Technology can help school districts manage the teacher contract workflow and can give a district a competitive edge.
School districts in the United States are constantly looking for ways to operate more efficiently, including using fewer resources and minimizing costs. The Education Law Center found that most states have flat or declining levels of funding for public education, which means that administrators are left having to do more with less (Baker et al. 2016).
Against this backdrop, it’s easy to see why incorporating technology into the process of creating and distributing teacher contracts is so appealing. Chances are, if a school district is still using an old-fashioned, paperbased system to create, print, distribute, manage, and archive teacher contracts, significant amounts of time and resources are being wasted.
Technology can play an integral role in helping school districts better manage the teacher contract workflow and can give a district a competitive edge in a very competitive marketplace. Technology-based contracts have several benefits:
- Increased process efficiency
- Decreased costs
- Improved contract security and accountability
- Improved convenience for employees—both teachers and administrators
Those goals guide some of the best practices in using technology to improve productivity and secure both current and prospective teachers for future school years.
Digital Contracts Save Time
Without software assistance, current paper-based workflows for creating, printing, and distributing teacher contracts generally take about six to eight weeks—that is, if nothing goes wrong.
Usually, the back-and-forth begins sometime in the first quarter of each year. The process includes letters of intent being signed and returned between teachers, administrators, the board of education, and the human resources (HR) department. The letters of intent are followed closely by the contract, which is printed, sent, and returned via courier, and which generally requires multiple signatures. If the contract contains any errors, the whole process can be even more time-consuming and confusing for the teachers and the HR department.
However, this process can be completed more quickly—generally, in one week—using business process automation.
Digital contracts are sent out in batches; when completed, they can be archived for later access. If the agreement contains any errors, they can be rectified far more easily if the contract is electronic, thereby eliminating the need to reprint and resend the contract via courier. Furthermore, the process is easy to tweak and reuse in later years, requiring only minor adjustments for those employees who are already in the database.
The principals in Rock Hill School District in Rock Hill, South Carolina, for example, quickly adopted the automated electronic contract solution, calling it more intuitive than the traditional paper-based process. In addition, they were surprised to find that contract deadlines were met more often by all parties once the electronic process was in place.
Increased Efficiency Through Automation
The greatest benefit of electronic contract management is the increased efficiency and use of fewer resources.
After the administration decides which teachers will be offered contracts for the upcoming year, HR no longer needs to spend weeks entering data manually to create contracts. Instead, automation captures the necessary information and prepopulates it into the electronic contract.
The contract is delivered directly to the teacher or through the supervisor, and the teacher receives notification of the contract via email. The teacher opens the contract, reviews it, and accepts it by electronic signature or rejects it. The contract is automatically sent back to the supervisor or HR department for final approval and is then converted into a PDF document and archived within the teacher’s electronic file.
When an HR department is inundated with 400 contracts all at once, having the ability to quickly edit a contract and return it to the employee without difficulty is important. Using electronic signatures that adhere to federal law can also eliminate the costly fees associated with notarization.
Data Safety and Traceability
Once HR generates a contract, the route a paper-based contract takes to the teacher can be rather circuitous. The use of e-forms increases the security of the personal information within the contract. With an e-form, confidential contracts with important personal information are no longer placed in unsecure teacher mailboxes in the school mailroom or teacher’s lounge.
E-forms also have a more easily auditable trail than their paper counterparts. One school district official summed up the effect of this type of workflow by saying that district personnel no longer need to worry about whether a contract was delivered or received, because the contract is tracked from the time it is issued to the time it is returned and archived.
In addition to this historical perspective, the speed of this process enables the school to focus on recruiting new teachers earlier than other schools. That is an advantage in a very competitive teacher marketplace.
Making It Easier
In the past, manual, paper-based workflows were not easily accessible for teachers or HR departments. A mobile, technology-based system is far more convenient for teachers and contractors to receive, complete, review, and return documents.
Teachers appreciate mobile self-service portals where they can log in remotely and complete their forms on their mobile devices, as well as have access to digital employee documentation.
Of course, the system is not limited just to contracts. Once a school district starts using an e-form and workflow solution and creates a database of employees, it opens the door to managing any mass distributed documentation for the entire school district. The solution can be used to automatically fill out documents from a spreadsheet, to archive and secure electronic employee records, and to automate common business processes throughout the district. Business process automation can be used for other school-related workflows, such as new employee, midyear, and substitute hires, as well as financial and vendor data management.
Technology and digital contracts—available across desktop and mobile devices—have dramatically reduced the need for paper and have improved employee productivity by giving educational institutions complete control over how content is captured, processed, distributed, stored, and archived.
Baker, B., D. Farrie, T. Luhm, and D. G. Sciarra. 2016. Is school funding fair? A national report card. 5th ed. Newark, NJ: Education Law Center.
“This article originally appeared in the September 2016 School Business Affairs magazine and is reprinted with permission of the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO). The text herein does not necessarily represent the views or policies of ASBO International, and use of this imprint does not imply any endorsement or recognition by ASBO International and its officers or affiliates.”
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