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Field Trip: Unveiling the Mysteries of Employee Data


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In this 4th and final episode of our series on workforce oversight, Frontline Education’s Mitch Welch and Dr. Sundie Dahlkamp, Executive Director of Business Services at Pearland Independent School District, explore the intricacies of employee data visibility.

Good data matters. Here is why position history is so key to making HR decisions in school districts.


  • The Importance of Position History: Without a solid grasp of position history, the quality of employee data is compromised. Mitch and Sundie consider the challenge in tracking the historical data of positions versus the employees in those positions.
  • Data Visibility and Accountability: It’s not just for internal management, but also for external accountability. Community stakeholders may want to see how positions are managed and utilized over time, underscoring the need for transparent and accessible position history data.
  • Challenges in Position History: Sundie explores the challenges in tracking the creation, approval, and deactivation of positions. Position history is crucial for leadership transitions, as it preserves institutional knowledge that could be lost with staff turnover.
  • The Impact on Decision Making: Good position history data is vital for making informed decisions regarding vacancies and budget allocations. Understanding the history of a position can lead to better decisions about which positions to fill.


00:00 – Introduction

01:17 – The Importance of Employee Data Visibility

02:19 – The Challenge of Position History

04:33 – The Importance of Position History for Decision Making

06:13 – The Role of Position History in Employee Retention

07:52 – Tracking Position History

11:00 – Conclusion

Related Resources

Full Transcript  

MITCH WELCH: Why is managing positions so important to getting good employee data? We should be able to say, Sundie, how easily can you get a history of a position? But at the same time, how easily could you get a person’s position history? And I’d like to talk about that challenge between those two statements. What’s the challenge of position history and why is that important?


DR. SUNDIE DAHLKAMP: That is actually real. That is a real challenge.


MITCH: It is, and I want to be real about it, right? Because if we don’t have good position management, position history, then how good is our employee data? And I think there’s a rub there. I think it’s a reality to say, “Hey, you know what? That’s a challenge we’re working through right now.”






RYAN ESTES: Good afternoon. Actually I shouldn’t say that, I don’t know exactly when people may be listening to this, but let me say, welcome to the Field Trip podcast from Frontline Education. I’m Ryan Estes, and today for the final episode in a series about workforce oversight and systems and processes and managing employees in school districts we have Mitch Welch and Dr. Sundie Dahlkamp. Sundie is the Executive Director of Human Resources at Pearland Independent School District, and Mitch also works with me here at Frontline Education, helping school districts who are rethinking how they hire and onboard and manage employees. Mitch and Sundie, it is great to have you here once again.


MITCH: Thanks for having us.


SUNDIE: Absolutely.


RYAN: Today we are talking about employee data visibility, and I’ll throw it to you, Mitch. Why is this important? I mean, the data is here, right? Right in this file cabinet, maybe in this Google spreadsheet.


MITCH: Yeah, we had fire hazards across our district with all the paper we had on employee data. I think this is a great topic to end our series and to pick the brain of this expert we have with us today. She sees it differently for us, right?


So in our world, we are bombarded with educator data. We’re bombarded with student data. We have to make a lot of decisions around the data we have on employees, and it’s a reality. I put this term in air quotes and y’all can’t see me, but I’m doing with my fingers. We’re chasing people in our business a lot. We’re chasing how long they’ve been here, where they’ve sat, how they were paid last year compared to this year, how many hours they worked in this position compared to this one. And it’s now starting to magnify some issues on some processes in our district.


We’ve talked in the previous series about position management, and I would love to reinforce, why is it so important to have good management of positions? In order to have accurate and really good people position data, or do we have good position people data that we can use to better manage our positions?


And there’s a seesaw here, right? I’m going to say one of the things that I ask districts all the time, and it’s a challenge and I’d love to hear your thoughts of if you agree with this or not, how easy or how is it not easy for you Sundie? How hard is it or difficult to find a history of a position? And the second part of that question is, why is it so important for you to be able to find it? And what kind of decisions do you need to make with the history of a position?


SUNDIE: All right. This is going to be the one episode that I would like my staff to not watch or hear, or however this works because I think we are very, very good, maybe some of the best that I work with across other districts, but we are very, very good at keeping up with our employees. I can tell you what time you got to work every day. I can tell you when you left, I can tell you when every one of your kids is born. I can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about an employee. I can tell you every position they’ve ever worked in. When a former employee in Pearland passes, I have every funeral home in town call us and say, “Can you give us their entire litany of all the things they did when they were employed?” Sure, I can go get it. I can put my hands on it. I may even have a picture.


What I cannot do is tell you how that position was created, who approved it on what day, and if we ever deactivated it. It’s so difficult to do the position history. We’re getting better. We are just now able to run reports about what happened to a position last year. If I want to know what happened to a position five years ago, I’m looking for emails, I’m looking for board agendas, needle in a haystack kind of stuff. The reason position history is so important is because leaders don’t last forever. I tell people all the time, I am a very odd unicorn in the fact that I have only ever worked in one school district. I went to school in this district. I grew up in this town. When my brain leaves this district, unfortunately I’m taking things with me that are in no system.


We are just now at a point where we’re recognizing that there are some massive retirements happening in the field of education, and they are taking a lot of our history with them, not because that was a bad method before, but because the turnover at the leadership level now is not going to afford us somebody being in a position for 10, 15 years. My leaders are only in positions for three or four years and then they’re gone. They’re taking that position history with them, and I can’t afford that. I have to know how positions were created. I have to know how they were utilized. I have to know why they were inactivated. I have to know why they were moved from one campus to another.


Because you know what? Accountability wants to know. If I ask the community for more money, they want to know, where did my positions go? And right now I’m not in a great place to tell them. I can tell them where Tammy went. I can tell them all about Tammy, but I can’t tell them anything about that second grade position other than Tammy is a great second grade teacher,


MITCH: And I think this goes into, maybe we could have a fifth podcast, Ryan, at some point, but—


RYAN: I’m all for it.


MITCH: But I think this is a good link for the district to think about. It’s like when you are hiring somebody internally, we want to retain our employees. That employee history is so key. Where they come from internally, how long have they been here internally? What kind of places have they grown internally? Where have they participated on committees internally, and I think we do a pretty good job of that when we have our employees, right? That internal data is really good. It might sit in five or six different systems, right? Evaluation data over here and history data over here, and performance data over here, and transcripts over here, and certification data over here. That’s another conversation. But we have it. Then you have position history, which then starts not only for accountability purposes and allocation purposes and budget purposes. If you have good position history, we’re making better positions on positions we’re filling and keeping, so when we have a good position history and a position comes up vacant, and I’m going to leverage that change process that you’ve leveraged automatedly, right? Those change processes produce vacancies many times. I’m moving someone’s position, I’m reassigning them, I’m changing them to a new place. Because we’re succeeding them up or they’re moving to, they’re growing. I now have a vacancy and if I don’t have the vacancy history or the position history, do I approve it to be posted? Do I keep it?


That culture, I don’t want to keep that position in that culture anymore. That culture is challenging because there’s a lot of vacancies on that culture. I want to move it to another culture that we can grow that position. How many days was it vacant before this person got in it, and why was that person in there so long? But before that, we couldn’t keep person in that position. I think there are so many good conversations to have if we have position history, but it’s such a challenging thing.


Then we miss out on conversations. We’re just making decisions, and we almost let the culture stay out of it because we’re doing control conversations instead of insight conversations. And so I just think, even though we say it all the time and it’s a challenging piece, I think it has a lot of benefit if we can say… can we all move to a place to say, “Let’s do something to keep our history maintained.” Because I think that’s a great step, and I think it’s a weakness across the board in our whole industry, by the way.


SUNDIE: Oh yeah. Up until our new finance software update, we were keeping track of what we did with a position in the notes field. So we would type a note in the field and you can’t run reports on notes and tell people what the position used to be. Do you know what you can’t run a report on? Notes fields. That’s right. You cannot run report. There is no programmer that I have found, maybe there are programming wizards elsewhere, but no programmer I have found that is able to create a report based on a notes field because I called it a reassignment, you called it a position change, Ryan called it a reallocation, and so now I really dunno what I’m searching for.


Up until just now, did we even have a process for how are we going to look for old positions? I can tell you in Pearland what was decided is maybe not going to be our forever change, but it’s a start. The fact that we even sat down and talked about a process is a start. It’s kind of antiquated. It’s not my favorite, but it’s a billion years in the making because before we were going to type you a note.


MITCH: And I love the fact though, that you are honest enough saying you’ve improved so much, but there’s this big chunk that you’re still not happy with and it’s not stopping you. Right. And the minute you leave this industry, I’m retiring too. I’m not staying. So if you just tell me when you’re going to do that, I’m out. But this whole piece, right? I just think, as an audience, guys, this is a further conversation that we can start having, because I think with these kind of informational short segments, think about how do you go after improving your position history? How do you go after making sure your history of your position links to your employee data? And y’all can start looking at the two things together. So, really great topic to talk about and I appreciate your thoughts on it.


SUNDIE: Sure, absolutely. Unless we’re all going to employ massive fire resistant file cabinets that start keeping directory after directory after directory every year with position numbers that we can go track, I mean, we’re going to have to think of something. And unfortunately, even software itself has not caught up to this concept. This is going to be one of those things where I constantly reach out to you, Mitch, and say, “Hey, when are you going to…” and then fill in the blank. You know, it took me five years to get some other things that I got. I would like my future five years to go ahead and be on position history tracking.


RYAN: This has been the fourth and I was going to say final episode of the series, but it sounds like Mitch might tack another one on at some point. Mitch and Sundie, I know you both have all kinds of time on your hands that you are just looking for anything you can do to fill up, but thank you for sharing some of it with us.


MITCH: Appreciate it.


SUNDIE: Anytime.


Field Trip is a podcast from Frontline Education, providing solutions for K-12 leaders in human capital management, business operations, student management, and analytics. That includes Frontline HRMS, designed to help school district HR align with the Finance department and drive position management, compensation, benefits, employee records, and more. You can find out more at


For Frontline Education, I’m Ryan Estes. Thanks for listening and have a great day.