St. Monica Catholic School

We were thrilled to be able to talk to Lisa Jordan, Technology Director at St. Monica Catholic School in Converse, TX. In our interview Lisa shares her thoughts and experiences about moving away from a paper system to finding the right online student information system. St. Monica Catholic School began with QuickSchools for their middle school in 2012 and has a current enrollment of about 80 students.

In the days before QuickSchools, Lisa explains that the school was toiling away with an “insane” and inconvenient paper system. She noted that in a Middle School where all students have multiple teachers, “each teacher kept their grades. They literally had to take a report card, press down really, really hard because it'd have four carbon copies that they had to go through. Then the principal had to sign them. Then they each rotated ... it took them all day.” After struggling through such an “antiquated” system for so long, it became clear that it was certainly time for a change.

Hear from Lisa directly to hear about how St. Monica Catholic School found QuickSchools:

“Our biggest selling point before we tried you guys in here ... First of all, again, the chat. I was sitting actually in a TCA conference, listening to ... I don't know if it was Gaggle or somebody who gave a presentation and go through it. I was like, "This isn't for me. I don't need a library system. I don't need a student information system. I just need grades online. That's all I need." I Googled it. When I did, you all came up. Then I hit the chat, just I thought, "Oh, God. Nobody will ever come back," hit it. I ended up having a whole conversation with whoever was on the chat during my TCA conference.

Basically, the biggest thing was we needed an individual child charge, first of all. We needed it to be per kid because we only wanted a hundred kids on. We're in Region 20. Texas has big regions service. They have a huge one, but they want 6,000 kids on and we don't have 6,000 kids.

It's not cost-effective if you don't have these huge schools, the Archdiocese of San Antonio and [current 11:13] CCUs, and other company. We looked into that company. Their start-up fee was ridiculous. Their monthly fee would probably be advantageous, but their start-up fee was so unadvantageous that ... You guys had no start-up fees, so we're like, "$2,000.00, zero dollars." We got it. It was a pretty decision at that point.

Eeven after finding QuickSchools, and finding such a good deal since there are no start-up fees, the administrators at school was thoughtful and thorough finishing their research on the system. But, after talking to other schools, they were certain it would be a great fit for St. Monica’s and many other schools as well.

Hear from Lisa about Deciding to Choose QuickSchools:

We were a little leery, I have to tell you, because no one around had used you all. We were like, "Are we going to put all of our faith into this company we know nothing about from California," or wherever you guys are from. We were at another state and another ... It was very scary. I actually asked for a recommendation and a school in Dallas gave us a recommendation. We have been thrilled since.

It's actually very good solution for small schools. In Texas, we have charter schools. It would be a great fit for charter schools. When you get on with the big systems, it's great if everybody's doing it, but if everybody is not doing it then you're stuck with that huge payment. It's really not worth it, honestly, as well, we had decided.

We had been looking for somebody for about 5 years off and on. Our parent-teacher organization wanted somebody. We really just kept telling them it wasn't cost-effective. If you want to know what your kids' grades are, just look in their backpack, but that's not how it works. Kids don't take them home, that they don't want people to see.

It works out much better just for everyone when everybody can see everything, but it was not cost-effective for us to use those big companies, which is why we went to you guys in the first place”

Not only is QuickSchools so cost-effective for St. Monica School, but it’s helped the middle school to work even better. Though the school was initially just looking for “grades online” they have found that with a comprehensive solution, everyone is able to be more informed about students’ progress. Moving to a management system that’s easy to use and always current, has allowed the school to make great strides in parent and teacher accountability.

Hear from Lisa about how QuickSchools has helped Improve Accountability and Quality of Education at St. Monica School:

“We love QuickSchools. Our parents have been great about checking things and logging in and looking. Teachers are still adjusting to keeping the grades up as quickly as possible and inputting. They're still keeping the red book just as kind of a crutch and eventually will move away from that and they'll just go directly into QuickSchools. They do enjoy having all the grades available to a parent. It makes all the difference in the world.

Instead of having six conferences or finding out at report card time that you have a problem, now those parents are able to log on right away and see that the problem is starting, and we catch things so much faster. We literally don't have any kids failing anymore, just because we implemented this along with the ZAP Program, which stands for Zeros Are Not Permitted. A teacher literally cannot put a zero in. They either have to, what we call, zap the child which means they have to call the parent and tell the parent they're going to stay after school and do whatever ... They have a detention after school immediately that day, but they'd have to turn something in. That is also helpful.

With the QuickSchools ... Sorry. School's out, yay! With the QuickSchools, we have the ability that those parents catch that stuff just super fast. Really, the teachers, too, because they know when they're putting things in, the parents are looking at them and they're like ... They don't want to put in a blank with the teacher that has blanks.

It does help on both ends - teachers and students and parents. It has been a very big eye-opener”

QuickSchools has made such a difference with accountability and quality of education at St. Monica school. As Lisa explained “We literally don't have any kids failing anymore” - a remarkable outcome, and an indication of real success.

Along with better accountability, the system has helped with general communication throughout the middle school. At a close-knit school like St. Monica, teachers and administrators have loved being able to share information easily with parents and students. Everyone has been very enthusiastic about this tool for better connection between families and school.

Hear from Lisa about the parents’ love for the Parent Portal:

I guess our guys are thrilled. They're so excited. We forget sometimes to tell our new parents that they have it. They'll have a conversation with the parent, "Oh, just go on QuickSchools and you just look it up." They're like, "What? We didn't know we have that." They'll come in and we're like, "Oh, we forgot," because they came in so late in the year. We forgot. That has been one ... I know the parents are excited because they're talking about it outside of school with other parents.

We have talked to a couple of other schools in our area that are considering, when their contracts are up ... Because that's another horrible thing about the area things that we have is they have to sign a 2 or 4-year contract, and it's insane. When their contracts are up, they are like, "What are you all using because we've got to get out here?"

Hopefully, you all will be getting some more business from us headed your way, some of the smaller schools that are just tired of paying a lot and not getting the service that you guys provide, for sure.

Parents genuinely love to be able to access the parent portal - they want to share it with their friends and encourage each other to login and use it. At school, teachers are similarly excited about the mass messaging system. Using it, they can email home for all their students at once to give updates about class and school as a whole.

Hear from Lisa about how much St. Monica School loves to use the mass messaging system.

“We also love the mass messaging. We use that. We started using that during the poor weather. We're in Texas, so no one may laugh at us. When we say poor weather, it means 32 degrees, so it's freezing. It's a real iffy thing as to whether we're going to have school or not. It's like, "Are the roads frozen or is it just now freezing or is it freezing in there?"

We started using QuickSchools, the messaging, during the bad weather, for us to see whether we're going to close school or not. We were able to get messages out to parents saying the school is open or we were able to get them out saying the school is closed.

We get mass messages out to parents. Our eighth graders just graduated. We had all of our graduation messages went out to the eighth grade group.

We are learning our QuickSchools still. We're learning how to group messages so the whole school doesn't get the eighth grade message and that kind of thing. I will say this, the people at QuickSchools is why we stay with QuickSchools, because everybody has been so nice at helping us go through the program and figure out things very quickly.”

As St. Monica school has gotten started and learned more about QuickSchools and it’s various components, the support has made a huge difference. Lisa notes that the chat in particular has been great, and everyone has been able to get help to figure out all sorts of questions successfully.

Hear from Lisa about the awesome Support at QuickSchools:

“I will say that chat is available day and night. I've had teachers come and tell me, "I was on the chat at 10:00 last night because I couldn't figure out what happened," and they put their weights in wrong. We do that a lot, where the teachers forget that it has to add up to a hundred, and they can't figure out why their grades won't work, things like that.

They'll chat in at 10 when they can't get me and they get you all. They can't even get me in town, in the same place, but they can get you guys whenever they come in. That is definitely our biggest advantage, we feel like, using QuickSchools versus some of the other things that are available to us here in town.”

“Yeah. I get a kick out of every time that I'm talking to somebody - one of you guys - on chat and you all are like in Connecticut or California or Maine. You're everywhere. It's really pretty interesting. I even thought about what time I was talking to you, and I was telling the kids, "Hey, this guy is in Connecticut. It's 15 below zero." They're all like, "Oh!" We were asking him questions about the weather as a class. It turned out to be a totally different tool.”

Not only has the chat support made a difference with day-to-day issues, but being able to get one-one-one support and help with larger questions has made a big difference. QuickSchools worked directly with St. Monica school to build their very own custom template, which the school has used successfully since the start.

Hear from Lisa about Customizing Report Cards with QuickSchools

“I will say the one thing that we love the most about QuickSchools is the availability of the chat. The chat is our lifeline. Everything we've asked QuickSchools to do ... They literally designed a report card for us.

Being in Texas, ours are a little bit different, apparently, than most places. I looked through all the templates and I was like, "Oh, I don't think any of these are going to fit for us." I just chatted in to see what the possibilities or what it would cost us or what to get our report card, basically, online so that we wouldn't have to press down through four carbon copies. They were fantastic.

Rick - I think it's Rick - redesigned our entire report card and got it specifically to us down to the conduct, the comments, the principles, everything. We have the exact report card that we need.

Anything that's gone wrong on our end ... Really, nothing's gone wrong on the QuickSchools, it's in all of us. We're like, "Oh, we forgot to tell you, at the end of the year, we need this," or, "Oh, I forgot to tell you." I am terrible about having the time to go through the tutorials and read. Every time I log in, I know it's something that they should be patronizing me for because I should already know it because I should have watched the videos, but, so far, everybody has been super nice and said, "Oh, don't worry about it. We got you. It's fine."

I've been super, super impressed with the support and so is my principal, my vice-principal. The teachers have been logging in. Everybody's logged in to that chat. We've all had our questions that we probably should have knows the answers to, but they really have been super nice about not telling us how [inaudible 07:33] we are and just telling us what to do. It's great.

We had a problem this morning where we had something not normalized because we had a kid that came in the very last semester of the year. We were trying to figure out how to get final grades to them, and the report card wasn't normalizing. They fixed it today.

It's just so nice. Anything we don't have ... And who would have foreseen that you have a kid come in the last week of school. Yeah, I don't really ... I don't know, people are ... Yeah, they worked with us this morning, as a matter of fact, and fixed it while my vice-principal and my principal sat here with me. We fixed it in a heartbeat.“

The more St. Monica’s uses QuickSchools, the easier it is to figure out questions, both big and small. At the same time, the school finds that using an online, up-to-date system has a wonderful influence on their school culture as a whole. The more St. Monica’s uses QuickSchools, the easier it is to shift toward incorporating current technology in all areas of learning.

Hear from Lisa about how QuickSchools is helping St. Monica School Improve its Use of Technology:

It's really a weird deal because we have an all-Mac campus. We are a heavy, heavy technology school with over 300 ... 300 of our kids have their individual laptop checked out to them. We manage 300 computers on the campus. We're very technology-based, but then again, we were still using paper on our stuff. It's kind of a weird thing once you get going. [One side's 22:47] on the technology then you kind of have to catch up on the other half.

We appreciate all that you've done to help us catch up to ourselves online and explore the Internet and the world of security and all those kind of things that we were not ready for, but we were. I thought we weren't ready, but we were.

Lisa’s final thoughts reflect her school’s appreciation for the QuickSchools support and the overall impact of using the online system

We enjoy your chats. We have fun with those chats. Thank you so much. We want to thank you very much for all that you were doing to help us get situated and get online.

Thank you to you, Lisa, for joining us for a Fireside Chat!

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