Jamestown Public School's innovative use of an electronic records storage system has led to the district receiving a grant.
Since 2004, the district has been utilizing the system, known as Laserfiche, to manage and store its records electronically. Laserfiche, which has received Department of Defense certification for document security purposes, is used by the district to store and access important documents such as personnel and payroll records.
The district has also opened its repository for use by other cash-strapped school districts while sharing in maintenance costs. This shared services program was initiated and is being actively pursued by Karen Briner Peterson, director of human resources, who applied for grant money to expand this process.
"We currently have Southwestern, Panama and Fredonia on our system," said Peterson. "They have their own licenses and scanners, but their data is stored on our servers. Each district can only see their data as each district has its own data repository. These three districts pay for their own renewal licenses every year."
Last month, JPS was awarded a grant in the amount of $56,948 from the Local Government Record Management Improvement Fund, which is a unit of the Office of Cultural Education in the state Education Department. According to Peterson, the grant money will go toward the further inclusion of districts in the county.
"This current grant application provides money for software licenses and scanners for Erie 2 (Chautauqua-Cattaraugus) BOCES and Pine Valley," she said. "We will also be bringing our Jamestown High School guidance department onto the system to assist them in providing services to the high school student population."
This is not the first time JPS has received funding as a result of its affiliation with Laserfiche. In 2004, JPS received a grant to make the initial purchase and installation of the Laserfiche software licenses, scanners and servers for the human resources and payroll departments. In 2008, JPS was the recipient of the national Laserfiche Run Smarter award in the category of K-12 education due to its ingenuity in the use of the Laserfiche system.
Altogether, JPS has received more than $100,000 for the system and Peterson says that it is only logical to include other school districts in its use.
"In 2010, we decided to partner with other school districts in the area to bring them onto our system," she said. "The relationship with these other districts makes sense because the state could not afford to provide every school district with $100,000 for an electronic document management system, and this allows for districts to store their data on our servers at little cost to each participating district."
According to Tim Wacker, a Laserfiche representative, few have taken such a zealous approach to Laserfiche's shared services model.
"(Peterson) applied for the grant money to expand this system to all 17 districts in the county," he said. "Of the many thousands of government entities using Laserfiche across the country, you can count on one hand those applying the shared services model as aggressively as Ms. Peterson. She really is a visionary who is serving the taxpayers of Jamestown, and eventually the whole county, through her efforts."
The district backs up its files every night at two separate sites, allowing for the ability to continue operations in case of a disaster where its offices may damaged by water or fire. The LGRMIF grant money will also go toward the storage of the district's data at a third site away from Jamestown in case of natural disaster or a snow storm, as well as buying more licenses cheaper in bulk.
Peterson explains that she is only doing the right thing in these financially troubling times.
"The hard truth is that when school districts' budgets get tight, one of the first items cut is money for records management because it does not directly impact students," she said. "Although funding is reduced or eliminated... we are still required to maintain the same level of access, integrity and security for these records. By allowing other districts in our area to use our system, we hope to garner permanent working relationships in the area of school district records to improve access and efficiency as well as cost savings for all participating school districts."