

One in every five students at Henry County School District lost a family member to COVID-19. They knew they couldn't return to school with a business-as-usual attitude. That's why administrators applied ESSER III funds to create a new role in mental health. This is the epitome of responsiveness. Now students receive specialized support services through proactive interception instead of reactive punishments.

4. Mindfulness and social-emotional learning (SEL) are also important strategies for supporting students during their last month of school. Some state legislatures clash over SEL's presence in the classroom. Whatever you want to call it, student well-being intersects with student achievement. 

Districts can drive SEL with ample student practice in: 

Adams-Friendship Area School District is an example of successful SEL implementation. Teachers embed SEL throughout the school day. That way, they don't feel like it's outside their daily responsibilities. Students share how they witness conflict-resolution skills during recess and gym class: a true testament to SEL's impact. Mindfulness and SEL help students cope and manage their emotions and behavior. Students get concrete tools to communicate. As a result, it reduces the need for ineffective, punitive discipline.

5. Teacher recognition. School administrators can foster a positive school culture that emphasizes:

Administrators boost morale and motivation with genuine acknowledgment. Schools with happy staff are contagious. If everyone feels respected and supported, it makes the work joyful again.

One principal in Knoxville, Tennessee, wrote handwritten letters to each staff member's family. This principal wanted to share her appreciation while also acknowledging how hard their job is, how hard they work, and what a difference they make every day. This meant more to them than a casual Friday.

Discipline rooted in empathy gives schools the best outcomes

Healthy, supportive learning environments need responsive discipline strategies. Successful implementation of proactive discipline requires: 

Collaboration helps everyone navigate challenges more effectively, ending the school year on a positive note. And by setting up these discipline strategies towards the end of the school year, administrators and teachers can ensure a smoother transition into the new one.

School administrators should evaluate discipline policies regularly to ensure effectiveness. First, define the goals and desired outcomes of the disciplinary plan. Then, follow evidence-based methods. Districts can maintain transparency and accountability of their discipline policies by reporting them to the public.

Sparkrock 365 provides a secure platform for sharing disciplinary updates, interventions, and progress monitoring, ensuring that sensitive information remains confidential and only accessible to those with the correct permissions. Our modern cloud-based ERP system promotes effective communication and collaboration among teachers, administrators, and staff members. By fostering improved communication channels, administrators can maintain consistency in implementing the new discipline strategy across the entire school community. Learn more now.

Are you ready to spark change?

With Sparkrock 365, you'll have the tools to manage your finances and workforce more efficiently so you can focus on what you do best. Go from paper-based processes to intelligent online workflows, and access the data you need to make a real difference in your community.
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