Simplifying School Safety and Regulatory Compliance
Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles about the men and women who are creating today’s EdTech companies.
By Kenna McHugh
PublicSchoolWORKS CEO Steve Temming developed his company from his own experience as a school administrator at Cincinnati Public Schools using his understanding of the challenges and limitations of running the business side of a school district. He used what had worked best during his tenure. Temming recalls administrators calling safety and regulatory compliance the “big gray cloud over their heads that they can’t seem to shake.”
After leaving CPS, he began building a suite of web-based software applications to help manage the responsibilities of being an administrator. “I remember sitting at my desk when I was at Cincinnati Public Schools thinking to myself ‘I wish I could share what I’m doing here with other administrators.’ It was nice knowing I was making a difference in my district, but I thought something was needed to help other administrators experiencing my woes. PublicSchoolWORKS became possible in the late ’90s when the government launched the E-Rate Program. That opened the door for software as a service and web-based applications.”
“School administrators typically don’t have the breadth of resources they need, especially in the area of safety and regulatory compliance,” adds Temming. “It is difficult for them to find the expertise needed to determine what all they should be doing, setting safety priorities and executing on those priorities. School safety includes crisis prevention and preparedness, maintaining regulatory compliance, accidents and other workplace risks, and more.”
He understands that despite sometimes feeling flat-out overwhelmed, administrators must adapt to the ever-changing school safety landscape. “Whatever resources administrators have for school safety are often only used to put out fires, which results in a reactive approach to school safety. It’s difficult for a district to put together a comprehensive and effective school safety program that is sustained year to year.”
PublicSchoolWORKS formulates effective safety programs for school districts across the U.S. “We help education because we take the complexity and challenges associated with safety off administrators’ plate so they can focus on other areas of their business,” explains Temming. “I recognized that it’s literally impossible to handle all of these things alone. That’s why we leverage technology and people resources to enable districts to implement an effective school safety program, consistent across the entire district – and make it sustainable.”
His vision for the company was to implement an effective and sustainable safety and regulatory compliance solution that worked in spite of the challenges and limitations of a public school. “This required a business service model that was absolutely unique in the school safety industry, and my primary role as CEO is to keep this vision alive across all departments.”
Temming coordinates with all departments to help understand the issues district and school administrators face and collaborates with them to create practical solutions. “Because of this, our approach is extremely effective, while requiring little time and effort by district personnel.”
From a research and development standpoint, “I work with a team of individuals tasked with tracking new school safety legislation and best practices. They take best practices and break them down into practical components to meet both the letter and the intent of the law, and then we automate the delivery of these components using our purpose-built software.”
Temming believes his vision of helping education is most evident with the Client Services team. “When I was an administrator, I hated it when vendors dropped off new software, and that was it – no training, no service. Because of the nature of public school, administrators don’t have time to figure out new software even if it will help them overcome their greatest challenges. That’s why our Client Services team leads the administrator through the process of setting up the software, customizing it to the district’s specific needs, and rolling it out to their employees.”
For instance, Wayzata Public Schools piloted PublicSchoolWORKS’ Student Accident Management System with district nurses and the administrative team during the school year. Before the pilot, the student accident reporting process relied on the manual completion of a student incident form. The district staff often came into the office on weekends to handle the backlog reporting system. The health and safety coordinator seemed unable to create a prevention plan because similar incidents went unnoticed.
The piloted system streamlined the reporting and investigating of student accidents, along with the resolution of associated hazards. Now, a central online incident library maintains the records, so the health and safety coordinator notices if a similar accident has previously occurred, which sheds light on potential prevention tactics. Overall, the district saved time, money, and prevented incidents. They decided to continue using the safety management system.
The piloted program illustrates PublicSchoolWORKS mission: to give staff and students the resources and tools they need to focus on their instruction or learning. “Educators and students both need peace of mind in the classroom. Without this, teachers may feel distracted or miss school because of injuries and students may check out of their studies or skip school altogether. This can negatively affect student progress, grades, and even graduation rates,” explains Temming. “For staff, this includes safety training to help prevent staff injuries. We also have mechanisms for employees to report actions toxic to the work environment. For students, the same elements apply. We help districts implement prevention activities to avoid accidents and injuries. We also provide students, their parents, and the community-at-large with ways to report safety concerns.”
The main challenge implementing PublicSchoolWORKS is that on the surface, it appears to be a daunting undertaking, “Addressing school safety is daunting. Picking what courses to deploy to staff, rolling out new procedures for staff training or accident reporting, and rethinking your preventative approach to school safety sounds cumbersome,” says Temming.
For instance, a local school district decided to implement a management program, but one principal was resistant to the change, especially since it involved technology. “To change her mind, I worked with her personally. She was local to our offices, so I went to her school, showed her how simple the program was, and encouraged her to try it out for herself,” explains Temming. “I went back about two months later to see how things were going, and she had totally changed her tune. She said, ‘I don’t know how we did without this system. I love this.’ It’s moments like these that touch me – it shows PublicSchoolWORKS is meeting the needs of our customers.”
About the Author
Kenna McHugh is a staff writer at the Learning Counsel. Her writing credits include Breaking into Film, Orchid Care Booklet, and contributions to screenwriting and film production books. She writes curriculum for K-12 school programs and education technology, and is an experienced tutor, helping children learn how to learn and creating positive effects in their lives.