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New streamlined attendance software is a big help for Decorah Schools

Posted: Wed, Jan 13, 2021 1:10 PM

Decorah Superintendent Mark Lane often quotes a poster hanging in his mentor's office: "For what problem is this the solution?"  He admits that sometimes he has great ideas, but nowhere to land them.  But when it came to DCSD's outdated staff attendance system, Lane was equipped with the solution, thanks to his years working in another school district before he even knew of the problem in the Decorah School District.

After Lane was hired in the spring of 2019, he frequently heard about problems with the employee attendance system used at that time.  The system burdened administrators and staff with lots of complicated paperwork and had significant lag times for updated information.

Lane explained, "Imagine being a principal and making your rounds at your school. You pop in to one classroom to say hi and, to your surprise,  there's a sub. That's certainly not an ideal situation."

The problem was abundantly clear, so Lane and a team of administrators began to look into the system that Lane had used in his previous district. The Decorah School Board was presented with a new program in December 2019, which was approved for implementation.  The district then started using the absence management software of the Frontline Education program in July 2020. recently sat down with Lane to find out how the new system is working for DCSD. Lane has been impressed with elimination of required paperwork, decreased lag time, and convenience for all who use the system.   

The new system is all online, is readily accessible, and has essentially eliminated piles and piles of paperwork that was previously necessary for a staff member to be absent. Decorah staff is now able to fill out a request with the date, reason, and length of absence quickly and easily from the convenience of their device.  Then, appropriate supervisors are able to approve or deny the request. No paperwork needs to be sent back and forth, which is a positive for the environment and eases the whole process.

One notable benefit is that there is no longer a lag for absentee information.  Principals and administration can log in at any time to check on who's requesting days off.  Information is updated instantly, so there are no unexpected surprises as mentioned earlier. Frontline Education even offers an app for smart devices, if a user chooses to use it.

The new software is also convenient for employees.  Staff is able to sign in and request days off whenever the need arises, whether that's waking up ill in the middle of the night or if there is a future planned personal day for things such as a wedding. The district, however, still requires its staff to call in an absence if it is past the online request deadline of 6:00 a.m. for that day.

Additionally, if a staff member is curious about how many days he or she has left to use, there is an updated number noted on each person's account.  This replaces the old method of having to call the central office and ask Darlene Woodhouse for that number. According to Lane, many of the staff felt a call like that was burdensome for Woodhouse's already busy schedule.

The new software is proving beneficial now, and Lane is looking forward to using the "absence fill rate" to make informed decisions in the future.  He explains, "I can look at the absence fill rate, which indicates how we're doing with filling in with subs.  Hypothetically, let's say our rate is 90%. That might sound great, but then I talk with surrounding districts who have a rating of 98%. That will start the conversation about what they might be doing differently to get a higher rating." These types of conversations will lead to vital decisions, such as sub pay.

Currently, only Decorah staff is set up to use the new system.  Lane says they are working on implementing the system for the district's hourly employees' use in the next six to eight months.

Lane said, "With everything else that's been more difficult to do this past school year, I'm thankful for such a streamlined system for staff attendance. I'm thankful we were able to find an answer to this problem."