Killeen Independent School District gets help Managing Special Education Records

Killeen Independent School District (KISD) serves the educational needs of students in its 53 elementary, middle and high schools in central Texas. Student enrollment is over 40,000, with approximately half from Fort Hood military families. The district’s 6,200 staff members are dedicated to the success of all students, including those determined to have special education needs. Special education teachers and diagnosticians work with elementary, middle and high school students and with children as young as three years old enrolled in early start programs.

An “eligibility folder” is essentially a special education file that KISD maintains for each of the nearly 5,000 students enrolled annually in its special education program. Each file, divided into six sections, contains information about the student’s needs, services provided, progress and meeting notes, and other educational records. For years, eligibility folders have been maintained on paper by campus diagnosticians and stored both at the campus level and in two district storage facilities – over 50 storage locations – and records management has been entirely manual.

The eligibility folder remains “active” provided the student (a) is enrolled in a KISD school and (b) continues to require special education services. Per federal mandate, files must be archived for seven years after enrollment ends; these files are labeled “inactive.” Files may be destroyed after seven years of inactivity, yet it is difficult to ascertain if records were destroyed according to schedule, since they were so widely dispersed. (Prior to destroying records, KISD publishes announcements in local newspapers, in case former students and/or their parents want to claim them.) Ultimately, KISD’s manual records management practices led to the accumulation and storage of tens of thousands of eligibility folders and millions of documents – all in paper form.

Sharing records between campuses and accessing eligibility folder information from the central office were often insurmountable tasks. Data aggregation and reporting weren’t at all possible. Paper accessibility issues were further compounded by the sheer volume of records, which grows every year. KISD’s manual records management processes had simply become too cumbersome.

In 2010, district administration set out to find a new records management solution. They needed accessibility, security and disaster recovery ability. With these goals in mind, they turned to Business Imaging Systems, Inc. (BIS) for a solution. Together, BIS and KISD outlined a plan that would enable special education records in district schools to be digitized and centrally managed in-house at the central office, with secure browser-based access provided to campuses.

File preparation at campuses began well before the first document passed through a scanner. Campuses organized their student eligibility folders, all six sections, according to district-wide instructions. Once all files were in one place, scanning began at KISD’s central office. BIS provided, set up and tested the equipment – three Kodak Sidekick 1400 scanners and a storage system on loan until KISD could deploy new hardware on order at the time. BIS brought in a team of four to unbox files, disassemble files, scan and index documents, validate image quality, reassemble files, and re-box files.

The first two days consisted of installing equipment, which took half a day, and prepping files for scanning. After two days, when enough files were prepped, scanning began. BIS scanning personnel prepped and scanned 4,732 active files, followed by the previous year’s inactive files – for a total of 9,140 eligibility folders containing 1,736,600 pages. The scanners ran for 22 days, and only 25 working days passed between equipment installation and removal. Approximately 80,000 documents were scanned during each 10-hour workday, 8,000 documents an hour.

During the scanning process, documents were indexed for search and retrieval. EMC Captiva InputAccel extracted key data – student identification number, name, date of birth and campus – from the documents. All index data was matched against an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) system, an automated process employing a custom database validation script written by the BIS professional services team. All validated index data and document images were then loaded into a virtual file room based on the EMC ApplicationXtender content management platform.

Today, KISD continues to generate eligibility folder documentation in paper form, but all new documents are added to the records management system. Parents complete, and submit to the campus, a packet of enrollment paperwork to initiate their child’s enrollment in KISD’s special education program – thus prompting the creation of a new eligibility folder by the campus. For all new and existing enrollees, all campus-generated documents are regularly delivered to the central office, where they are imaged on one of two scanners and uploaded into the repository. An archival specialist scans documents, manages files, generates reports and eventually disposes of records. “We picked up where BIS left off. They scanned 1.7 million documents for us, and we’ve used the same tools to scan everything generated since September 1, 2010,” said Aiken.

Campus personnel log into ApplicationXtender through WebXtender, the browser-based client, to search, retrieve, view, annotate and share documents stored in the virtual file room. Tied into all user logins are access-level security rights that protect documents in the repository. For example, campus personnel can only access and change documents pertaining to students served on their campus, while some administrative personnel have master rights to all documents. (BIS provided ApplicationXtender and WebXtender user training at the time of deployment.)

ApplicationXtender Retention Manager now automates the disposition of KISD’s inactive files. The module automatically flags the files that have reached the end of the mandated seven-year retention period, and the KISD archival specialist destroys the records according to schedule. While all records are now available electronically, some originals, particularly those containing signatures, must be retained. Today, this is simply a matter of storing them per federal mandates, as there is little need to further access the paper versions. Both paper and electronic records adhere to the same disposition schedule; they are destroyed following seven years of inactivity.

KISD’s IT team maintains an infrastructure that ensures the security and recoverability of all documents and data. The BIS support team works closely with KISD’s IT department to answer user questions, perform routine hardware maintenance, implement software upgrades, etc.

“When we began this project, the idea of giving up files for centralized management was a new concept. However, we had the full support from the central office, and the executive director completely endorsed this change because of the benefits it would bring to the entire district. And ultimately, it didn’t take long for the campus users to realize the benefits of the new system, too.”

“BIS is a great partner,” said Aiken. “Forms design suggestions, productivity improvement tips, amazing technology … there are just so many benefits that came from working with BIS. Their commitment to quality, to on-time delivery and to our success was evident from the first time we sat down to discuss this project. In fact, district administration has been so pleased with the success of this project that they’re looking into other uses for this type of records management application. KISD looks forward to a great partnership with BIS for many years to come.”