Shared services spread benefits of ECM across multiple school districts.

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Countywide Shared Services Deliver Benefits of ECM

Fueled by grants from the New York State Records Archives, electronic records storage and content management are spreading across school systems located in New York’s North Country. The keystone of this innovation is the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services (SSL BOCES), which is leading the transformation and anchoring the implementation by providing access to Laserfiche as a shared service.

A Proven Answer to Resource Challenges

Cooperative services have long been important to the quality of education in St. Lawrence County. While it ranks as the largest county by land area in New York, the county ranks 59th out of 62 counties in terms of per capita income and is 57th in population density.

This combination of demographics and geography have long made SLL BOCES a resource center for school districts driven to stretch their budget dollars by consolidating selected services. For example, the Human Resources Department at SLL BOCES performs centralized certifications for St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson Counties as a shared service. Assistance with records conversion and electronic content management (ECM) is a logical extension of the BOCES mission. In fact, if all goes as planned, almost half of the 17 districts in St. Lawrence County will be using Laserfiche in the third year of the rollout.

Archive Grants Pave the Way

Lee-ann Morgan, SLL BOCES HR Assistant, is a Laserfiche System Administrator and the point person for the digital migration. “We started by partnering with the nearby Hermon-DeKalb Central School District on pilot conversion projects for personnel records,” she recalls.

The program was funded for slightly more than $88,000 through the Local Records Management Improvement Fund administered by the New York State Archives. “Using state grants makes things much easier,” says Morgan, “because we don’t need to go through an RFP process.” This saves staff time that can be applied elsewhere and minimizes any impact on school budgets.

Grant funding increased to $150,000 the following year as four additional school districts came on board with their own pilot records conversion programs, while Morgan opted to automate the SLL BOCES hiring process with Laserfiche eForms and Workflow software. Another three school systems are on track to add Laserfiche projects in the third year of the program.

A Marriage of Fiscal Conservation and Technical Innovation

Laserfiche as a shared service saves the school districts multiple ways. The expenditure is minimal because SLL BOCES hosts the Laserfiche servers and enterprise software and administers off-site backup for disaster recovery. Local school districts access their stored records using existing networks and PCs, where Laserfiche appears as an app on the desktops of System Administrators and authorized users.

In addition, SLL BOCES invested in scanners to provide inexpensive, centralized back file conversion. A school district simply sends cartons of records to BOCES for scanning after which the paper records are securely disposed of. Records flow into the school district’s individual private repository on the BOCES server, where their documents and metadata are guarded by password and rules-protected access with DoD 5015.2-Certified Records Management security.

Happier, Healthier Records Access

What does Morgan see as the biggest benefit of Laserfiche? “Convenience. It’s convenient to have all your personnel records on your desktop at your fingertips, not in some locked room,” she says. “Managing files, like adding to records is easy. The audit trail is wonderful, too. If you ever need to see what was done and who did it, you’ll know.“

As with most implementations, Laserfiche eliminates the need for physical storage, which presented special problems at SLL BOCES. As Morgan recalls, “The rundown building where BOCES stored records has serious mold and mildew problems. If you had allergies, you needed to wear a face mask and gloves to retrieve records.”

Now she doesn’t have to leave her desk to find what she needs. Plus, “Laserfiche eliminates problems with misfiled or misplaced paper records,” she notes. “I can search on metadata, such as a name or a date, and easily locate what I need.”

Worry-free “Forever” Storage

It’s the same story at the Hermon-DeKalb Central School District, where Janet Boyd acts as Business Manager and Laserfiche administrator in the Superintendent’s Office. “Laserfiche is handy for looking up old employee files,” she says. “It’s so convenient to access, instead of going to the basement and looking through boxes.” She adds, “Laserfiche meets our needs for permanent storage, which is important because personnel records have long retention schedules. No more worries about damage, like if a pipe breaks, or ink fading or running out of room for storage.”

Getting up and running on Laserfiche was relatively worry-free, too. “Lee-ann oversaw our setup. She brought the players together,” say Boyd. “She did a great job of figuring out what we needed. Andy Squires from General Code came and trained us on how to access records and keep everything current. Then BOCES scanned everything and we just worked from our items log to get going.”

Shared Services Spell Success

Centrally hosted Laserfiche is clicking right along as a shared services model at SLL BOCES. Grants help school districts get over the hump of installation and conversion. Users can call the General Code Laserfiche helpdesk wherever they need to. Savings from storage and improved efficiency, school districts are able to sustain the modest licensing costs of seats for their Laserfiche users, which Morgan estimates can be as little as $1,400 per school district.

So far, the school districts have been converting their most problematic records, typically payroll and personnel folders. Other files targeted for conversion include student records and Board of Education meeting minutes. The SLL BOCES program is also building a foundation for electronic content management that’s already paying off. As mentioned earlier, Morgan has already built a workflow for job posting, application, certification and routing, eliminating paper entirely for savings and efficiencies that will continue to accrue.

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