SEPTEMBER 2018

9/14/18

Digital Schools at Carlsbad Unified

This Monday and Tuesday Mark Bedford and Chris Beyne were at Carlsbad Unified to present to area districts interested in utilizing Digital Schools Suite|Plus and meet with area clients for group training sessions. Staff from Vista Unified, Carlsbad Unified, Lakeside Union Elementary and San Dieguito were all in attendance for session on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.

Mark covered topics ranging from time management to budget. Just as important were the insights we gleaned from better understanding how Digital Schools’ clients utilize the application on a daily basis. A special thank you to Rachel Austin (Direct of Classified Personnel, Carlsbad) for hosting us and helping to make all the sessions be so successful.

9/7/18

Updated Digital Schools’ Website

The Digital Schools’ website has now been updated with a blog section featuring the information you see in each newsletter, plus additional weekly updates that you won’t see anywhere else. We are excited about the ability to provide our clients and the public with more company and product information on a regular basis.

9/7/18

2018 ACA Reporting

Signup for the 2018 reporting year through American Fidelity is now closed. Thank you to everyone that registered. If your district missed the signup period but still would like to utilize the service, please contact Kristen Lanz (kristen@digital-schools.com) to discuss your options.

9/7/18

Digital Schools Users’ Conference

Early bird registration is now closed, but there is still plenty of time to sign up for this year’s conference. The conference will feature our first ever key note speaker, Michael Fine, CEO of FCMAT, and more user lead sessions then ever before. Our presenters are hard at work on their session and are looking forward to interacting with all our clients.

To learn more about this year’s conference and sign up please visit https://digital-schools.corsizio.com/c/5b60ca2bc667f709f6a07310.

9/7/18

Upcoming Webinar Schedule

American Fidelity/Digital Schools Joint ACA Webinars: Focused on preparing Digital Schools’ clients for the upcoming ACA reporting period. Invitations will be sent by American Fidelity in the coming weeks.

September 17th @ 9:30pm

September 18th @ 1:30pm

August 2018

8/24/18

2018 ACA Reporting

Signup for the 2018 reporting year through American Fidelity is currently under way. The deadline for districts to notify Digital Schools of their intent to use this service is September 1st. If your district is interested in utilizing the service this year, please contact Kristen Lanz (kristen@digital-schools.com) to sign up.

8/24/18

Digital Schools Users’ Conference

Sign up for the conference has begun and we are especially excited about the user participation this year. As in years past, users of the application will be assisting Digital Schools personnel in their presentations. However, this year we have more user presenters than ever before and know that their contribution will only help to enhance each session.

To learn more about this year’s conference and sign up please visit https://digital-schools.corsizio.com/c/5b60ca2bc667f709f6a07310. Remember that early bird pricing ends on August 30th.

8/24/18

Upcoming Webinar Schedule

American Fidelity/Digital Schools Joint ACA Webinars: Focused on preparing Digital Schools’ clients for the upcoming ACA reporting period. Invitations will be sent by American Fidelity in the coming weeks.

September 17th @ 9:30pm

September 18th @ 1:30pm

8/10/18

Digital Schools Users’ Conference

Digital Schools is proud to announce Michael Fine as this year’s key note speaker.

Michael Fine, Chief Executive Officer, FCMAT

Mike became FCMAT’s Chief Executive Officer on July 1, 2017. Before joining FCMAT in 2015 as the agency’s Chief Administrative Officer, Mike served a combined 13 years as interim superintendent and deputy superintendent of business services and governmental relations at the Riverside Unified School District. Mike has experience as assistant superintendent at Newport-Mesa USD and financial administrator in accounting and indirect budgets at Hughes Aircraft Company and General Dynamics Corporation. Mike is a regular presenter at many state and national convenings, workshops and professional development programs. He has degrees in accounting and public administration. Mike has a long history in governmental relations, working closely with policy makers in Sacramento on behalf of California’s K-12 students.

To learn more about this year’s conference and sign up please visit https://digital-schools.corsizio.com/c/5b60ca2bc667f709f6a07310. Remember that early bird pricing ends on August 30th.

8/10/18

Upcoming Webinar Schedule

American Fidelity/Digital Schools Joint ACA Webinars: Focused on preparing Digital Schools’ clients for the upcoming ACA reporting period. Invitations will be sent by American Fidelity in the coming weeks.

September 17th @ 9:30pm

September 18th @ 1:30pm

8/10/18

2018 ACA Reporting

Signup for the 2018 reporting year through American Fidelity is currently under way. If your district is interested in utilizing the service this year, please contact Kristen Lanz (kristen@digital-schools.com)

JULY 2018

AB 1487 Limits Out-Of-Class Appointments to 960 Hours per Fiscal Year

Effective January 1, 2018, AB 1487 prohibits a school district that contracts with CalPERS for retirement benefits from keeping an employee in an out-of-class appointment for more than 960 hours in a fiscal year. This limitation applies only to employees working out-of-class in a vacant position during recruitment for a permanent employee to fill the position; it does not apply to employees working out-of-class to fill in for an employee who is on temporary leave.

AB 1487 requires the employer to report the hours worked by the employee in the out-of-class appointment to CalPERS no later than 30 days after the end of the fiscal year. The compensation for the out-of-class appointment must be set in a collective bargaining agreement or publicly available pay schedule.

An employer who violates these requirements must pay a penalty of three times the amount of employee and employer contributions for the additional out-of-class pay for all hours worked out-of-class, not just those above 960 hours. The employer must also reimburse CalPERS for the administrative expenses of dealing with the violation.

Employers who contract with CalPERS should review their personnel policies and labor contracts to ensure that employees do not work out-of-class in a vacant position for more than 960 hours per fiscal year.  As AB 1487 may have significant impacts on how public agencies handle out of class assignments, public agencies should consult with legal counsel on how best to comply with this new law.

JUNE 2018

Extract Project for Turlock Unified School District

Recently Turlock Unified came to us with a special project request. The project covered the configuration and implementation of a scheduled extract of active employees for the Turlock USD domain, which is then either emailed or send via SFTP to recipients at the district for uploading into the Tools4ever IAM platform. This will allow the district to quickly extract and upload active employees into a separate database.

After determining a scope of work for the project, the Digital Schools team was able to work with Turlock to finalize a timeline and begin work on the project. As with all special projects this one is fee based. If your district is interested in exploring an idea like this, please submit a Zendesk ticket through your application manager.

Angular Update

The Digital Schools’ Development team is hard at work on the Angular project and has made a great deal of progress in the last few months. Recently, the conversion of all pages in Digital Schools Suite|Plus from Adobe Flash to Angular was completed and work has begun on styling these pages.

The style of the current application was created about 10 years ago. At that time Digital Schools Suite|Plus was structured and styled to mimic an installed desktop application. This means that pages are a fixed size and have trouble adapting to different screen sizes and resolutions.

We are replacing our Adobe Flash application with a new web user interface developed in Angular. However, we are not making any significant user interface changes in the new Angular application. Each screen in Adobe Flash will be recreated in Angular with all the same panes, controls and grids.

In terms of Application Style, a major goal is to get the maximum user acceptance with minimal user training.

Our aim is to upgrade our current style, but in a way that will make the new application seem familiar and accessible to clients. We want the application to look like it got a face lift, not complete reconstructive surgery.

The biggest single difference in the Angular application vs the Adobe Flash application is that it is reactive. The Angular application will react to the screen size and adjust appropriately. It will look great on a laptop screen, on a desk top monitor or on a tablet. Meaning Digital Schools will soon be coming to an iPad near you. Not only will it respond well to different screen sizes, it will respond well appropriately to different zoom levels.

MAY 2018

In the past two years the educational market landscape has been changing with acquisitions and expansions. Digital Schools was not immune to this change; we received several calls from interested firms. One such inquiry was from Alpine Investors.

As you may be aware, Escape Technology partnered with Alpine Investors in July 2017. We liked what we heard about this partnership and we equally liked Alpine Investors and their market philosophy.

Their goals with Escape were and are in keeping with the goals of Digital Schools: developing the most comprehensive school business software available, offering the best customer support in the industry and an increasing leadership position in the education technology market.

We are happy to announce that we have taken a great step forward toward achieving these goals: Digital Schools and Escape Technology will be partnering via the Alpine Investors acquisition of Digital Schools. We join a growing number of companies under Educational Software Holdings which is headed by CEO Ali Jenab.

As you know Digital Schools and Escape Technology frequently have competed for customers. Rather than compete, we saw the immense value in collaborating through partnership as the best way to strategically address the ongoing needs of our combined customer base by bringing the best in school business software. What we believe is best for our customers is for both companies to continue operating independently. This gives us needed time to learn more about respective company cultures, products, personnel and operations. There should never be urgency in determining the best way to combine the products and organizations. Rather, there should be careful consideration and planning. That is our approach.

By working together, we are positioned to share best practices and combine our respective skills and school business knowledge. This powerful combination will greatly benefit our customer bases by enabling us to enhance existing products, processes and services. As a team, we are committed to continuing to deliver the best products and services in the industry.

Both companies will continue to operate independently and retain their company names, branding and products.

Ali Jenab, CEO of Escape Technology, as well as Educational Software Holdings, LLC, will continue setting overall company strategy and remain focused on pursuing opportunities for growth in the Ed Tech market.

Ramona Marshall, President of Escape Technology, will assume responsibility as President of Digital Schools for the daily operations. She will work closely with Sarah Beyne, who has served as CEO of Digital Schools since 2007. This collaboration will ensure a smooth transition, while allowing Ramona the opportunity to get to know the Digital Schools staff.

Sarah Beyne embarked on this venture with an eye towards a decreased workload and travel schedule. Through the coming months and the transition, she will be working full time in a management role and will collaborate with Ali on overall strategy while supporting Ramona and the Digital Schools team to ensure a smooth transition. It is our expectation that the transition will go unnoticed by customers.

APRIL 2018

CASBO 2018

Its that time of year again… The annual CASBO conference is coming to Sacramento this year and Digital Schools will be well represented. We hope to see as many of you as possible in Sacramento this week. So, please stop by booth 828 to ask questions, chat or just say hello.

Outbound User Communication Portal

Beginning in the next few weeks Digital Schools will be migrating our messaging system from MailChimp to Outbound. Giving us the ability to communicate with users directly through the Digital Schools Suite|Plus Application, allowing for more targeted messaging. This exciting new functionality will be debuting in the next few weeks, so be on the lookout.

Future Development Projects

Enhanced User Password Security

We’ll be implementing a requirement for more secure passwords when users sign in or new users register. Districts will also have the option of requiring users to reset passwords on a district-defined schedule, if desired. Projected release: Q2 2018

Expanded Document Attachment for Employee Management

Efforts are well underway to expand our electronic file attachment functionality to the Employee Management screen, with new security settings. This will allow our HR users to upload electronic copies of any employee-related files and designate appropriate user security to control access to sensitive and/or confidential data. Projected release: Q2 2018

JAN 2018

Release Schedule

Its that time of year again… The annual CASBO conference is coming to Sacramento this year and Digital Schools will be well represented. We hope to see as many of you as possible in Sacramento this week. So, please stop by booth 828 to ask questions, chat or just say hello.

Upcoming Conferences

Digital Schools will be attending the California School Personnel Commissioners Association Conference from February 1st-2nd and the San Diego/Imperial County CASBO Regional conference on February 9th. If you are also attending, please stop by our booth to say hello.

Digital Schools Blog

 

General FAQs

Q: we are required to use the financial and payroll system of our County Office, which is insufficient in offering position control, HR, and integrated budgeting. Can we use this functionality in Digital Schools alone?

A: Yes. We work with a large number of clients providing core functionality of human resources, position control, budgeting and gross payroll. A number also use our financial and purchasing capabilities, which enables them to use only County or State net payroll.

Q: Is it important for all departments to be a part of the selection process and ultimately the use of the application?

A: Yes, particularly Business and Human Resources. Too often districts operate as silos. The Digital Schools application enables the integration of essential date driven data, which means that decisions are “integrated” and based on current accurate information.

Q: Can the DS data be electronically exported to a county or state application?

A: That depends on the County and/or State. We certainly have experience and have successfully “bridged” in a number of situations.

Q: What is the involvement of IT in the process?

A: Ideally IT should be involved in any application decision. With Digital Schools however, IT departments generally find minimal involvement as the application is web-based and hosted. This is also welcome information as most IT departments are extremely busy with a number of other District applications and instructional materials.

 

Mobile Authorization FAQs

Q: If one of my users has an Android phone and an iPad, is that two separate download codes for purchase?

A: Yes since they are two different competing companies. Therefore, your district will have to purchase 1 code for Android and 1 code for iOS (Apple).

Note that if the user uses the same platform on two devices (i.e. an iPhone and iPad), only 1 iOS (Apple) code needs to be used and can be downloaded on both devices.

Q: How do I redeem the download code once I receive it?

A: Google Play –

  • Go through the checkout process until you see the payment method listed.
  • Next to the payment method, select the down arrow Down Arrow and then Redeem.
  • Enter your code.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions.

    App Store (Apple) –

  • Tap the App Store icon from the Home Screen.
  • Navigate to the new section on the Featured tab.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the list to locate and tap the Redeem button.
  • Enter the promo code and tap the Redeem button in the upper right.

Q: What if I don’t know how many Authorizers I have, but I want to purchase the mobile application for all?

A: Please place a ticket https://digitalschoolssupport.zendesk.com.

  • Select Form Mobile App and request listing of Authorizers.
  • A list of authorizers will be returned back with additional columns for you to select if the Authorizer needs the Android app, iOS (Apple) app, or both.

Copy and Paste

You can use the copy and paste feature

in many of the fields within suite plus. Control-C and Control-V for Windows based systems and Command-C and Command-V for Apple. Most notes and comment areas allow for this shortcut.

Pre-formatted Reports

When we make a change to an existing "Global" report, any personal or district

copies of those reports are not (and cannot be) updated with the change. Users have to read the Release Note, then go in to their own version of the report and re-copy from the new version and re-save the report. It's not that complicated... but if a user isn't on the Release Note distribution list... they won't see (standard) warning. Any user-created, District or Personal versions of these reports will not include the update(s). We recommend recreating using the updated report(s)

Data Audits

Your data is only as good as the last update and reoccurring data audits. We recommend scheduling and running a routine data audit as a part of your Suite|Plus tasks. To do this go to Reporting; Audit. Select the audit group area in which to audit and select “All Severities”. The “Get Audit Detail” button will give you an Excel spreadsheet of possible data issues and/or conflicts.

Clearing browser after new application release

For those users utilizing Chrome as your default browser, this link will give you direct access to clear your browser data: chrome://settings/clearBrowserData

Using the "SU" database

An effective "tool" that you may not know about is the "SU" database. This database is a "copy" of your production database that can be used for training, what-if testing or general learning of feature releases and how they affect your database instance. Your "SU" database is refreshed with production data twice a month on the 1st and 15th. Any transactions used for training or testing will be replaced with a copy of live production data.

Using Export to PDF in a creative way:

One way to keyword “search” a report is to export to pdf, then use Adobe Acrobat search feature to find specific names, numbers or titles.

TIPS

Copy and Paste

You can use the copy and paste feature in many of the fields within suite plus. Control-C and Control-V for Windows based systems and Command-C and Command-V for Apple. Most notes and comment areas allow for this shortcut.

 

Pre-formatted Reports

When we make a change to an existing "Global" report, any personal or district copies of those reports are not (and cannot be) updated with the change. Users have to read the Release Note, then go in to their own version of the report and re-copy from the new version and re-save the report. It's not that complicated... but if a user isn't on the Release Note distribution list... they won't see (standard) warning. Any user-created, District or Personal versions of these reports will not include the update(s). We recommend recreating using the updated report(s)

 

Data Audits

Your data is only as good as the last update and reoccurring data audits. We recommend scheduling and running a

routine data audit as a part of your Suite|Plus tasks. To do this go to Reporting; Audit. Select the audit group area in which to audit and select “All Severities”. The “Get Audit Detail” button will give you an Excel spreadsheet of possible data issues and/or conflicts.

 

Clearing browser after new application release

For those users utilizing Chrome as your default browser, this link will give you direct access to clear your browser data: chrome://settings/clearBrowserData

 

Using the "SU" database

An effective "tool" that you may not know about is the "SU" database. This database is a "copy" of your production database that can be used for training, what-if testing or general learning of feature releases and how they affect your database instance. Your "SU" database is refreshed with production data twice a month on the 1st and 15th. Any transactions used for training or testing will be replaced with a copy of live production data.

 

Using Export to PDF in a creative way:

One way to keyword “search” a report is to export to pdf, then use Adobe Acrobat search feature to find specific names, numbers or titles.