Reaching New Levels of Parent Participation
For years, the Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board has been on the lookout for a way to make it easier for parents to pay for school fees. After realizing how the cash-driven process of collecting student fees within their schools made adhering to School Activity Fund policies difficult, the district knew it was time to begin collecting fees online. With its creative implementation strategy, the district saw the parent community embrace the initiative at an astonishing rate!
About the Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board
The Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board takes the management of its School Activity Fees seriously. In addition to its own internal policies, the district holds itself to the standards set forth by the Ontario Ministry of Education, Ontario Association of School Business Officials, and the Public Sector Accounting Board. This is all in an effort to ensure that every dollar collected in its schools is being used to support approved school-based initiatives that align with the district’s vision, mission statement, and strategic direction. Historically, parents and students in the district have been quick to embrace new technology initiatives, including an online meal program and the district’s blended learning program.
Our parents were already going online for their personal banking. We were confident that they were ready to embrace online payments for school fees.
Why Go Online?
Parents today are busy and need a simple way to pay for school fees. The idea to accept school fees online was driven by the district’s desire to better support their parent community by offering a convenient alternative to coming into the school to pay by cash or check whenever a fee was due.
The School Activity Funds policies practiced by the district also magnified the importance of the initiative. To ensure funds were managed properly, the district required that two staff members always be present when counting the cash collected within a school. With each school only having one dedicated office assistant, it was difficult to consistently execute on this mandate. The district aimed to address the root cause of these logistical difficulties by taking cash out of its schools. Beyond this, the district saw the opportunity to improve standardization and consistency with new administrative procedures to provide the appropriate guidance, authority, and protection to school staff and fund raising volunteers. The initiative was seen as a unique opportunity to increase financial accountability while also offering its parent community a new level of convenience to pay for their children’s school fees.
A United Implementation
Following the selection of the School Cash Suite, the district’s focus shifted to driving a successful implementation. Transformation demands more than just the introduction of new tools; it demands a comprehensive change management strategy to help stakeholders realize what’s in it for them, so they see themselves in the plan and embrace the change. Proper configuration, a comprehensive training plan, and meaningful internal communications were high priorities for the district.
To bridge the gap between schools and the district office, two school office assistants joined the implementation team to help guide the project. In an effort to further align its staff, the district worked with KEV Group to conduct Rollout Presentations with the aim of developing internal buy-in by strategically communicating the benefits of using the new solution. As a result, district staff, principals, office assistants, and even teachers were all working towards one common goal. When parents paid in cash, office administrators could encourage them to instead pay online knowing every member of their team would have their back. The district credits this “united front” in promoting online payments as one of the main reasons for its success.
A Proven Marketing Plan
With its staff on board, the district began to communicate the initiative to its parent and student community. The strategic decision was made to go-live with parents following the spring break when an abundance of school fees would be ready to market. To promote the initiative, the district utilized many of KEV Group’s marketing templates and best practices. A combination of website banners, social media, automated phone messaging, and take-home flyers were used to get the word out. The district found it critical to regularly monitor its performance and adjust its plans when required. Online parent adoption rates were regularly assessed and posted across schools to create friendly competition and encourage the sharing of best practices.
The marketing resources KEV Group provided were vital in our communication plan. Using these templates and strategies, we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel.
The Power of an Engaged Community
Just over one year since all the district’s schools first went live on School Cash Online, the district has been able to achieve the highest parent participation rates among KEV Group’s Canadian Client community. Today, 91% of the district’s students have been registered by their parents to process payments online. This has drastically reduced the amount of cash being collected in schools and helped to addressed the district’s internal School Activity Fund policy requirements.
With School Cash Online, our parents are pleased having an option to purchase school fees online and our audit committee is reassured knowing we are reducing the risk of cash loss and misappropriation.