Tucson Unified School District, Arizona
Industry: K-12 Education
Tyler Client Since: 2014
Number of Employees: 8,000
Location: Southern Arizona
Tyler Product Used: School ERP Pro powered by Infinite Visions®
In an industry where personnel expenditures comprise nearly 90 percent of organizational budgets, implementing a change can often feel like taking a giant leap, especially if it has the potential to completely change the way things have always been done. But, as Renee Heusser can attest, sometimes those leaps pay off. Sometimes they turn into total transformation.
A Shock to the System
When Heusser walked through the doors of the Tucson Unified School District in 2014, she was there to lend a hand in what would be one of the district’s largest projects in recent years — the implementation of a new financial and personnel management software system.
Located in the second-largest city in Arizona, Tucson Unified School District employs a staff of approximately 8,000 and is responsible for the education of more than 47,000 students across 89 school sites. In a district so large, efficiency is key, which is why Heusser was so surprised when she began her new role.
The district was operating separate systems for both finance and HR/payroll. Because those systems didn’t speak to one another, data had to be emailed in Excel® spreadsheets or sometimes even printed off and carried from the Human Resources Department to the Finance Department to then be re-entered.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Heusser said. “Especially with the size of this district. It didn’t seem possible they could be operating from the 1980s like this. I was shocked. If someone would have told me, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
While departments across the district felt the strain from manual, paper-laden processes, they were particularly cumbersome for Human Resources. When any change needed to be made to an employee that impacted payroll, whether it was a new hire, termination, or even a math teacher who no longer wanted to coach basketball, the request was submitted on a piece of paper called a personnel action form (PAF). Once the PAF was initiated, it would be placed in an interoffice mail folder and routed around to any necessary approvers, which varied from grant or tax credit personnel to multiple levels of leadership. It would move from one approver to the next via interoffice mail until it made its way to HR. On average, this took 21 days, but with no insight into where a PAF was in the process, Heusser said it could sometimes take months.
“Sometimes the school site would call HR requesting a status update on their PAF, and we’d have to tell them it hadn’t shown up yet,” Heusser said. “We’re a really large district and when they start sending those things around ... if it gets to the wrong place, it’s gone.”
Night and Day Change
Today, the district has completely transformed the PAF process, as well as many others, by leveraging the technology within School ERP Pro, powered by Infinite Visions®.
The district now uses electronic personnel action requests (ePARs), which have taken the place of the PAF form. Once initiated, they’re routed electronically through approvals without the need for interoffice mail, and everyone involved can see where they are in the process at any time.
“The school site doesn’t need to call us anymore,” Heusser said. “They can go into the system and see where it is. They can call the person that’s next in the approval line and say, ‘Hey, that’s sitting in your queue, can you push it forward?’”
Heusser said ePARs are now being processed in just a few days, and, if the request is a priority, sometimes only a few hours. This number translates into significant time savings for a district that processes around 30,000 PARs a year.
“It’s amazing. It’s a night and day change,” she said.
The difference from where we were four years ago to where we are today is mindboggling to me. Personally, that’s my biggest takeaway … seeing the difference.
Human Resources Director
In addition to ePARs, efficiencies have also been gained in budgeting and reporting. Prior to implementing School ERP Pro, Heusser said reporting could take months if you were trying to get data from both the employee system and the general ledger. With integrated financial and personnel management systems, reporting can be done in a fraction of the time and decisions can be made almost immediately using real-time data.
“It’s hard to verbalize how much value that really is because we live in such a real-time world,” Heusser said, “but having been in the opposite of that makes you realize how phenomenal it is to have information at your fingertips.”
Looking back at the difference a handful of years and new technology has made, Heusser described it as mindboggling. The success the district has seen, she said, is owed to the people who made it all possible — the staff.
“Having worked in smaller districts and then coming here, just the volume speaks a lot. It’s astronomical what our staff is crunching through on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “Now that we’ve been on the system for a couple of years, they look back and can’t even imagine how they functioned before. It’s really crazy. The employees are happy, their processes have been eased, and it’s made everyone more accountable.”