Behind the Scenes in the Technology Department
If you had a question for Queensbury schools during the last two decades, there’s a good chance you’ve spoken at least once with data specialist Robin Fitzpatrick.
“When people can’t find an answer, I’m the person they call. I think part of that is because I have worked here for 22 years and I have worked in every building. I laugh at some of the phone calls I get,” she reflected from her current home in the administrative offices of Queensbury Union Free School District.
In September 2014, Fitzpatrick became the district data specialist after a long history of service in school communications, technology and administrative support. She now works with student data at all levels━from new school enrollments, demographics and support services eligibility to report cards, state assessment results and the rollout of computer-based testing. There are also data reports for instructional and administrative staff such as courses taught, tenure area and the number of students seen on a daily basis.
Most of the data schools gather is collected to meet state or federal requirements, and much of it must be submitted to the New York State Education Department. Fitzpatrick handles submission of that data and later reviews state reports to ensure Queensbury data is reported accurately.
“Every year the state comes up with new reporting requirements. For example, now we have to report students who are unaccompanied youth. We always reported homelessness, but now a student who is older than 13 who isn’t living with a parent or guardian━it could be something as simple as living with another relative━is considered unaccompanied by a parent,” she explained.
Two monitors sit on her desktop, allowing her to dig into multiple databases and reports at one time so she can turn them into useful tools for educators.
“I get called on a daily basis to export data, and everybody’s need is different.”
For example, sometimes those needs might be for data and visuals to chart a school’s progress towards achieving its building goals. Other times it might be a call to interpret new state data requirements or to generate reports that may identify patterns in student enrollment or behavior.
Spending hours digging into numbers and statistics isn’t for everyone, but Fitzpatrick has found that the data offers a lot of value in helping schools identify students' needs and plan for the future.
“I love working with data, which is really weird,” she said, laughing. “It allows you to see trends. We look at the data to validate what we’re doing or, if it comes back and it’s not where we thought it would be, to find out why and decide how we can use that to move forward and change.”
Change is also coming for Fitzpatrick, who plans to retire in June. Inspiring her decision was the ability to spend more time with her three adult children, who are all Queensbury High School alumni. Their senior pictures stare up at her daily in a frame beside her keyboard.
“This was a tough decision because I do love working here,” she said fondly. “When I come to work each day, I feel like I’m giving back to the school community that gave my kids [Katie, Rob and Billy] a great education.”