School districts are record-keeping machines, generating endless piles of paperwork to support students and staff. New Caney ISD, a public school district in the greater Houston area, is no exception.
With hundreds of thousands of students and employees having passed through its doors for over sixty years, the district had saved countless transcripts, employment applications, forms, reports, assessments and more in boxes and filing cabinets in warehouses, closets, attics and storerooms.
In 2015, the superintendent decided it was time take control of it all. So, a year later, the district hired its first records management officer, Tammy Yarbrough, to tackle it.
Yarbrough spent her first year taking inventory. “We went to every department on every campus and to our warehouses,” she says. “Then we moved most of the records into a centralized location, so we could determine what to purge.”
Yarbrough’s next step was to digitize what remained, starting with student cumulative folders—each one having anywhere from 50 to 3,000 documents in it.
To start the work, Yarbrough initiated a summer scanning project. She hired 40 people to help scan all the district’s kindergarten through ninth grade cumulative folders. With the volume of work ahead of them, Yarbrough knew the scanners they had on board weren’t going to cut it. Their content management vendor recommended a few scanning products, so they purchased two fi Series departmental scanners and a couple other brand’s scanners.
“As soon as we tried the fi Series scanners, we loved them,” says Yarbrough. “We knew they were the ones we wanted. They were better and faster, and we ended up with far fewer problems with them compared to what we’d been using. Plus, the engineering team came out and trained our technicians, which was a great help.”
During the next five years, contract employees arrived every summer to scan all the records that had been filling up their warehouses and filing cabinets on campus. As they plowed through the paperwork, Yarbrough continued to add to their fleet of scanners.
Thanks to government funding, the district has been able to significantly expand its scanner inventory and digitize their schools’ records. Today, they have 252 fi Series departmental scanners and are nearly caught up on their back-scanning needs.
Now, the team is focused on establishing processes that will streamline all the paperwork going forward. When someone scans a document or stack of documents, it goes into the district’s content management system and is flagged with a retention period. “We don’t want to scan everything and just keep it forever on our server,” Yarbrough says. That’s resulted in seven terabytes of scanned student records and one terabyte of human resources documents on their server.
If there’s a request for records, staff with security permissions can tap right into a student’s or employee’s record in the system and get what they need immediately. If a parent needs documents or emails, teachers can take care of that with the push of a button.
With OCR, they can search for records by the way they're classified or based on their content. And thanks to a web interface, staff can access the records from wherever they are. No need to sort through filing cabinets or travel to the warehouses anymore to find a specific document.
Another unexpected benefit came when the Houston area experienced severe flooding. The district didn’t lose any of its records, since they were all on the server by then.
Yarbrough’s team is continuing to train new departments and staff, from human resources to payroll and transportation to campus security, on how to scan their active documents rather than put them in filing cabinets. They have over 275 people using the fi Series departmental scanners.
“With the fi Series scanners on board, we’ve been able to have auctions to sell off our filing cabinets,” says Yarbrough.
Looking ahead, Yarbrough wants to digitize all the architectural building plans and drawings stored in the facilities department and other buildings across the district. “They’re all different sizes, so it’s taking some work to figure out how to best manage those,” she explains. “They take up a lot of space, so we need to address them—and I’m sure fi Series scanners can help us with that.”