Records Management System Recovers Big Dollars
Retention Schedule Manager
Records Control and Management System
Cumulative Folder Tracking System
Grand Prairie, Texas
Since thepassage of and amendments to the Local Government Records Act, school districtsand local governments are beginning to findthemselves with a multitude of resources to accomplish its mandates.Records management software has come a long way in meeting the needs of thelocal manager. Networks of regional record managers are becoming prevalent andhave proven to be a great source for information. More and more record managersare no longer being burdened with other tasks; their efforts are devotedentirely to records management. Of course, the Texas State Library and ArchivesCommission continues to provide districts and local governments withoutstanding support. Since the implementation of the Local Government RecordsAct, many Texas schools have moved from casual records management to theimplementation of highly organized, efficient systems.
Records management must provide the necessary guidelines andprocedures to keep the district on legal grounds,and it must provide a service for its customers. Records managementprograms should exist for no other reason. Keeping an organization on solidground requires one to keep current on all state and local guidelines.Districts must have a procedural manual outlining procedures and timeconstraints. In addition, districts must adopt the state’s retention schedule,or create their own control schedule.
Service is the primary reason for the existence of therecords management program at the Arlington Independent School District (ISD).Imperative goals for this system include the ability to retrieve records in arelatively short time period, and to deliver them upon request. It is also veryimportant that the records owner feel confident that his or her records arebeing maintained in a safe and orderly manner.
The Arlington ISD Records Management Center originated withone person and a single personal computer handling the task of managing theentire district’s records. Various record managers assigned to each school ordepartment were not an option then. One department supervisor demonstrated theneed for records management reform as she revealed the condition in which shemaintained her inactive records. The documents were stored in a large,non-air-conditioned warehouse, and consisted of 40 pallets stacked four high.She had a pretty good feel for where the records were located, and wouldinstruct the forklift operator to start moving pallets until she found the onethat might have her record in it. This hit and miss task generally required allday. However, over the course of seven years, the records management programhas been upgraded so that each record has a specific location and eachcontainer is clearly marked with information relating to that record.
The Arlington Records Management Center tracks, archives andmanages 400 types of inactive records, as well as every type of recordassociated with the district’s various schools and departments. The RecordsManagement Center now tracks over 200,000 inactive individual student records,8,000 inactive professional personnel service records, 7,500 inactive auxiliarypersonnel records, and 8,480 special education records. In addition, 800 of thecontainers are classified as permanent. The program currently chroniclesrecords for 101 departments and schools, with documents located in two currentcenters and 26 other locations. Many schools in the district keep some inactiverecords on campus, which are documented in the database. This practice provesbeneficial because it prevents losing track of records at other locations aspersonnel move to other jobs or leave the district.
The existing climate controlled Records Management Centerhas a capacity of 6,000 standard size containers, plus accommodations fordiskettes and cassette tapes. Due to the district’s success and satisfactionwith the management system, expansion of storage facilities is underway inorder to accommodate an additional 7,500 containers.
The current design of the center no longer requires recordsmanagement personnel to lift containers. The facility is a standard 4,000square foot, insulated, metal building; the total cost of the facility andequipment was in the neighborhood of $110,000. The center is staffed with onefull-time records specialist, the records management officer and an occasionalpart-time employee.
Records ManagementFacilities Operations and Procedures
For records (containers) to be accepted into the center,they must meet certain specifications. Each school or department now has atrained record liaison in every school or department. The purpose of thisliaison manager is to ensure consistency and uniformity within the departmentor school. The record liaison manager for that department or school must ensurethat the records are packaged according to the center’s procedures, whichinclude a standard size container, proper labeling of the container, and nomixed records in the container. In addition, grouping of records is acceptableif approved by local records management procedures. A Cross Reference Indexallows the records liaison manager of each school or department to labelcontainers accurately, and has issuedprecise labeling and naming of the recordsthroughout the district.
The record liaison manager submits an electronic work orderto have his or her record containers picked up and delivered to the recordcenter. When the records arrive at the center, they are placed on a gravity-fedconveyor belt that delivers records to the computer-input station. After therecords are processed, they are placed on a battery power lift that transportsthe records to their assigned locations. All containers have a specificaddress, such as section, level and slot, and they remain in their designatedareas until destroyed.
Record Success withSoftware
Perhaps even more vital than the records management facilityis the records management software. Why have the facilities if one is unable totrack and locate records? The Arlington ISD currently archives records in two recordsmanagement centers and 26 other locations in the district, which is madepossible by software that tracks records regardless of where they are archived.All records listed in the retention schedules published by the Texas StateLibrary and Archives Commission are listed in the Retention Schedule Manager(RSM) database. It’s a simple task to select records in inventory and have themplaced on the control schedule. With the schedule manager, editing records andadding meaningful comments is very easy. Each record listed in the schedulecontains all the legal references in which that particular record retentionperiod was based.
The retention schedule was completed with RSM and approvedon the initial request from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.Building the control schedule was very easy and quick using RSM. The programallows for the creation of customized control schedules, which makes it easierto understand and interpret schedules that were designed for schools andvarious administrative departments. The retention schedules published by the stateare also a great resource for developing control schedules. The Arlington ISDcustomized control schedule only contains lists of actual records in thedistrict, and the names by which they are known. The control schedule isupdated on a yearly basis by editing the required records, printing theschedule, and sending it to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission forapproval. In addition, the retention schedule and records tracking software areupdated annually by the Arlington ISD vendor. Overall, the RSM is a great toolfor research.
Records Control and Management Systems (RCAMS) softwareprovides all the information, queries, reports, checkout, and destructionpaperwork required to operate a successful records management program. Recordsseries selected from RSM are downloaded into the Arlington ISD recordsmanagement RCAMS software and are updated annually with the latest informationfrom the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
The software used to track incoming students’ cumulativerecords from Arlington ISD’s 65 schools has been a great success. Initially,when cumulative student records were sent to the center, knowing the names ofthe student records in each container posed a mysterious obstacle. With theStudent Cumulative Tracking System, the registrar from each school enters thestudents’ names into the database and forwards that information along with thecontainer. This process allows the district to track more than 200,000 inactiverecords, which remains a significant feat because student records are the mostrequested records.
Records are moved to the first computer station, whereinformation from each record container is entered in RCAMS. When many recordsof containers are received, they are grouped on the conveyor belt by recordname. RCAMS permits the user to save templates, therefore eliminating the needto double enter data.
During the process periods, each container is assigned afour-digit number by RCAMS, which provides the tracking of the container. Thenumber is then attached to the container. Packing labels, which match thecomputer screen for data input, are placed on containers that are filled withpermanent documents. This provides additional protection when selecting recordsfor destruction.
The RCAMS database permits the user to run queries ondestruction dates. When records are identified for destruction, three thingsmust occur: the owner of the local record must be informed, the districtrecords manager must certify that the record container has met its requiredretention period, and the school attorney must sign off on each and everycontainer identified for destruction. Within a large district or localgovernment, it is impossible for the record manager to be aware of litigationthat might be pending. Records are not held beyond their retention periodunless there is a valid reason.
The system provides many search options, such as looking fora specific purchase order number, bid number, or time cards for specificindividuals over a time period. The goal is that, 10 years from now, a usercould rely on the database to find any records. Thus far, this goal has beenreached.
Records may be checked out by the localowner by initiating e-mail, fax, or verbal request. Since the RecordsManagement Center is located within a short driving range of the centraladministrative office, records can be retrieved and delivered in a 15 minutetime period. Records required by the schools are usually placed in the inter-schoolmail, which requires 24 hours for delivery (emergency requests for customersare not accepted). RCAMS database d'es a great job of keeping track of recordschecked out. The database creates a simple, but effective check out form. Thenormal procedure is to check out records for a 30-day period. If records arenot returned in a timely manner, RCAMS creates a friendly, custom designedletter reminding the user that a specific record is overdue.
An Accomplished TrackRecord
If the 4,325 containers now being archived by the RecordsManagement Center were located in the typical modern office building, it wouldrequire 540 four-drawer filing cabinets at a cost of $72,900 and require 3,024square feet of floor space. The center disposed of 1,110 containers during the1998-99 school year. These records would require 139 four-drawer filingcabinets at a cost of $18,225. Empty records containers were reused anddelivered to departments and schools pre-assembled, thus saving an estimated$990 for the district. An estimated 2,500 records were retrieved or researchedfor the district or general public. Based on the national average of cost perrecord retrieval, this service would have cost the Arlington ISD $38,425. Byproviding documentation, the Records Management Center helped the districtrecover an estimated $200,000 from various bid contracts with additional moniesexpected from other bids.
The Records Management Center routes an estimated 3,000containers through the center per year. Here, records are processed forstorage, for checking out, and for keeping track of record destruction. Duringthe six-year process of implementing this new method, only one container ofrecords has been lost. Put simply, this system works.
This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.