The city, which is 1.4 miles square, faces a double challenge: a large population of students whose first language is not English, and is part of the state's "Abbott" system, an outgrowth of a state Supreme Court ruling that brings additional funding. The Union City school district is under a mandate from the State of New Jersey not only to provide optimal education, but also to track and verify the effectiveness of program spending.
During the past four years, that information management challenge has increasingly been met by the use of FileMaker Pro, a cross–platform solution. Utilizing the expertise of two FileMaker Solutions Alliance (FSA) members, Union City has turned the old school chant of "no more pencils, no more books" into a happy refrain of "no more paper — it's in FileMaker."
That shift from paper to pixels came about in large measure because of the state demands, said Anthony Dragona, business administrator for the Union City Board of Education.
"All of our schools … were given the charge of having to develop school–based budgets," he recalled in a recent interview. This required a "new management style that would create management teams on a school level, schools would develop their own personalities, through choosing a model and developing a needs assessment and operations to support that plan."
Instead of concentrating data at the Board of Education, where allocations and decisions could be made, the information had to shift to the schools, Mr. Dragona said.
"We had to provide the schools with tools that would help them make decisions that would best impact a child's education," he noted.
In turn, this meant taking the data and making it available to administrators in the schools.
"Four years ago, we entered into agreement with [FileMaker developer School Base], it was 30–something databases," Mr. Dragona said. "Today, we're up to over 90 databases. We took a customized solution and it gave us what we needed at that time with expansion capability for the future."
Using School Base, the Union City board could track staff and demographic data, salaries, assignments, and from there, the district could enter into a five–year salary contract with its employees — a first for the city. Now, through the use of FileMaker, the board could see a five–year projection and know what salary costs would be through that period.
Quickly we are able to use FileMaker by pulling in staff data, insurance data, benefits, etc., to develop 95 percent of the budget in FileMaker. It's a database but it's friendly enough to develop calculations. Anthony Dragona, Business Administrator, Union City Board of Education