Rapid City Area Schools - Featured Case Study (2024)

Rapid City Area Schools - better than free

Why Skyward?

Doing business since 1985

While free is a great price tag, RCAS has relied on Skyward’s School Business Suite since 1985 and the Student Management Suite since 2000 to manage virtually all district operations.

District superintendent Dr. Timothy M. Mitchell was in his first year at RCAS and remarked, “I know firsthand the difference between the two products. Skyward provides us with a comprehensive, multifaceted solution that truly serves as a one-stop-shop for our district.”

While the state-sponsored system extends only to student data, Skyward supports every aspect of school data. “From the student side, such as grades and attendance, to the business side, including human resources and accounting, to other areas such as food service,” Dr. Mitchell continued.

One unified database

RCAS administrators only input data once, streamlining processes and increasing efficiency and productivity at all levels.

“We are able to operate with fewer administrative employees than other district,” said Rick Bates, RCAS director of technology. “Most require approximately five or six systems to accomplish what we do with just one. And each of those systems has at least one person dedicated to its management. We have three people supporting Skyward. One free system doesn’t ensure a low total cost of ownership.

Industry expertise increases interoperability
Speaking of support, RCAS also benefits from working with an expert vendor. “Because Skyward is known as a leader with state-of-the-art solutions, other organizations are eager to partner with them. The maturity of Skyward and its technology is a significant advantage.”

For example, RCAS is using CRS Advanced Technology’s SubFinder system. They also plan to use Total Recall’s network user management system, which allows the district to make one entry into Skyward which then ripples user authentication information across all district IT systems.

RCAS has seen decades of edtech progress happen firsthand—that’s how they know Skyward will never stop improving. “You can imagine that Skyward looked significantly different in 1985 than it does today,” said Bates. “But Skyward is constantly able to leap-frog requirements with new enhancements over time.

Skyward offers individual schools flexibility. Schools may choose arena or traditional scheduling, operate on semesters or trimesters, and customize report cards. Valerie Thompson, IT program manager, is pleased with how Skyward tailored systems for RCAS. “As our district’s needs evolve and regulations change, we can always turn to Skyward. They will work closely with us to understand our requirements and make appropriate changes.”

Updates: Backups, systems, and regulations
A cloud-based system backs up district data, so Skyward can help recover school data in the event of a disaster. “There are times when we have network issues and are unable to access any systems except for Skyward,” explained Mitchell. While cloud-based systems offer one layer of protection, automatic updates have changed the game for securing school data.

“When a new release of Skyward is available, we have almost immediate access to that new functionality,” noted Mitchell. “Skyward is responsible for migration at their site, and we reap the benefits of the new enhancements with very little work required on our end. Also, when a new state or federal regulation is established, Skyward will make the necessary adjustments and quickly provide us with an update.”

Better data, better for students
The state-sponsored data solution could not accomplish what Skyward can when it comes to data management. “For example, let’s say you want to analyze your budget to see how much it would cost to add a class to a particular school. Without Skyward, you would have to cull together various spreadsheets of information and then draw some assumptions and conclusions,” Mitchell explained. Skyward changed that. “We can report down to a very granular level of information… to make truly informed decisions.

However, the true value of Skyward goes further than process optimization to directly impact students, families, and teachers. “Skyward’s family Access portal provided parents more visibility. Parents are fully engaged in their child’s education. Parents are empowered through the portal to make sure their kids are going to school, doing their homework, and keeping up grades.”

RCAS teachers have enjoyed Skyward’s online Gradebook, which provides greater transparency, and creates space for teachers to share ideas for managing and assigning grades.

Continued growth with Skyward solutions
RCAS—like all Skyward districts—has the opportunity to request changes to the system through a user-led enhancement process. Bates has enjoyed the personal service Skyward offers. “I can call the president or vice president of the company directly and get action. I always feel they are engaged with our needs, and that they will provide a quick and effective resolution.

Mitchell agreed. “Our district has played an important role in the evolution of the Skyward solution. Over the years, we have formed a collaborative relationship. In fact, we were one of the first customers to move to the Web. Together, we have developed new innovations, identified enhancements, and created core parts of the product. We are proud of the role we’ve played helping to make Skyward a comprehensive and robust solution.”

Rapid City Area Schools - Featured Case Study (2024)
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