La Paz Community School
Student Information System for an IB school in Costa Rica
La Paz Community School in Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica, embodies its name—community—in every sense of the word. Chartered as an innovative non-profit, pre K-12, it is the first private school in the mountainous coastal area to become an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School.
The school opened in 2007 with 50 students but now boasts over 200 bilingual students, many of whom travel over an hour, one-way, to attend. The school mission is to create responsible global citizens through experiential, bilingual, dual language education. The pedagogy focuses on preserving the local environment and culture and embracing the families and customs of the village of Guanacaste where the school was founded by a group of like-minded educators. Abel McClennen and his wife Kerry serve as directors.
The founders attracted teachers who also embrace a forward-thinking model of education woven with many threads of community. It is astounding to see students of all ages—60 percent from countries outside Central America—speak interchangeably in English and Spanish each morning in town hall-style assemblies. Fifth and second graders learning buddies conquer real-world lessons and take experiential learning trips in region. Students and families come together in cultural events and civic activities to learn from one another. All these ingredients make for a rich educational ecosystem that La Paz calls meaningful community.
To support this core mission, La Paz needed administrative tools that were both scalable and affordable. Abel McClennen looked to QuickSchools.com to provide a cloud-based school information system that fit their unique needs.
He explains, “Servers are extremely expensive to run here in Guanacaste and are also unreliable and difficult to manage due to the dramatic climate changes we have. We wanted to put all of our student information—including grade management, school fee management, as well as discipline forms on a secure, non-locally hosted server.”
“QuickSchools allowed us to ease into their system,” said McClennen.
“We started with just a grading program and then when we were comfortable, we included the discipline reports, then the fee management software. Every step of the way they have been by our side supporting us, meeting our needs, and helping us move into the next phase of development of our school. The personalized customer support that QuickSchools offers is, hands-down, the best on the market at a price point that can't be beat.”
La Paz Community School uses a grading rubric that is highly customized. It is based on a zero to four (0-4) marking system which is being utilized in the States and around the world but is not very common. “When we began the preschool program,” McClennen continued, “I spoke with the software developers at QuickSchools.com and they never gave me any sense that they would have any issue customizing our grading program. The developers took our suggestions and re-designed the software for our needs. They were so accommodating and continue to help us improve our system.”
La Paz did have some challenges when migrating their attendance to the online system. “We were reporting absences by going into each student record to note their grades and their absences. It was very tedious. So we made a suggestion to the QuickSchools developers and they made changes for us. Everything is automatically documented now. And the work was all done remotely—at no charge, until we are completely satisfied.”
McClennen describes the QuickSchools student information system as “extremely easy to use.” When anyone on his staff has difficulties with the program he said,
“All you have to do is click on the QuickSchools online chat room and they're basically with you 24/7 with personalized customer service. We found that there's nothing in the administrative software world that competes with that.”
Fostering Community with Parents
Connecting with parents is a vital thread of the community fabric at La Paz. Yet in the early years of the school, the previous online grading programs were met with frustration by parents because they were difficult to use. “The first trimester that we started to use QuickSchools, parents were extremely excited. It was as quick as logging in and clicking on the grade report that they wanted to see. They had absolutely no complaints about it—only positive reports.”
Growing the Meaningful Community
La Paz expanded to a new south campus school building in 2013 and the school management system from QuickSchools grew with them seamlessly.
“Our entire school database is now managed through their software and hosted on their server. It continues to be user-friendly, efficient and cost-effective—it’s simply the best out there,”
For more information on La Paz Community School and the QuickSchools.com solution see: www.lapazschool.org