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Blackbaud + Finalsite Integration: Far Hills Country Day School Case Study
Mia Major

Dealing with student data is like playing a game of dominos when you were a kid. Each time you thought you finally got it set up just right, a sibling or classmate would come along and knock the first one over, obviously resulting in a complete disruption of your perfectly and intricately set up row.

While you can spend countless hours manually ensuring the integrity of your data, there's always going to be classes that need to be switched and students that move. So you'll find yourself working hard to maintain data between disparate systems, that without fail, will end up disrupted somewhere, somehow, along the way — resulting in inconsistent data, confused faculty, and unhappy parents.

This domino effect is a huge problem almost every IT Director has faced, including Tye Campbell, former Director of Technology at Far Hills Country Day School. But rather than dealing with another year of working too hard for too little consistency, Tye came to us looking to integrate their SIS, Blackbaud's Education Edge, with the Finalsite Platform.

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A History of Inconsistent Data

Before moving to the Finalsite Platform, Far Hills Country Day School dealt with the same data management issues most IT teams encounter on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. They had to manually upload class schedule data from Education Edge to a spreadsheet, and then upload it to their website platform. And although time consuming, that wasn't even their biggest obstacle.

"At the end of the school year," said Tye, "the data on the website was totally different than what was in our SIS."

And for that, there's no easy fix-all solution.

The root of the "mess" was the inability to update both their SIS and website platform simultaneously. "People make schedule changes and move around," said Tye, "and it was hard to update in two places."

Different staff members were updating different data in the SIS and on the website platform. With numerous individuals contributing changes in more than one location, there was no master system.

"It made it very crazy when we realized what a mess it was, and we were always wondering which was the accurate system," he said.

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Breathing New Life into Data

Fast forward to the 2014 fall semester, the first academic year that FHCDS integrated their SIS and website platform, Education Edge and Finalsite. And the results were beyond expectation.

Integration works like this: If any student changes a class (or any other data for that matter) in Education Edge, that change is automatically made in Finalsite, too — meaning they finally have a master system they can depend on.

"We're saving a ton of time. Since you're trying to make sure you have the correct information in the SIS, having it all feed into and then out of one spot makes sense."

Tye and his team also took the next step to ensure all their data for this year was accurate. Once the integration was set up, they created a contact information form that parents were prompted to fill out when they logged in. Any new information that needs to go into Education Edge is sent to their Data Manager — a new position created to make one person responsible for adding all new information. The Data Management Team also consists of individuals who are responsible for maintaining the schedule and class lists in Education Edge.

And while data has always been the heart of the IT Team at FHCDS, "we now put a lot of emphasis on the fact that what you're doing here with the data means something," said Tye, "and we are in far better shape than we were before."

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