We are excited to officially announce that BJA will be using a new school management system beginning next month. The new system is called Sycamore (yes, as in Zacchaeus!) and is complete with a sycamore leaf icon. This system replaces Blackbaud’s school management system, components of which include NetClassroom for families and students, Faculty Access for the Web for faculty, Education Edge for office staff, and Online Campus Community for password recovery and some forms, including online check-in. Here’s why we’re making the change and how we expect it to impact our families.
Blackbaud is phasing out the system we have been using. While there’s not an official end date for their support of the current system, we have noticed that they are already minimizing their work on it. In January 2016 a committee was formed that included key representatives from BJA and from BJU’s information technologies department. The committee spent considerable time researching current products and reviewing formal proposals submitted by vendors. Following a decision later that year, we experienced a significant delay due to strategic priorities of BJU. Personally, I see that delay, though difficult to experience, as a gracious providence of the Lord because of how much better the delayed timing has been in a number of ways—long story!
We officially contracted with Sycamore in October 2017 and since then have been working to configure it for our purposes, to migrate data into the new system, and to prepare to exit the current system. Our change over to Sycamore will be during May, with summer school for the high school functioning completely in Sycamore, and access to the previous system ending by May 25. Access to Sycamore for parents and students for summer school will be given in time for summer school, then for the rest of our families as needed for fall access.
So far our hopes that Sycamore would prove to be a simpler yet stronger system have been realized. Though the system certainly will not be perfect, and we’re already aware of some of its weaknesses, we anticipate a noticeably improved experience for families, faculty, our nurse, office staff, and more. For example, improved features include the following:
- Sycamore functions nicely on mobile devices and does not require families to update settings in order to use the system.
- Sycamore has one website, not multiple locations for needed information.
- Emergency communications can be handled through Sycamore, allowing us to move away from use of SchoolCast.
- Faculty have simple and strong options including a class page that parents automatically see when checking on grades, plus easier gradebook management.
Some of our school processes will change due to the change in systems, in part because of limitations within the system and in part because moving to a new system gives us a golden opportunity to rethink current procedures. We plan and hope for an improved experience for students, families, and faculty as a result of those changes.
As you think of it, please pray for us as we complete the transition. The transition from one system to another is typically difficult, and we are not an exception to that rule. However, we’re seeing God’s good and loving hand in the process, and we are thankful!