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November 01, 2016

Spotlight on Hopewell Valley Regional School District

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Nichelle Smith

Nestled in the heart of Mercer County New Jersey is the high-performing Hopewell Valley Regional School District, a district with an ambitious vision for life after graduation. “We’ve really transitioned over the past couple of years from a pretty traditional school district to one that I would say is very progressive in terms of what we’re trying to achieve,” said Superintendent Dr. Thomas Smith. Hopewell Valley landed among the nation’s top 5% of high schools, as ranked by US News.

Despite this admirable ranking, the administrative team opted not to rest on their laurels, instead pushing forward a dramatic campaign to overcome one of HVRSD’s most systemic challenges.

Breaking Down Technology Obstacles for Staff and Students

Hopewell Valley Regional found themselves facing a pressing issue that has stumped schools across NJ. Over the years, the district’s technology portfolio and budget became bloated with a tangle of different products and systems pieced together by various administrators and educators.

“It was getting challenging,” said Director of Human Resources/Special Projects Tony Suozzo. “Teachers were getting confused, asking ‘where do I go for this or that,’ or ‘how do I find out that information,’ or ‘it would be great if I could find out this information all in one place.’’ Not only were teachers and administrators being inefficient and using too many products to get their job done, but students were also being asked to log into multiple systems, creating undue obstacles that frustrated students and staff alike.

Although asking people to change is notoriously difficult, district administrators knew that successfully unifying their systems would pay dividends for a decade or more.

Finding the “All-in-One” Answer in a Familiar Place

The district didn’t have to go far to find a solution to unify their systems. Staff were already familiar with using the OnCourse Lesson Planner, a cloud-based program offered by NJ’s own OnCourse Systems for Education.

When HVRSD learned that OnCourse also offered a Student Information SystemLearning Management System, and Staff Evaluation System, the finish line was already in sight. With the aid of OnCourse Project Management and Support, HVRSD transitioned their 400 staff members onto OnCourse’s all-in-one platform over a 12-month period.


“Having everything in one place with OnCourse has been amazing,” said Hopewell Valley Central High School Vice Principal Tricia Pinelli. “All of the information is linked together in some way, from Evaluate where we are looking at our observations and then storing student information with our SGOs, that then tie into the Grade Book and Student Information System.”

Administrators also have full visibility into educators’ lesson plans when conducting assessments with OnCourse Lesson Planner. “Everything is so interconnected, and being able to use one place for all of that information is incredible,” said Pinelli.

Getting Better Aligned to State Initiatives

In addition to making everyday tasks easier and more efficient, OnCourse is helping administrators save time during state reporting season. “Having all of that information warehoused in one spot means that I can really just do a simple export and load it into NJSMART as opposed to compiling information from several different sources,” said Pinelli, who is responsible for state reporting. “Being able to have all of my reporting have a similar format and be accessible through one specific location has saved me incredible amounts of time.”

Connecting the Community to the Classroom

One of the greatest wins for an administration is gaining the community’s support of the school district and its academic initiatives. By bringing the staff, students, and families together in one intuitive school management system the community can stay informed and proactive with their students’ learning, without having to search tirelessly through various sources.

Much like the maestro of an orchestra, teachers can direct targeted content and activities strategically to individuals, groups, and the whole class to make sure that everyone is reaching critical benchmarks at each checkpoint. OnCourse Classroom also facilitates classroom collaboration through forum-style messaging and emailing directly to parents and students.

Since moving to the all-in-one OnCourse platform, Hopewell Valley Regional staff members have experienced the following:

  • Accessing necessary information in one place
  • Differentiating instruction more effectively
  • Minimizing paperwork
  • Maximizing meaningful student interaction
  • Impactful use of technology with actionable results

“The LMS is an integral part of the blended learning environment and the one-to-one environment that we’re trying to utilize here at Hopewell Valley,” said Director of Human Resources/Special Projects Suozzo. “It provides the resources teachers need for things like flipped classrooms, and for giving differentiated instruction to groups of students so that they can work on different things using technology, and not using technology.”

Giving Instructional Time Back to Teachers

High school teacher and technology coach Jeffrey Losch points to the reduction in manual paperwork as the greatest benefit to the teaching staff.  “I think the product is very good and the fact that you have the Student Information System and the LMS speaking to each other is very, very helpful. It’s communicative to teachers, it lessens our workload and allows us to concentrate on what we should be concentrating on, which is the curriculum and the students.”

The 100% cloud-based OnCourse SIS brings your district into a new era of stability, security, and convenience. Request a demo and learn how Student Information System can help make extraordinary education possible.

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