By Gina Lynch, Step Up For Students
The SUFS Information Technology team is never really seen by anyone except for those who work inside the walls at Step Up for Students. Did you know that Step Up has 25 people dedicated to ensuring that all of the systems are up and running and secure 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year?
Filling out an online application for our scholarships? Using our Teaching and Learning Exchange? Sending in a Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSA) Reimbursement Request? All of these systems are built, managed and supported by our dedicated IT staff.
Top on the priority list for IT, is building out a new, custom software solution to be ready for the second year of the PLSA program. The PLSA program started in mid-June of 2014 and has been a huge success for more than 1,500 special needs children in Florida. Here we are in the second year and the program has the potential to nearly triple in size to support more than 5,500 special needs students across the state of Florida. The success and growth of the PLSA program has dictated that our systems be able to handle the additional traffic without failure and with top-notch security.
The IT team took on this challenge early in May after legislation was approved. Since then, the entire team has hunkered down to work on new designs, better infrastructure and more secure policies. We have also listened to parents and providers about their issues and difficulties over the past year and are aiming to correct those pain points within the new system.
Most recently, Operations, IT, Finance and The Office of Student Learning teamed up to host parent and provider focus groups. Two evenings in August were spent with PLSA parents and providers to elicit feedback on our new system prior to going live. We received great insights and valuable feedback that went directly back to the IT team for implementation.
The PLSA program is very unique and robust. We are tasked with ensuring that the funds in the PLSA scholarship accounts are handled with care. The new system will have many new features in order to give our parents and providers the best possible experience.
The IT team’s goal is to build a very lean, intuitive system so parents and providers spend more time learning about educational tools for the specific needs of their child, and less time on burdensome paperwork and administration.
We look forward to its launch in September .
Gina Lynch is the Director of Project Management in the IT Department for Step Up for Students. She manages a team of seven talented, smart and wonderful people that are dedicated to educational choice for all children. Having two daughters of her own, ages 8 and 6, Gina is very busy with school activities, sports and keeping up with homework assignments.