Our interest in educational technology continues to grow with our on-going support of the Village Community School, an advanced K-8 private school in lower Manhattan. As with many of our clients, our relationship developed organically. We began by providing a solution for one specific need. Our efforts included software development, external interfaces, and IT Management, allowing us to support decision-makers across multiple departments and disciplines.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves….
When Village Community School first came to us, they needed help with their Administration.
Initially, VCS administered their institution using an Microsoft Access database; they simply wanted help with interface and query support for that database. However, there came a time when the technology itself was too limiting to support VCS’s growth and increased Information Technology needs. It was time to replace this solution if the school was to expand it’s technological capabilities.
At the time, there were a number of school-focused Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) systems available on the market. After evaluating these offerings, VCS decided none suited the unique needs they had solved in their original database. This led to the decision to recreate the original system in a more robust technology and expand into a full-fledged CRM.
We were asked to rebuild their current Access system in MSSQL with a web interface, while keeping the new system backwards compatible with Access. This development effort grew into a school CRM in it’s own right – which gave priority to special VCS considerations – but also included new features well beyond the original system.
The CRM is comprised of sections for Constituents, Staff, Registrar, Admissions, and Queries and Reports.
Constituents manages student and other constituent data, relationships (parents, employment, alumni) and administrative, fund-raising, and communications support. Activities related to the student are managed here.
Staff manages contacts & salary, benefits, and reports.
Registrar supports creation of classes and their relationship to students, teachers and scheduling.
Admissions integrates with the school’s application and acceptance process. All activities are tracked here, along with personal data and application status. Once accepted by the school, a function converts them to Students as described above.
Queries and Reports integrates with Microsoft SQL Server for standard and custom reporting. New and modified reports can be easily created in the CRM without the need for external tools.
Our most recent development was the addition of an Admissions Application System. The process required interfaces to and from the existing Tour System, as well as the CRM.
The WordPress CMS was chosen as the foundation for the Admissions Application System, providing speed-to-market and simple administrative interfaces for the VCS Admissions team. Accounts were automatically generated as soon as a parent registered in the tour system. A robust form development tool was utilized to design and construct the application process, based on the VCS unique requirements. Customizations included 1) the ability to save in-progress, 2) application fee processing, and 3) application fee discounting.
VCS’s systems and information technology has grown to service a wide variety of needs. Third party software and services were used when available. Custom development was provided where those services fell short. Various levels of integration were developed by Third Mind to streamline processes. Additionally, our tech director provided VCS with high-level IT Management and Planning to help guide their decisions and prioritize these investments.
VCS is now well-positioned with their suite of services and software to manage the cyclical processes of their school. Our effort now is primarily focused on operational support and enhancements to increase efficiency and ease of use across the various technologies.
Successfully navigating the broad and complex scope of the CRM's requirements is a point of pride for our developers.
VCS allowed us to leverage our existing CRM experience in the academic space, while addressing VCS's unique functional needs.
We enjoyed the process of creating what is essentially a software product in its own right.