Spotlight

School Solutions Center Promises Savings, Benefits

by CHUCK WOODRUFF

Running a school is no different than running a business. If anything, superintendents are CEOs of some of the most diverse, complex and critical businesses in their communities. They know a thing or two about harsh economies, tough governing boards and demanding “shareholders.”

Any Fortune 500 company executive who thinks parents are easier to please than number- crunching investors are welcome to walk a mile in any superintendent’s shoes any day of the week.

In response to these challenges, AASA established the School Solutions Center to help schools save money and improve student performance through proven technologies, methodologies and best business practices.

Amazing Savings
Take, for example, a dependent eligibility audit, which grew out of the automobile industry. It’s possible individuals who aren’t eligible are receiving health care benefits from your district. They could be ex-spouses, children over the age limit of coverage or even ex-employees. This audit isn’t preformed to aggravate employees but to maintain fiduciary responsibilities bestowed by taxpayers and agreed upon through labor contracts.

The savings can be staggering. The Akron, Ohio, Public Schools asked AASA School Solution Partner Chapman Kelly (now HMS) to conduct an audit; it cost $96,000 and saved more than $1 million in just the first year. But it was not just the money. It was also about building trust and communicating to the public how fiscally responsible school administrators were with taxpayer dollars.

Saving money is one reason why the Stafford County, Va., Public Schools forged a relationship with MedExpert. The firm helps organizations manage medical affairs. When an employee receives a diagnosis for an illness, major or minor, it can be unnerving and devastating. MedExpert’s staff, which includes doctors, navigates the health care labyrinth to find the experts and breakthrough treatments, down to figuring out claims and making appointments, if need be. MedExpert adds to the quality of life for employees, reduces absenteeism, boosts benefits and morale, and lowers insurance premiums.

David Sawyer, former superintendent in Stafford County, said the district’s health insurance renewal rates “were much less than we had anticipated, thanks to MedExpert, and our employees really appreciate their service.” The school district’s assistant director of benefits, Lucy Maddy, added, “The employee feedback we get about MedExpert is 100 percent positive.”

As a School Solutions Center partner, MedExpert has developed a pilot program exclusively for AASA members that typically costs $2,500 per 1,000 employees per month at no charge for four months.

Academic Support
But saving money isn’t the only concern. Companies aligned with the School Solutions Center also are in the business of improving student performance. A unique innovator, Tutor.com, fits into this mold. The firm offers academic support to students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year — essentially, whenever the need arises. Even an editorial colleague at AASA turned to Tutor.com to address a sticky grammar issue on deadline.

The average cost of educating a child per year in public education is nearing $10,000. That’s for more than 1,000 hours of in-class instruction. What should students and parents do for the approximately 4,500 hours over the year when students are not in school? After-school tutoring programs can be wonderful, but they usually stop at a certain hour and are not available on weekends.

Standard implementation costs $150 per student per year and covers all major academic subjects. The Department of Defense has contracted exclusively with Tutor.com to provide academic support to the children of active-duty servicemen and women deployed around the world.

This is the reality of education in the 21st century — thinking forward, harnessing technology to serve children effectively when they need it, when they’re most vulnerable, which is when they’re away from the classroom.

AASA’s School Solutions Center has 14 such partners to help schools save money and raise student performance.

Chuck Woodruff is AASA associate executive director for finance and operations. E-mail: cwoodruff@aasa.org. Sonnie Lee, business partner coordinator at AASA, contributed to this article.