Man and woman walking in office

Cleveland Metropolitan School District Paves a Digital Path Forward with Docusign

  • >$704K

    Cost Savings
  • ~30K

    Staff hours saved

From automated workflows to data-driven decision-making, digital transformation is ushering in a new era of efficiency in education. During the 2020 lockdowns, school systems worldwide found themselves on a digital fast track. Many, like the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), are reaping the benefits of accelerated transformation.

CMSD is Ohio's third largest public school system, with over 36,000 students and 7,000 employees across 96 schools.

“My team makes sure that people have the tools they need to do what they need to do more efficiently,” said Brian Paisley, executive director of software and data solutions. Docusign eSignature is a big part of that. 

When Paisley joined the IT team, forms and documents were handled in a tedious, error-prone way. “We saw an opportunity to transform our paper-based processes and antiquated workflows and become a digitally intelligent workplace,” he said.

With Docusign eSignature and the guidance and support from Customer Success, CMSD saved over $700,000, reclaimed thousands of staff hours and earned Gartner recognition for its forward-thinking use of technology in education.

Streamlining IEP processes for families, teachers and administrators

CMSD’s Docusign journey started in the special education department.

Over 30% of CMSD students are on individualized education plans (IEPs) designed to help those with special needs succeed academically and socially at school and beyond.

Historically, teachers and administrators would meet with parents to review and sign off on IEPs. But the paper-bound process presented some challenges. 

“If there were any updates, parents would have to come in and re-sign those documents, so it became very cumbersome for everyone to keep track of it all,” said Paisley. When the district transitioned to remote learning in 2020, in-person conferences were no longer feasible.

Docusign eSignature streamlined IEP workflows, giving parents, teachers and administrators a secure, centralized way to review, approve and update tailored educational plans from anywhere. 

“We didn’t want parents to have to install a program or rely on outdated methods like faxing and scanning,” said Paisley. “With Docusign, they get an email that guides them through all the documents they need to sign off on, and they automatically receive finalized copies for their records.”

Delivering big wins with Docusign Customer Success

After the success in special education, Paisley and his team received a directive from the CIO to roll out eSignature district-wide. The IT team joined forces with digital transformation consultants from Docusign Customer Success to quickly build success stories.

“The Docusign team has been a great boost,” said Tim Farris, director of business software and integrations. “They’re not only helping us with solutions and identifying what needs to be done, they’re training our IT team to run meetings, to look at things differently, and to be able to carry it on long after they leave.”

One standout achievement was the transformative impact on invoicing. Before, coordinating the 15 signatures required for invoice approvals took two weeks (or longer) and was a big hassle for the person monitoring the process.

By moving from complex email chains to automated and trackable workflows, CMSD cut turnaround time to just three days while saving over $16,000 through increased efficiency and reduced printing costs. 

Next, the teams set their sights on significant integrations, starting with HR. “There was a big drive to bring eSignature functionality into Workday,” said Farris.

Using eSignature to templatize employee agreements was a game-changer for staff productivity. Instead of having to mass email and manually process recurring documents, such as policy updates, technology usage agreements and benefit re-ups, the HR department can bulk send them to employees with a single click.

Teacher contracts benefited from a more streamlined process, too, with HR completing close to 5,000 annual renewals in about a week (versus months). The district not only saved over $4,000 in printing and distribution costs but also improved accuracy thanks to the seamless data sync between Workday and Docusign.

Building a digitally intelligent district

In November 2023, CMSD received Gartner's Eye on Innovation Award for its best-in-class results in implementing a digitally intelligent workspace with Docusign.

"We’ve saved time and money, but the bigger measure of success is the number of requests we’re getting from departments to help them create digitally intelligent processes,” said Paisley.

So far, CMSD has identified close to 40 use cases across finance, HR, integrated health, IT and student support services. The long-term vision includes training students to design and manage forms, enabling them to earn certificates and apply their expertise in future careers.

“Our goal is to have at least one user in every department become a semi-expert,” said Farris. Working with its dedicated Docusign digital transformation consultants, CMSD developed a Center of Excellence to accelerate adoption and support through training, a comprehensive Intranet site and project management dashboards. 

The project has been such a success, CMSD extended its partnership with Docusign Customer Success. “It was so valuable the first time around, we've renewed the engagement to keep the momentum going,” said Farris.