The One Record Myth in K–12 School Software
Is it possible to have one record for each constituent at a school? The short answer is no, not if you want to use your data in meaningful ways. Your school has a wealth of vital information—enrollment applications, student records, financial records, donor and alumni records—and stakeholders with different requirements and abilities. Your tech stack will need to evolve and expand, making having one record for all your solutions impossible. But what I’d bet you’re really after isn’t one record—it’s complete control over your data—and that IS possible.
At Miami Country Day School, we realized that we had to give up on the concept of having one record. We knew that there was information in one part of the system that could be very useful for another team. Still, we did not want, for example, an enrollment clerk to be able to change information upon which a business officer relied. Schools need specific, purpose-driven software and applications for enrollment, academics, fundraising, accounting, and more. So, we invested in a connected platform.
Our Connected Experience
Because we chose Blackbaud’s Total School Solution, I can now toggle back and forth from a family record in our student information system to that same family in our fundraising software. Blackbaud gives us role-based access control to assign credentials throughout the platform, so someone with full access in enrollment may only have view access in tuition management or fundraising. Everyone can get everything they need with their unique secure login.
We still needed to create a consistent policy or practice for sharing data throughout the school. We asked ourselves:
“What if there’s a better way to structure our resources?”
We took two steps:
1. We created a centralized data management team. Instead of having siloed roles, we realigned existing data-related positions on campus to form a new department. We had data in filing cabinets and hard drives in the lower school, middle school, and upper school, as well as in our software systems. Some of the data was redundant; some was contradictory. We were able to pull everything into one integrated system under one team. This unified approach empowered us with consistency in our data management practices.
It also gave us essential redundancy, allowing team members to be more flexible regarding when they take well-deserved time off from work. They now know that their teammates can fill in when they need to take the time we should all be taking to rest, recharge, and come back reinvigorated.
2. We formed a “One School Committee” to go above and beyond data. We wanted to align enrollment, academics, development, and financial management interests to ensure we were all growing in the same direction. The committee promoted the importance of having centralized reporting. After we aligned existing positions, we were able to justify creating a new role—a reporting analyst position—to develop advanced reporting by using Blackbaud APIs (application programming interfaces) with external platforms like Microsoft Power BI™. And that person does not need to know how to write code to help us accomplish our goals. The tools and APIs within our Blackbaud products are designed to be intuitive.
Once the committee accomplished its purpose, we transitioned to having recurring meetings with our heaviest data consumers, who also happen to be our heaviest data contributors. With the information more accessible and available, we can create more finessed reports for our executive, admissions, fundraising, and financial teams—this type of reporting used to take hours to compose. Now, if a board member or business officer asks for a report, we can quickly produce one using tables, line graphs, or charts and send a PDF or link to the report. Some stakeholders are more visual, while others are more numbers-driven. With Blackbaud’s flexible APIs, we can use whatever format is best for each audience.
Data Shouldn’t Get in the Way
The professionals in our school offices have their expertise, and that’s where we want them to concentrate their time, effort, and energy. That’s why we invested in a connected software solution and specialized reporting, empowering our stakeholders to make data-driven decisions confidently with easy access to the information they need. Our reporting and tools have helped us break down departmental silos and provide a more holistic view of school operations.
Achieving “one record” may not be possible. Still, as long as you have a common login and technology with open APIs and flexibility, you can manage your data effectively and drive strategic business decisions at your school.