Like most school systems across the nation, Denver Public Schools operates in an increasingly cash-strapped environment. For years, the district’s state-allocated funds have not matched inflation. Administrators have turned to technology to help provide better service to employees and concurrently reduce costs.

“Our mission is to educate children,” said Andre Pettigrew, assistant superintendent for administrative services. “So as budgets shrink, we try to limit the direct impact on the classroom. Yet, we still have to pay all of the district staff, and pay them correctly.”

To protect the classroom from cost reductions and improve operational efficiency without increasing headcount, the district sought back-office technology to streamline complex payroll and benefits administration for its 15,000 employees.

Denver Public Schools turned to Lawson Software to replace its aging, home-grown system and provide a web-based system that would not only automate the core functions of the district’s HR department, including payroll and benefits administration, but also adapt and grow with its changing educational and business requirements.

“The Lawson implementation was part of our long-term strategic goal to replace labor-intensive, paper-based HR systems, so we can serve students and employees more effectively today and in future,” said Robin Kane, the district’s executive director of human resources.

Phase one of the implementation, which the district completed in March 1999, provided Denver Public Schools with the critical functionality its legacy system lacked.

“The contrast between our old system and Lawson is striking,” said Joyce Fell, Human Resource Service Center manager. “We had no editing capabilities [before], and minimal information was available online.”

The fully-integrated system now provides a foundation on which the district has streamlined human-resources operations, resulting in accelerated payroll processes, simplified reporting, and improved access to more detailed information. For example, with the old system teachers would receive their first check on Sept. 30. With the new system, the payroll cycle was significantly shortened, and the district now has the capability to pay new teachers the first week in September.

The system also has saved the district’s HR team precious time by automating manual tasks and eliminating duplicate data entry into “shadow” systems–non-integrated databases, such as Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft Access databases, developed and maintained at the department level. The increased efficiency has allowed the team to focus on more strategic activities, such as negotiating benefits contracts and recruiting for hard-to-fill positions.

The system manages payroll for 15,000 employees and easily handles the

intricacies of a nonprofit climate, including a broad mix of employees–from skilled workers, doctorates, and salaried employees to hourly wage earners and nine different union groups–with differing terms, multiple jobs, different district benefit contributions, and various federal and state reporting requirements. In addition, HR managers now have the ability to track employee eligibility and premiums and automatically generate reports to meet district, state, and federal mandates.

While a majority of the data required for No Child Left Behind reporting is managed in the district’s student information system, Denver Public Schools has been able to leverage its HR system to help track teacher qualifications in accordance with this federal mandate. With licensure, certification, endorsements, college courses, and transcripts tracked in the system, administrators have web-based access to all teachers’ qualifications, giving them the ability to make staffing decisions quickly. With web reporting tools, HR staff can generate a report in less than five minutes.

Manager Self-Service

On average, Denver Public Schools hire 30 principals and principal assistants, 300 to 500 teachers, and 1,000 other staff each year to serve its 70,000 students. To manage this annual surge of activity more efficiently, Denver Public Schools rolled out a Manager Self-Service application in phase two of its Human Resources Suite implementation, which was completed last July. Administered through Lawson’s HR/Payroll application, Manager Self-Service provides managers with web-based access to HR, payroll, and benefits data on current employees.

“With the self-service application, managers no longer have to contact HR about current payroll and benefits information for their direct reports,” said Kane. “Instead, managers have real-time access to information they need quickly and easily.”

By giving managers the ability to track and maintain information about their direct reports, the district is increasing data accuracy and saving time. Instead of contacting HR to locate certification or salary records, managers can access that information themselves within minutes through the online self-service application. Fewer licensure and benefits inquiries come into the HR department, freeing time for HR staff to focus on more strategic activities.

Employee Self-Service

To advance the priorities of the district and enhance HR service

delivery even further, Denver Public Schools is now opening up its new HR system to employees as well. This month, the district will complete its district-wide rollout of Lawson Employee Self-Service, a web-based human resources, payroll, and benefits system that will give employees direct access to their personal data online.

The employee self-service application gives employees a user-friendly,

convenient way to view their payroll and benefits information, update addresses and telephone numbers, and verify the accuracy of that information. Employees no longer will have to fill out paper forms for address changes or contact HR for their certification records–they will be able to access and update this information online, instantly. Employees also will be able to enroll in the appropriate benefits plan online.

“We expect the transition from our paper-based benefits enrollment process to online open enrollment will eliminate a lot of headaches for our benefits staff,” said Lita Weinstein, director of compensation and benefits for the district. “By automating the process, we’ll be able to eliminate the overwhelming amount of data entry required to process benefits and ensure better data accuracy.”

Looking ahead, the district plans to complete the implementation of Employee Self-Service in May and explore rolling out additional functionality to manage time and attendance and employee change action events, such as promotions, transfers, and salary increases, through the web-enabled application. This functionality will allow managers to update and approve employee time and event changes online in a real-time, paperless environment.

Though change didn’t happen overnight for the Denver Public Schools, district leaders are continually moving forward on their long-term path to leveraging technology for the benefit of students and staff. By following a comprehensive plan, the district has effectively been able to address the business process and behavioral changes associated with its move to a technology-based system.