2023: The Return of the Roaring Twenties
Written by Dr. Jason Roseberry
Five Star Technology Solutions
Is it just me, or does it feel really good that it is finally 2023? After repeating the year 2020 for the past two years, it feels like we are finally headed toward the type of “Roaring” 20s we were promised growing up. While we don’t have plans for raccoon coats or bathtub gin this year at Five Star, we are absolutely jazzed to share all of our big plans and ideas to continue helping school leaders support their staff and sit high on those flagpoles.
At Five Star, we use the Balanced Scorecard strategy to drive performance and measure progress. While the concepts of the BSC are simple, our final scorecard is lengthy. This is why we also set simple “big bucket” goals for the days when the pace is furious, and the weeds start getting tall. On those days, our Five Star team can come back to these big buckets and know they are genuinely helping school districts move the needle towards progress. These big buckets rarely change, but we find new ways to approach them each year.
Five Star Technology Solutions was created to provide a reasonably-priced partner for school districts as they introduce and leverage technology to enhance student learning. While the tools and strategies have changed over the past 17+ years, our approach has remained the same: do whatever we can to ensure technology is used in meaningful ways so all students can dream bigger.
We measure our success – not in dollars – but on the positive impact we have on our school partners. We see evidence of this impact in many different ways. Our onsite technicians, coaches, engineers, and professional development specialists impact student learning every day through their support and teamwork with local school leaders and educators. Our software department ensures schools have secure and accurate access to their data so they can make even better decisions.
Every year we challenge ourselves to find new ways to expand our impact. In 2023, we hope to grow this impact specifically through increased technology support like Virtual Help Desk (vHD), new onsite technician support offerings (coming soon), advanced engineering support/projects, new data analytics solutions, and grant partnerships. Five Star exists to serve as a catalyst for innovation so school leaders can be empowered to achieve their vision of excellence. Over the next year, we are excited to share how these new and improved solutions will increase impact and empowerment for school leaders at any level.
Tell Our Story
As a team, we are so focused on the work and solving the technology problems school districts face that we often forget to share the amazing stories along the way. This is true even among our own team members. While the three departments in our company (managed services, software, and professional development) often work together, there are so many customized exceptional solutions happening all the time that it is difficult to remember to share.
- One of the highlights of 2022 was the development of the Chromebook Engagement Dashboard. This tool has helped multiple districts get a handle on all kinds of data revolving around their fleet of Chromebooks. See how Council Bluffs Community School District in Iowa was able to save time and work proactively here.
- When we talk about having an impact on educators and students, look no further than South Ripley Elementary School’s STEM Certification in May of 2022. Five Star’s Professional Development Team worked with the district’s Guiding Coalition over a three-year period to help achieve this fantastic goal.
- The Indiana Learning Lab hit a massive milestone in August with 25,000 users! This free-to-use online tool for Indiana educators & parents has continued to grow, surpassing 30,000 users and beyond.
- When technology stops working or bad actors cause problems in a district’s network, learning comes crashing to a halt. When that nightmare scenario came true for Greenwood Community Schools, Five Star was there to remediate the issue and ensure something like this didn’t happen again.
I could go on, but this is just a sample of the work we do for school districts & educators across the country. We can’t wait to capture more of these stories around our team’s work with Virtual Help Desk, the Chromebook Engagement Dashboard, and especially the work our team is doing with grants. Stay tuned!
Increase Team Work
We are very proud of our team culture at Five Star, and were honored to be named a Top Workplace Award Recipient in 2021 and in 2022. It is no secret that retaining employees has been a challenge for everyone over the past couple years, but Five Star has gone “all-in” on employee retention by adding additional People and Culture positions and increasing employee benefits. A company is only as good as the people who work there, and we are 100% committed to hiring, retaining, and growing the best people to partner with school leaders.
However, there is always room for improvement. We survey our team members twice a year and take their feedback very seriously. We also have focus groups strategically chosen to represent all of the different viewpoints across our Five Star team. In 2023, we have plans for mentoring programs, leadership development, DEI&B initiatives, and so much more.
Over the past two years, we have completely updated our internal software and processes. We took the time to reflect on which systems had become inefficient and ineffective for our partners, and made changes that will allow us to provide a smooth and friction-free experience moving forward. Allocating the time and resources to make these changes has been a challenge, but we hope you will notice the improvements over the next year.
While the cost of everything is going up, we believe this increased efficiency will allow us to keep the price of our services reasonable and a “no-brainer” for school districts. In addition, we now have more access to our performance data than ever before. We have big plans to find ways to provide this data to partners in order to increase transparency and communication without adding to our internal overhead. All of this means we will continue our history of providing top-notch solutions at reasonable prices for at least another twenty years.
Five Star wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for our continued innovation. For 17+ years we have been proud to be the K-12 edtech company school districts turn to for solving problems and helping them leverage technology to amplify student learning experiences. Since technology changes so quickly, school leaders rely on us to provide insight so they can stay focused on what they do best – leading and inspiring learners.
Research and development is a big focus for our teams, and this year we have a formidable list of topics to explore. We have been overwhelmed with the excitement around the power and simplicity of our data dashboards, and we are excited to share some of the new ideas we have growing in the lab. Our professional development team has been hard at work revising our grant support process so we can continue to be your “go-to” partner. They are also finishing up a completely new and improved version of our IMPACT Analysis, investigating/beta-testing VR solutions, and expanding their work with our partners such as Google and Adobe for Education (more info coming soon).
Last, but not least, our Managed Services department has some ambitious plans for adding and expanding offerings. We spent many hours in 2022 meeting with our school partners and listening to how their needs have changed over the past couple years. As a result, we have some “game-changing” solutions coming to the market. If you haven’t heard about our brand-new Virtual Help Desk yet, then stop reading right now and take a look. We launched this service at the end of 2022, and we already have a dozen school districts who have joined the club. If your school has ever had a moment when a teacher or student is locked out of their email or device, and your onsite technicians can’t get to it right away, then this is a solution you need to consider. Five Star’s approach is “ducky,” inventive, and unlike anything else currently on the market.
Five Star Engineering and Onsite Services have been around for almost two decades and are utilized in some way by nearly 25% of the school districts in the state of Indiana. Both of these services are “the cat’s pajamas” thanks to the most talented group of dedicated employees we’ve ever had to offer. If it’s been a while since you’ve taken a look at how we can help (network & wireless infrastructure, physical & cloud storage, Microsoft Active Directory, Google Workspace for Education, device management, content filtering, and remote monitoring), then “get a wiggle on” and let’s sit down soon and discuss your needs and how these Five Star services are “the real McCoy.”
Whether you are a Five Star employee, one of our school partners, or someone wanting to learn more about what we do, we hope 2023 brings you opportunities to expand your impact, tell your story, increase teamwork, leverage data, and innovate. Our fingers are crossed that it also brings us flapper dance marathons, jazz, and all of the prosperity we were promised in history class. We’ve painted our door green just in case!