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Clocking Out of Timecard Misery

How Grayson County Public Schools found a better way to keep track of employee time, avoid errors, and confidently reclaim time for administrators, teachers, and staff.

At a Glance:

Independence, VA
K-12 Enrollment
Teachers & Staff

Frontline Solutions Used:

Frontline Absence & Time
Frontline Central

Payroll Problems

Michelle Cassell, Director of Finance at Grayson County Public Schools, was tired of calculating and recalculating hours on the paper timecards employees submitted each month.

“With hourly staff and their contracts, it was all paper, every month. It would be an inch-and-a-half-thick manila folder of papers, because we also had to get their absences reported to us on paper. Their time sheets were on paper. The substitutes who filled those absences were on paper. Everything was paper.”

For Michelle’s team of three (including herself), that posed several challenges. If hours were recorded or tallied incorrectly, or if timecards didn’t get included in that manila folder dropped off by a school bus at the finance office each month, hourly employees missed out on pay, and Michelle and her colleagues bore the brunt of their frustration. “Because people get upset about their pay!”

“Their time sheets were on paper. The substitutes who filled those absences were on paper. Everything was paper.”

Michelle Cassell, Director of Finance, Grayson County Public Schools

Grayson County contracts require teachers to work 20 days in addition to the 180-day school year and submit principal-approved sheets proving they worked those days. And hourly employees submitting monthly timecards would often fill them out all at once at the end of the month, making it impossible to clearly track lunch breaks or overtime.

Inaccuracies in payroll are always a headache, but they are especially challenging in June as Michelle and her team wrap up the fiscal year. If June payroll isn’t correct, those errors impact the following year’s budget.

Substitute Struggles

Grayson County Public Schools is a rural district on the banks of the New River in southwest Virginia, just over the border from North Carolina. Getting there requires taking back roads, and finding substitute teachers to fill classrooms isn’t easy, simply because substitutes must often travel some distance to work.

Filling teacher absences was even harder because school secretaries called using a physical list. “We’d have those substitute lists which were on paper. If they didn’t have an up-to-date list, those newer substitutes that had just gotten approved and were willing to work maybe weren’t getting phone calls because nobody knew they existed.”

Even though the district worked hard to update the lists, it was impossible to ensure every secretary had the most recent one. “Even if we did get substitutes in here willing to take jobs, they probably weren’t getting these phone calls because people were looking at a sheet that was four months old, because you can update it every month, but who knows which version was being utilized at the schools?”

“Wouldn’t it be great?”

Even when Michelle was working as the payroll clerk for the district, she thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if this was all electronic?”

She set out to find a system that would automate Grayson County’s payroll and substitute management processes, and began looking into Frontline, which she had used at a previous district. “They had Absence Management and I loved it as the employee putting the absence in, not having to worry about finding a sub.” Once she realized that Frontline’s Time & Attendance system could handle the timesheet process, she thought, “Oh my gosh, that would cut down on so much paper!”

Michelle worked with her assistant superintendent, the chair of the school board, and the HR department to consider software that would modernize their practices. It needed to have robust functionality as well as appeal to employees. “I definitely wanted it to be user-friendly for the employees, because if they didn’t buy into it, it wasn’t going to work.”

“I definitely wanted it to be user-friendly for the employees, because if they didn’t buy into it, it wasn’t going to work.”

Michelle Cassell

Ultimately, they settled on Frontline. “It just seems like Frontline is such a leader in all those systems, honestly. It just made sense for us, and it talked well with our financial system.”

In August 2020, the district went live with Frontline Absence & Time and Frontline Central.

Life with Frontline

  • Time is Timely — and Accurate

    Now, Michelle and her team have instant access to employee timesheets. “Marlee — that’s my payroll clerk — she has access to that information much sooner than when we were waiting on it to show up from a school bus.”

    Michelle uses Frontline to ensure people are paid accurately at the end of each month and at the end of the year. Have they worked 200 full days? That information is easy to get, and they can close the books on June 30 much more quickly and confidently — no more manually calculating and recalculating each employee’s hours.

  • Staying on the Right Side of the Law

    Michelle said that Grayson County Public Schools hasn’t ever had issues with the Department of Labor or any Fair Labor Standards Act violations, but knowing their timecards are accurate and complete gives her peace of mind about the possibility. “Not that we have ever had a situation like that, but I definitely think that helped with the possibility of a DOL audit.”

  • Focusing on More Important Work

    “While payroll is an important piece of everyone’s job and making sure we get it right, there are also other things that happen that are important as well, and I think that just freed up a lot of time for everybody,” Michelle said. Rather than sorting through a thick file of timecards, alphabetizing them by employee name and double-checking if any overtime is due, the system instantly shows Marlee when someone worked too many or too few hours. “It doesn’t take time out of anybody’s life if somebody didn’t fill it out completely, because Frontline does it for them.”

    That gives Michelle more time for other things. “It has allowed me to focus more on budget, not only planning for next year’s budget, but also being able to focus on our current budget — are we over budget in these places? Are we under budget? — and be able to do more of that reconciling as the year goes on, as opposed to focusing on the payroll every month and wondering, ‘What’s going on here?’ and reaching out to staff secretaries and principals with questions.”

    “For us, it has really cut down on a lot of the paperwork, a lot of the paper, and it’s really helped save time and make us able to focus on more important tasks or more emergency tasks as they pop up.”

    Michelle Cassell

    The Finance team aren’t the only people to celebrate having more time. “I think it has cut down on everybody’s time. Before, it was a school secretary gathering all that information, getting it in the mail. And honestly, I feel like approvals for the principals go faster.”

    Staff secretaries also don’t need to spend time on the phones finding substitutes anymore. “It made it a lot easier taking that calling responsibility off of the employees and school secretaries, to have an automated system doing it for them,” Michelle said. Now they can focus on bookkeeping, updating records, communicating with parents, and other everyday tasks. “It has just taken some extra time off of everybody’s tasks and allowed them to focus on other things.”

  • Staff Feedback

    “Most everybody says they love it,” Michelle said. While some older staff are less comfortable with computer-based systems, “the staff that use it who are younger and more willing to pick up this technology, they seem to really like it.”

    Michelle wanted something that was user-friendly for everyone involved — employees, campus users, and administrative users — something that was quick and easy to learn. She described hiring employees who previously worked at another district with a different timekeeping system. “They’re like, ‘Oh, I love this one a lot better than the one they had me using at another district.’ We definitely hear those compliments from people that went from one timekeeper to another.”

    “It has allowed for less questioning.”

    Michelle Cassell

    In addition to ease of use, Michelle said visibility into their time worked gives the staff confidence that they’re being paid accurately. “They say they like it because it helps them keep up with what they’ve done as well, because they can go back and see last year’s time or the year before. They can see where they’ve been and what they’ve done, and they can know for sure as much as we know, that they’ve met contract,” she said. “I think it has allowed for less questioning.”

  • Greater Connection with Human Resources

    Finance works in a different building from Human Resources, and Frontline Absence & Time and Frontline Central enable the two departments to keep current records for every employee. In the past, HR kept some information and Finance kept other information, but now, everything is together. W-4s, state tax forms like Virginia’s VA-4 form, they’re all accessible and able to be updated in the system.

    Plus, information only needs to be added once for each employee. “It would stink to have to keep entering the same information on the same employee multiple times. Now, you enter it in Central.”

    Grayson County is also looking to add Frontline Recruiting & Hiring to streamline their hiring process, and once that happens, information from the hiring and onboarding process will populate the employee record as well. “The employee is going to enter the bulk of their own information, but then it bleeds over to each other so that you don’t have to keep re-entering the same stuff over and over.”

Not Looking Back

Michelle knows that an electronic system like Frontline can’t solve every problem a school district faces, but she is excited about the ways Frontline lets her and other district leadership devote attention to larger, more strategic efforts. When asked what she would do if she had to go back to paper timecards and sub calling sheets, she chuckled: “Oh, I’d die.”

About Frontline Education

Frontline Education is a leading provider of school administration software, connecting solutions for student and special programs, business operations and human capital management with powerful analytics to empower educators. Frontline partners with school systems to deliver tools, data and insights that support greater efficiency and productivity, enabling school leaders to spend more time and resources executing strategies that drive educator effectiveness, student success and district excellence.

Frontline’s broad portfolio includes solutions for proactive recruiting and hiring, absence and time management, professional growth, student information systems, special education, special programs, Medicaid reimbursement, school health management, inventory control and asset management, payroll, benefits and financial management, and analytics solutions that help district leaders tap into their data to make more informed decisions for the benefit of their students and communities. Over 10,000 clients representing millions of educators, administrators and support personnel have partnered with Frontline Education in their efforts to develop the next generation of learners.

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