Communities in Schools of the Big Country (CISBC) is on a mission to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. Based in Abilene, TX, this Communities In Schools (CIS) affiliate started small by serving three elementary campuses. CISBC has grown to serve seven school districts and 1,500 students across 18 school campuses in Abilene and beyond.
Their range of services is designed to be an extra set of eyes, ears and helping hands for students who need the right kind of support to be successful and feel supported in school. Student Success Coaches (SSC) provide services on campus, including:
Student Success Coaches are the caring adults on a campus whose sole purpose is to support students, advocate for them and ensure their success while in school.
Leadership began discussing how the Texas Education Agency (TEA) provided software for CISBC. The technology was highly effective for what it was designed to do: reporting outcomes periodically. But SSCs needed software explicitly designed for case management that included time-sensitive data that provided immediate insights on students. While the TEA technology did its job well enough, it was time to move into the next phase of intensive tracking with sharing capabilities.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold, CISBC quickly realized that students’ mental health needs would dramatically increase. The stress, confusion and panic around the pandemic instantly presented a myriad of problems for kids, families and schools. The pandemic forced CISBC to make immediate changes to meet student needs and accomplish the organization’s mission. COVID-19 was the catalyst for expedited change to a robust case management platform.
CISBC began searching for new ways to provide services and efficiently manage cases remotely. Plus, CISBC was still actively providing core services to help students meet and surpass the graduation stage. In addition to mental health services—which was suddenly an even greater priority—students needed life skills, academic support and other services. The future was uncertain.
Case management software could provide SSCs the information they needed to obtain actionable information relevant to supporting students quickly. Because CISBC is a relatively small nonprofit organization, considering a significant software investment was, at first, challenging. They knew they needed to make the leap and leverage every possible feature. As a result, they discovered creative and unexpected ways to use Apricot 360 software.
“We save a lot of time being able to use this data management software. That’s time back we can give to students. We’re here to support them, and now we can do it even more effectively.”Christian Clyburn, Director of Operations
When lockdown measures began, Student Success Coaches couldn’t physically sit down with students and give them paper mental health assessments, as the organization had done in the past. CISBC needed to transition quickly to a technology platform to obtain digitally-signed parental consent and complete comprehensive student assessments. During quarantine, the old database and paper forms simply weren’t efficient. It was time to adopt and employ a robust platform for case management purposes. They didn’t want any student to fall through the cracks while experiencing mental health issues, especially when circumstances forced SSC employees to work remotely and students to attend school from home.
TEA software provides insights into how students are doing every six to nine weeks based on the frequency of progress reports and report cards. But working with students’ mental health crises requires fast and accurate data. CISBC needed more timely information to stay informed about students.
CISBC has leveraged its investment in Apricot’s flexible and customizable capabilities to take its organization to the next level by using the new platform in unique ways.
Having parents sign consent electronically/digitally has enabled CISBC to help students quickly. Apricot 360 allows both options for staff that prefer paper, which is critical for positive staff adoption of this new tech. The ability to customize forms allows Apricot 360 to specifically meet the needs of CISBC, making it a more efficient organization.
Of course, obtaining parental consent requires substantial time and effort. CISBC has processed approximately 30–40% more consents than in previous school cycles. Apricot 360 facilitates faster receipt and entry of signed consents, facilitating help for students within a short time frame.
“Apricot 360 has helped increase our capabilities as an organization. Better data management will make it easier for us to expand.”Christian Clyburn, Director of Operations
For about a year, CISBC discussed the concept of “case managing” their SSC. They needed a way to keep track of employee case management activities to ensure accountability and support. Tracking employee professional development, training needs and signed human resource forms have allowed them to stay organized with employee-related needs. The organization also desired a simple and efficient way to track potential employees and volunteers by designing electronically signed applications and efficient background check tracking in human resources.
During the pandemic, volunteerism did slow down. But CISBC wanted to be prepared once campuses began to reopen. Preparing for returning volunteers in schools, CISBC can now easily track volunteer hours, training and other data points relevant to volunteers. This data set is suitable for planning, programming and allocating resources.
CISBC also tracks the Board of Directors’ activities in their new customized Apricot 360 data management system. Leveraging this new technology lets the organization know who attends meetings and completes recommended training. Every piece of data provides clues about what’s working and what the organization can improve in board development and participation.
Apricot 360 can also help track supplies and even student needs beyond graduation, including how many food care packages are distributed. The software tracks data like never before, which has allowed CISBC to determine if they meet other grant requirements to aid in funding.
CISBC uses Apricot creatively to address organizational and administrative needs, including food care packages even for non-case managed students. As a result, leadership has come to value this new data management platform highly and uses it for positive change and responding to student needs more efficiently.
Not all administrators, staff and volunteers feel comfortable with new tech capabilities, even when it makes jobs more manageable. That’s okay. With Apricot 360, staff who don’t see themselves as tech-savvy can upload documents into the system, like parent consent forms, that tech-adverse volunteers and participants can print themselves.
CISBC has a mission to be a structural and consistent force in students’ lives. However, serving this particular population entails serious case management organization that must support various services and the people who provide those. Partnering with Social Solutions has empowered CISBC to implement foundational changes during a difficult time—changes that will expand and improve over time.
Specifically, Social Solutions has helped CISBC to:
Student case information and human resource data for those providing services are now available on one unified platform with appropriate visibility. Administrators and SSCs can access student case files and have more robust discussions to ensure that students get what they need on the path to graduation.
Administrators can now go through each of their capabilities and decide how best to configure notifications, scheduling, access to student data and details, and much more. In addition, CISBC continually customizes Apricot 360’s capabilities to meet their ever-changing needs in partnership with Social Solutions.
With Social Solutions, CIS Big Country can measure and analyze which data is most helpful in meeting goals for individual students. With each set of services, providers can communicate effortlessly to ensure the best possible outcomes for the students they admirably serve.
“If we experience another shutdown, all of our most important forms can be completed digitally—social, emotional assessments, skills surveys, teacher communications and intake forms. It’s all ready.”Christian Clyburn, Director of Operations
Social Solutions has helped CISBC streamline data collection, report outcomes more accurately, manage student services more effectively and prepare for expansion.
For human services organizations like CISBC, the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how they deliver services and programs. Being able to pivot quickly and make intelligent choices will undoubtedly lay the foundation for future success.
Leadership has just begun to leverage the multiple capabilities of the Apricot 360 data management platform. They continue to use TEA software for its initially designed purposes and no longer depend on that software to manage cases and share essential data among team members serving individual students.
The possibilities are virtually endless in how CISBC continues to identify its own operational needs and, using Apricot 360, seamlessly meet them. From customizing notifications to links to forms, every piece of data, those improvements yield new insights into the best ways to expand services and deliver them.
In one scenario, CISBC recently had one campus sign up for services just one week before the beginning of the school year. Fortunately, staff had an easy time adding new students into the system. What would have taken a week’s worth of data entry was now completed within an hour.
In terms of growth, CISBC has expanded from serving three to seven campuses and 11 to 18 schools. Apricot 360 has made this expansion easier. CISBC can confidently plan for the future based on sustainable expansion supported by Apricot 360. The platform has allowed administrators to set up forms and tracking tools to manage SSC activities that help students more efficiently. What once took significant planning, execution and staff time now takes only minutes. With systems in place, information is easily input, tracked and shared—sustainable expansion is possible.
CISBC is glad they made the investment leap. They are already reaping benefits within the first year. And as school environments continue to shift throughout the many phases of the pandemic, CISBC is more ready than ever to adapt to change.
“Apricot 360 has enabled our organization to take case management to the next level. We can now track student progress, SSC activities, and even train more efficiently. We’re just getting started in what we can do with this platform.”Christian Clyburn, Director of Operations
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