AZ District Uses Geovisual Analytics Software to Inform Tough Choices

After a recent override election for funding was not passed, Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) officials faced a difficult decision last school year. Enrollments were steady, but due to budget cuts and configuration changes, they would have to close one elementary campus and one middle school campus, realign boundaries and change feeder patterns. These changes could have been extremely disruptive, affecting more than 10,000 students in some manner and directly reassigning more than 2,700.

To make the transition go as smoothly as possible, administrators chose the geovisual analytics software from GuideK12™ to analyze and compare all of the potential change scenarios. GuideK12 helped to communicate the logistics and overall plan to stakeholders, both internal and within the community, leading to very little community opposition.

GuideK12™ is a web-based platform that visualizes data on an interactive map, linking student information with household information. This can aid districts in boundary planning, resource placement and student performance analysis.

“GuideK12™ was an instrumental part of getting all stakeholders on board throughout what could have been an incredibly difficult process,” said Mary Veres, the director of public information for SUSD. “The innovative platform gave us the ability to show real-time maps of the potential scenarios within our district to increase all stakeholders’ understanding, help answer questions and gain their support by effectively translating data.”

Serving more than 18,000 students just outside of Tucson, Arizona, Sunnyside began discussions about these changes in January and used GuideK12™ to move through the processes and communicate to every student and family by mid-May.

"We did a significant amount of research and scenario planning to find the best solution for all involved," said Pam Betten, Sunnyside’s executive director of 1:1 and director of middle schools. "One particular point of focus was on communicating why we were making the changes, the benefits of said changes, the logic and strategy behind them and exactly what the plans were to all affected parties: students, parents, faculty, administrators, transportation officials and even members of the school board."

Among the things communicated about these changes clearly up front, was the reassurance to the parents that class size would not be increased, and promising the teachers that they would still have a job within the district’s other schools.

“We learned a lot through the process and felt it went extremely well overall, especially now that school is underway without a hitch,” said Betten. “We attribute much of the success to the strategic planning at the district office, the priority we put on transparency, the choice to use GuideK12™ and putting the best interest of our students and their families first. These are not easy changes for any district to go through, but Sunnyside has emerged stronger.”