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Putting data to work: how one school district works smarter.

How one school district works smarter: motivated by a desire to improve operations and challenged by a tight budget, New Jersey's Union City school district needed to find an effective way to improve business. Incorporating FileMaker Pro 7 into the district's systems has helped the district make unexpected, exciting changes while sticking to its budget.

For the Union City school district in New Jersey, becoming organized was the key to alleviating busy work for staff, streamlining schools' day-to-day operations and meeting budgets. The 1.4-square-mile AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) district is populated by 78,000 residents, 13 schools and 11,000 students. With a $172 million budget, finding an effective, economic way to structure operations motivated the district to implement FileMaker Pro.

Of the 30 AVID Schools in the area, Union City is the first district that has not had to ask for additional money for the current budget. "If you're able to accurately project what your salaries, benefit costs, etc. are, you're able to keep costs in line," says Anthony Dragona, school business administrator for the Union City Board of Education. After seven years of use, FileMaker has allowed the district to replicate state budget worksheets, establish a professional development module, serve as a teaching tool and generate cost analyses.

Enhancing Existing Technology

The first agenda on the district's list when they purchased FileMaker was to create a way to make school-based budgets available to its administrators. With the help of the program, the district could track staff and demographic data, get a five-year projection, and know what salary costs would be for that period. Also, for the first time, the district entered into a five-year salary contract with its employees, and the district's budget was even sent to state officials on time.

"We chose the program because it's truly cross-platform, fully customizable and has a great support community," says Dragona. Through its alliance of users and developers, administrators and teachers can also network to discover solutions, tips and tricks that assist with project management and development.

New FileMaker Pro 7, for Windows and Mac OS X, has been redesigned to make it easier than ever to develop customized solutions and manage data. New "relationships" tools allow users to quickly link data together. Also, new "Container Fields" let users manage and organize all types of information by importing, storing and exporting any type of file (Word docs, Excel files, PDFs, images, etc.). Now it's easier than ever for users to create their own customized document management systems. For the Union City school district, FileMaker Pro 7 has enhanced its existing technology. "We're a thin-client service," says Dragona. "The ability to store data in the Container Fields and being able to see the relationship chart of all the databases helps us to understand the big picture."

Meeting the state's budget, becoming paperless and customizing projections is just the beginning for the Union City school district. Dragona reports that the district may now develop a local data warehouse that would help pull in test scores, extended-day programs, grades and the existing FileMaker budget solution. "That will help us develop a better snapshot to show us where we need to improve or what works," he says.

Utilizing FileMaker Pro 7 to incorporate their mass of data into a single program--allowing them to use the data for analysis and comparison--has been one of the most efficient, cost-effective ways the district has been able to effect change. "You're challenged every day with ways to make a difference in a kid's life, but also to evaluate whether or not what you're doing is working," says Dragona. "[With the program], you have confidence that there's enough flexibility to develop different scenarios and make adjustments easily."

Building a Better Solution

With the capacity to store 8 terabytes of information in a single database--4,000 times the old limit--FileMaker Pro 7 offers a myriad of features that make it a powerful tool. Its innovative features include:

* 30 "Starter Solutions" templates to manage student and staff records, inventory, expenses, and more.

* A Layout and Report Assistant to help create layouts, labels and reports.

* The Instant Web Publishing feature that lets users publish, share and collect data via the Internet.

* An advanced security system that lets users secure data with assigned accounts and privileges.

* The ability to automatically convert Excel spreadsheets into versatile FileMaker solutions which can be searched, sorted and shared.

* Rapid-development tools that automate common tasks such as sending e-mails, printing letters and running reports.

Top 10 Educational Uses for Filemaker Pro 7

1. Track and report grades.

2. Develop lesson plans.

3. Track student portfolios.

4. Maintain attendance records.

5. Track fund raising and volunteers.

6. Manage admissions and registrations.

7. Manage resources, including equipment and facilities.

8. Track requisitions and purchase orders, and link them to requesters.

9. Share and collect information via the Web.

10. Convert paper forms to electronic forms.
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Title Annotation:Special Advertising Section; Union City school district
Publication:T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)
Article Type:Advertisement
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2004
Words:817
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