Colleagues,

I am certain you will enjoy Stu Hasic‘s insightful guest post at our blog.

 

The year was 1993 and I had only recently joined the NSW Department of School Education as Manager of the Regional Information Technology Unit in Metropolitan East Region. OASIS was a major responsibility for our unit with our small team directly assisting school assistants and teacher librarians to come to grips with computer-based school administration software.

Now while these lovely (mostly) ladies were our main “clients”, the other group of individuals we commonly worked with were the Deputy Principals. In the front office and in the library, staff had to use OASIS and computers for their day-to-day work. But as the DPs quickly highlighted to me, they wished they could use computers for their day-to-day work.  Sadly, for them, OASIS was lacking.

There were key student administration functions totally missing from OASIS - Timetabling, Markbook, Discipline, Welfare and Parent Communication tracking, Attendance, Assessment and Reporting. As professional organisers in their schools, DPs wanted solutions to these problems. Just about every high school I walked into, the deputy would bail me up to complain about these missing “essential components” for schools. Then out of total frustration that OASIS v2 was released in 1994 without useable versions of the very things they’d been crying out for, DPs decided to take matters in their own hands.

The mid-90s was a period of major growth for the 3rd-party software developer. Due to direct and loud demands from deputy principals in schools across the state, multiple add-on solutions for OASIS started to appear. Timechart, SM-Marks, RISC, Denbigh, SAMS, SWAT, Motorised Markbook. Some DPs even developed their own custom solutions for their schools because they couldn’t find exactly what they wanted elsewhere.

They probably didn’t know it at the time, but DPs were showing clear leadership in promoting office automation across their schools. While OASIS was out-of-bounds for almost all teaching staff in the school, these add-on applications became essential tools for all staff. While it was the computer coordinator who was responsible for getting computers into staffrooms, it was the DP who was responsible for getting teachers to use them at least for student administration purposes.

Fast-forward a few years and DPs continued to push the boundaries as they adopted absence and lateness SMS and email alerts for parents, further reinforcing their place as pioneers and key ICT-stakeholders in every high school. But as the first decade of the 21st century fades into history, a new set of challenges face our schools.

Student administration systems in schools have been a little like the Wild, Wild West - but the new decade will bring an air of standardisation as education authorities across the country try to wrestle back control. While the plethora of 3rd-party add-ons have been effective in individual high schools, the growing need for statewide reporting and transparency of data means that it is now time to develop and supply a single, all-encompassing, integrated student administration system for all of our schools.

Student Administration and Learning Management, or SALM, is hoped to be that system. SALM is a major part of NSW DET’s Learning Management Business Reforms project which was recently bestowed $243M in the State Budget. If SALM is going to replace all of those different applications that DPs and schools continue to use to this day, then SALM will need to be at least as good as them because no DP will want their school to go backwards. That is why the DP’s involvement in the user requirements stage for SALM is going to be critical.

- What tools are you currently using that work really well?
- What tools do 21st Century DPs need to better manage their students?
- What data is required, who should be able to access it and how?
- What gaps still exist? Are there problems that still need digital solutions?

If DPs don’t contribute in this important early stage, it’s likely that SALM version 1.0 will not be everything that schools will need it to be. Trust me. We don’t want to relive the birth of OASIS with SALM. Your experience and knowledge of effective office and school automation are key inputs for this brave new world system. Get involved and lead the development of the solution you would like to see and use.

Fortunately, the SALM project team is being led by former DP and Principal, Garry Raftery and current DP, Tony James. To find out more about what’s happening with SALM, visit this DET Intranet website (not available externally).

What student admin tools do you find indispensible at your school? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

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