There’s little doubt that schools–whether K12 public or private, or even higher education institutions–are struggling under the burden of balancing security with operations. The sheer amount of data that schools are required to gather on their students and employees is staggering; it’s only compounded by invasive background checks on employees who work with underaged children, proof of eligibility for special education services, and government requirements to qualify for any kind of school-based nutrition assistance.
Obviously, schools rely heavily on software to keep their databases organized and to make data entry as easy as possible. The unfortunate reality, though, is that selecting software for a school system isn’t as simple as it is for a business or organization. The privacy concerns are only one small factor; working around state and federal funding requirements is a whole other issue.
That’s why one school system in Wisconsin is glad to finally shed the DOS-based software they’ve literally been using since 1985. Yes, around the same time that Matthew Broderick nearly launched World War III with the WOPR computer and Arnold Schwarzenegger came back from the future to keep Skynet from being disabled, the Sheboygan school system implemented a software-based network that remained in use for over thirty years. The parents of some of today’s students were not yet born when this software was introduced, but due to the headaches of finding, installing, training, and implementing a newer title, their original system was still in place.
Now, the school system will be working with Skyward (don’t worry, no known relation to Skynet), an all-in-one product that handles everything from letting parents pay for school lunches online to letting teachers enter grades in the computer and generate report cards. As for the ever-prevalent fear of data breaches, Skyward has only had one newsworthy breach that resulted in teachers’ Social Security numbers and identifying information being shared, but that event appears to have been user error on the part of the client.
As with many decisions for academic institutions, the Skyward agreement is only for three years, which is typical of this kind of working arrangement. The district, however, doesn’t foresee a change due to their history of sticking with a company and with the positive response towards the software from other school systems in the state.