American School of Warsaw

Poland

Geoff Derry

IT Director

Weronika Lewczuk

System Support Specialist

Information technology in international schools is a complex business. This is why our partnership with ManageBac is so important. They know their software and they know the IB program. The ability to listen to their clients and provide custom-made solutions is integral to our success rolling out ManageBac.

Geoff Derry, IT Director

 

A leading non-profit, English language international school, the American School of Warsaw was founded in 1953. Linked with the US Embassy in Poland, it delivers an international education to students aged three and over via the full IB continuum.

Curricula Supported
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Grade Levels: K–12

Implementation History

American School of Warsaw first introduced ManageBac in 2020, intending to make use of the platform’s curriculum and communications features. Since then, under the leadership of IT Director Geoff Derry, the school has set out to strategically sync ManageBac and PowerSchool, in order to better leverage vital course and student data.

Data Integrity & Management

“At ASW, we’re all about maintaining the integrity of our data,” explains Geoff. “PowerSchool is where our most accurate data should live, and from there we spread out to a lot of other systems. When we brought ManageBac in, we wanted to find a really nice solution to synchronise our true source of data (PowerSchool) with ManageBac”.

“PowerSchool is where our scheduling happens, it’s where teachers take attendance, and it’s where demographic information is housed,” Geoff adds. “So we wanted that data to populate over into ManageBac, so that teachers can use it. PowerSchool is not a teaching and learning tool; ManageBac is.”

Previously, the school relied on manual processes, such as spreadsheet uploads, to facilitate these data transfers – something that Geoff was keen to reduce. “There were always tweaks and changes that had to be made manually – it was a time-consuming process, especially at the beginning of the school year,” Geoff remembers. “We’ve lost one staff member, so one of our priorities for this year is really streamlining our processes.”

It was also clear from the beginning that an off-the-shelf solution would not meet the school’s needs. “All schools have their idiosyncrasies, and our scheduling is done differently” says Geoff. “You need that personal touch, because you can’t just go out and buy something. When it comes to teaching and learning, it’s so personal, and we need those personal solutions that work for us”.

Instead, Geoff reached out to Faria Education Group’s Adam Morris – commencing “a really good working relationship” — to see how Faria’s newly formed Schools Technology department, which Adam leads, could facilitate and assist. Since PowerSchool is high on the list of integration requests, Adam was excited to engage with the school. Through discussion and prototyping, technologies were identified that allowed ManageBac to be updated through the public APIs, with PowerSchool as the source of truth.

One of the first key steps was to prepare for regular, automated extraction of the PowerSchool data. Behind the scenes, American School of Warsaw put work into tidying up their data and establishing clear naming conventions and protocols – essentially mapping a more consistent “course catalogue” within PowerSchool, and with ManageBac’s requirements in mind. “It’s actually made our internal processes a lot clearer”, adds Geoff. After the cleanup, ASW’s Data Manager, Michal Klobukowski, developed a PowerSchool plugin that exposes that data. Adam was then able to build a synchronisation tool in Python that updates ManageBac via the public APIs.

The sync went live at the start of this academic year and has run ever since. “Timing is everything”, reflects Adam. “The beginning of the year was the best time to have small meetings every day, run the sync once, see what the effects are, see what needs to be changed. Right before school starts is the best time to have that conversation.”

Plus, any issues can be swiftly picked up thanks to daily reporting: “Each morning we get a nice little report on which students were added and which were taken out”, Geoff explains. “It’s really amazing,” adds Weronika Lewczuk, System Support Specialist, who monitors the school’s scheduling processes. “I was worried, especially starting the new school year, about how it would work, but it was awesome.”

We wanted an automatic process so that the teacher could go to their class, open ManageBac and know everything is correct. – Geoff Derry

Reducing Workload

Now that the sync is in place, whenever a new student or cohort is enrolled, their information is added into PowerSchool and then is synced to ManageBac overnight. “It is as smooth as possible – we don’t have to worry about anything,” says Weronica.

This project has been mutually beneficial. “We’ve reduced our workload by more than half, because we just need to do it as we’ve always done it in PowerSchool, as that point of truth, and that gets pushed over to ManageBac” explains Geoff. Meanwhile, the Schools Technology team at Faria has learned more about how PowerSchool’s scheduling works – insights which can be fed into the product roadmap.

The school has chosen to continue manually inputting course data into PowerSchool, as this gives teachers the flexibility to decide how they want courses to appear in ManageBac. “We’re an inclusive school – the majority are doing the IB programme, but some are doing non-IB, and now we can be flexible in adjusting our ManageBac needs for them,” says Weronica. “It’s also easier for teachers, because now they can do some assignments for the majority of the class, and add those kids who have additional special requirements as well.”

The project has proven particularly timely with the introduction of a new satellite campus for a Ukrainian international school at American School of Warsaw – “intertwining” faculty, students and courses. All of the Ukrainian school’s students have been added to ASW’s PowerSchool instance, and all of their courses have been imported through ManageBac. “Because the sync is what it is, it made it easy”, says Geoff. “They were in PowerSchool, so they could easily be pushed into ManageBac. Otherwise, we might have to manually add them to CSVs etc.”

We’re partners and we’re learning together – Adam Morris

Know What You Need

For other schools thinking of implementing a similar project, Geoff’s advice is clear: “Map out exactly what you need – why are you doing this?” he suggests. “Once that’s clearly communicated, you can start working on the solutions and connecting the right people.” “Managing expectations” among colleagues is important too, adds Weronika – ensuring everyone knows what’s happening and what to expect at each stage of the project, and empowering them to be part of the process, and speak up if they spot an issue.

With the project now in its final stages, Geoff has no hesitation in recommending ManageBac to other schools. “If you’re an IB school, I would recommend ManageBac – it’s a custom-built tool for teaching the IB, and it just fits the IB programme so well,” he says. “We were trying to do things in PowerSchool, but the amount of development work that would have to go into it and the costs to us… ManageBac was the right solution at the right time, and by having this sync, our data is correct and has its integrity.”

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