- Name: Kathy Finney
- Job Title: Associate Director of Communications
- School: Norfolk Academy
- Location: Norfolk, VA
- Type: K-12 Private
- Size: 1,200 students
- Website: norfolkacademy.org
Kathy Finney has worked as an administrator at Norfolk Academy for 20 years. In that time, she has seen the importance of data grow from necessary business information to a strategic communications tool. Having worked with all of the data-dependent departments that help our institutions function and grow, Kathy has an unrivaled understanding of best practices of data collection and sharing across campus.
Norfolk Academy struggled with collecting health and immunization information from parents each year. When they moved to Magnus to solve that problem, “we were trying to find a solution to make things easy for parents and for us,” said Kathy Finney, Associate Director of Communications. When Norfolk Academy initially launched Magnus, it was after they’d already collected all the information from parents. So, "there was confusion as to why we were asking for information that had already been submitted. We got off to a rocky start,” Finney said, but with a few lessons learned and alterations made, parents are catching on, and Finney and her team have seen the results in 100% compliance.
So how did they make things easy on parents and get 100% compliance?
Explained the “academic year” to parents.
In Virginia, athletic physicals cannot be completed prior to May 1st for the following school year. However, if parents were having their child’s annual physical completed before then (such as in March or April), they were told it was expired in May, and they needed to complete a new one. Parents are in the mindset that the physical should be valid for a full 12 months. “We started explaining everywhere we could that athletic physicals are valid only for an academic school year. Once parents understood that, they adjusted to it. The Magnus reminders helped a lot with explaining the guidelines and getting the physicals submitted,” Finney said.
Reduced the number of items to upload.
For example, the consent to treat form. “We reworded it to say ‘This is valid as long as the student is enrolled at Norfolk Academy’ so the parents only have to complete the requirement one time. There are a lot of parents this year who won’t have to upload anything,” Finney explained.
Electronically Signed Documents are also an easy way to limit the number of items parents have to print, sign, and upload.
Connected Magnus requirements with (re)enrollment.
“Tying Magnus to enrollment was really how we initially achieved 100% compliance,” Finney noted. Norfolk Academy will actually change that up a bit in the future because February is when enrollment takes place, and that’s a bit early to submit forms for the following school year. However, connecting the two initially is how they got parents to take their duties seriously and know that if Magnus requirements were not complete, enrollment wasn’t complete either. The timing also allowed parents to complete everything at once, which is easier on the parent.
“We found that a lot of the parents who were complaining hadn’t been on Magnus since we streamlined the process. And once they actually logged on to Magnus to fulfill the requirements, it only took them about seven minutes. That’s when parents started realizing perhaps they were complaining about nothing,” Finney explained.
With the support of the headmaster and business manager, Finney and her team took a strict zero tolerance approach. Not only was enrollment not complete without Magnus, but they also held final report cards and schedules. “We’re strict about it because complete compliance is necessary to protect the students while they are in our care - at school, at a game, overseas or on a field trip. We also hope that when they graduate, the student will take their personal health record with them via Magnus,” Finney said.
Initially, not everyone at Norfolk was on the same page about what needed to be submitted and who needed what information. “We solved that by getting all of the people involved with Magnus in the same room and talking about our needs and the parent experience. I think that was the key to our success. Periodically get everyone in the same room and review what’s being required of parents,” Finney advised.
This is a chance to discuss any push-back from parents and what can be done to alleviate that. Finney and her team continue to streamline their process annually. Communicating internally allows everyone to realize that fielding a few calls today will work to eliminate more calls in the future.
Emphasized emergency access.
“For the international trips this year, our staff trained teachers and chaperones on using the Magnus Mobile app. We put all of the necessary forms on Magnus, so they can easily view the travel insurance, passport, health information, and action plans using the Magnus app,” explained Finney. Students can’t attend the trips without a complete Magnus account, so parents were quick to update Magnus information. Finney also noted, “[Parents] understand that it’s important for a chaperone in a foreign country to have easy and immediate access to emergency information.” Finney went on to explain that completing requirements for these trips is getting parents more comfortable with the system.
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