Fannin County is a predominantly rural Texas community that lies on the border of Oklahoma. The community operates a Shared Services Agreement (SSA) to provide Special Education services for more than 800 children in 10 school districts within the county.
The challenge: Provide an affordable, easy-to-use database application that can collect, analyze and generate reports from large amounts of information in highly detailed education plans, goal-setting and progress reports for more than 800 current and 1,000 former special education students.
More than six years ago, when Sara Baker became director of Fannin County Special Education SSA, the organization was using a database to manage its records. However, Dr. Baker found that the forms employed by the system were excessively complex and time-consuming for teachers.
“You must understand that we are required to hold annual ARD (Admission, Review and Dismissal) meetings for each of our kids, in which their Individual Education Plans (IEP) are developed and reviewed,” Dr. Baker explains. She adds: “Each of these meetings generate from 15 to 45 pages of information about the student’s education plan, progress and goals.
“I wanted to free our Special Education teachers from having to spend so much time with forms, so they could spend more time with the kids.”
Dr. Baker redesigned the forms to simplify them and make them less time-consuming for teachers. While the new form system worked beautifully, the organization lost the database tied to the previous forms, meaning it now had no way to automate the tracking and analysis of organizational data, or generate reports for service providers.
Her organization needed a database application that could run reports for therapists and evaluators serving special-needs children, helping her organization to track and improve efficiency as well as meet rigorous state and federal regulatory compliance standards.
In addition, Dr. Baker explained, frequent changes in regulatory requirements necessitated a system in which fields could be easily added and edited.
The solution: Development of an easy-to-use database application that collects and holds all the information needed for students, and allows data fields to be edited or created new.
Dr. Baker searched the Internet for help and discovered Help4Access.
“Frankly, I was leery of using them at first, because they are in California and we are in Texas,” she said.
“But, the way they worked with us, we could be talking together and looking at the same computer screen as though we were face-to-face,” she added.
Sasha Froyland, CEO of Help4Access, said clients often express concern about working with a non-local database-application development company.
“There was a time when you really needed to be in the same room to ensure that communication of requirements was accurate and thorough,” he said.
“But today,” he adds, “we use remote-access technologies that allow incredible speed, responsiveness, cost-savings and overall customer service that exceeds that of physical meetings. We can meet and work with clients on a moment’s notice, as often as needed and as long as needed.”
Dr. Baker said she also was concerned that Help4Access would not be able to meet her organization’s significant time and budget constraints.
Froyland said Help4Access clients are often astonished at how inexpensive custom applications can be to develop.
“Our great advantage is that we have created more than 800 data-driven business applications, so we already have much of the foundational work completed before the client arrives. We also can anticipate many of the requirements that clients have, and that helps us work quickly, efficiently, and at a lower cost to our clients,” he added.
Help4Access built a data-driven application that’s easy to use and can generate reports the organization needs to operate efficiently, effectively and in compliance with state and federal laws. The application’s data fields can also be added to and edited, to allow it to keep up with new requirements.
The benefits: A record storage and retrieval application that can be changed according to need, maintains Dr. Baker’s simplified, less labor-intensive form system that significantly reduces complexity and increases users’ speed.
“The new system is faster and easier to use,” Dr. Baker says. “That lets our teachers spend less time on forms, and more time with children.”
Dr. Baker said Help4Access overcame her organization’s time and budget limitations.
“They were very responsive and accommodating. We had very difficult time constraints and other requirements and they really worked with us.”
Froyland said Help4Access’ developers and designers know that the applications they create will often require fast development and integration into an organization’s work.
“Typically, our applications are critical to an organization or project,” he said. “We recognize that has the potential to be nerve-wracking for our clients. That’s why we have practiced listening carefully to needs and requirements, then shouldering the responsibility to drive the process forward so that time and budget requirements are met.
“Our goal is to reduce stress for our clients, not add to it.”