Making a Choice

Concerned parents take a fresh new idea and make it work for others.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

CREDIT Jinal Jhaveri.jpgIn 2010, Jinal Jhaveri and his wife, Forum Desai, set out to enroll their daughter in pre-school in the San Francisco Bay Area. “From the start, we struggled to find information about the different school programs available for her,” he says. “Once we overcame that initial hurdle and started the enrollment process, we then found ourselves buried in piles of paper forms and spent hours waiting on the phone or in line for answers to our questions.” That’s when the idea for a certain type of company and platform came about. From that humble start, SchoolMint is now a cloud-based student enrollment and school choice platform used by PreK-12 school systems across the world.

So you had a great idea, how did you move forward, what happened next?

Jinal: At that point, we were working at Log(n), a company that we co-founded before SchoolMint. Log(n) is a design and engineering firm that builds web and mobile apps for educators and schools, so we had already built several custom admissions and enrollment systems for schools. However, it was not until this moment — when we became our own user — that we realized the extent of the equity and accessibility problem that existed in the enrollment process and committed to developing an enrollment solution for all schools and for families from all backgrounds.

As I can personally attest, a paper-based enrollment process can be very stressful and cumbersome to deal with as a parent.

Since the official founding of SchoolMint in 2013, these origins continue to guide our work. We’re passionate about making the school choice and enrollment experience easy, accessible, and transparent for diverse schools and families alike. Our platform can be customized for each school’s unique enrollment processes and is based on the needs of their users, who come from a variety of demographic backgrounds and have a range of technological know-how and technology access. To further ensure a positive enrollment experience, we are dedicated to providing unparalleled support to our customers – administrators and families – throughout the partnership.

In a nutshell, how does it work? 

Jinal: [It’s] is a comprehensive platform made up of five primary modules – Student Recruitment, School Application and Lottery Management, Student Registration Management, Digital Forms and Document Management, and School Choice Management – that collectively streamline the end-to-end school enrollment process for both parents and schools.

Families can access SchoolMint online or via SchoolMint’s Android or iOS app to learn about school options, submit applications for multiple children to multiple schools, rank school preferences, track application status, respond to offers, and complete enrollment forms.

Student information can be accessed real time by district staff so they can use it to easily track recruitment efforts and results, configure applications and enrollment packets, design and run lotteries, view and monitor submitted applications, generate reports, view insights into applicant demographics, and much, much more.

Why is automating the student enrollment and school choice process beneficial for schools and districts? For parents?

CREDIT SchoolMint image.pngJinal: Our platform meets a variety of enrollment needs for a variety of school systems – from charters and districts with school choice programs needing to manage student recruitment and the application and lottery and waitlist process, to public school districts looking to automate their registration process. With SchoolMint, all of these school systems are able to increase their operational efficiency, save time and resources, lower costs, and develop greater analytic and planning insights through robust enrollment reporting tools. The system’s integration with leading SISs additionally helps ease the burden on school staff and uphold data accuracy.

The highest impact to schools is the enhanced parent experience that they can provide with a user-friendly automated enrollment solution. Parents can easily access information on the school choices available to their child or children, apply and access their application status online, as well as complete the registration process – saving them, and administrative staff, valuable time. SchoolMint’s multilingual online and mobile accessibility is also a big plus and benefits a broad range of families, including those without home internet access.

What are some examples of schools and districts that have implemented your platform with fidelity?

Jinal: [It is] is currently being used by more than 5,000 schools across 100-plus cities and in four countries. Its solutions have transformed the end-to-end enrollment experience for both school staff and parents in districts including Camden City Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Denver Public Schools, and Oakland Unified School District, as well as in charter associations and schools such as the New York City Charter Center, Massachusetts State Charter Association, Enroll Oakland Charters, Alliance College Ready Public Schools, and Noble Network of Charter Schools.

We are encouraged by the acceptance rate that we’re seeing in the market as more and more school districts are not only eager to streamline operations and optimize budgets, but even more so, they are eager to enhance the enrollment experience for their administrators and families.

You can read about some of these school systems’ experiences here.

What recommendations would you provide to other schools and districts looking to streamline their end-to-end enrollment process?

Jinal: As I can personally attest, a paper-based enrollment process can be very stressful and cumbersome to deal with as a parent. And, it can be very time and labor intensive for schools and ultimately risky when one considers the criticality of the integrity of student data. Implementing an integrated, automated system helps streamline the process for all stakeholders.

For schools and districts looking to transition to a technology-enabled process, or enhance the automated process they already have in place, it is important that they determine what pain points they are trying to solve for and what criteria they are looking for in the new system.

For schools and districts looking to transition to a technology-enabled process, or enhance the automated process they already have in place, it is important that they determine what pain points they are trying to solve for and what criteria they are looking for in the new system. They should pick an experienced technology provider with that will customize the system to meet their needs, and that will provide ongoing technical and customer support.

To ensure a smooth roll out, it is also important to communicate to and involve multiple stakeholders – including administrators, tech support staff, and parents – in the implementation process, and to designate a project lead. And, of course, providing parents and staff with training is important to ensure the new system is used with fidelity and to its full potential.

Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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