AccelaSchool has deep roots in our commitment to helping schools operate more effectively. When I created the company, it was with the knowledge that the traditional education model wasn’t able to reach me effectively when I was a student, and I wanted to fix that.
I believe that when schools have more student data at their fingertips, it helps them create the best possible educational environment, so my mission is to make that data as easy to gather and work with as possible.
My own early education was tumultuous. Although I consider myself a lifelong learner, I don’t often reveal to people that I almost didn’t graduate from high school. It’s been an uncomfortable topic for me, especially when meeting with senior-level executives with degrees from prestigious universities. I, on the other hand, barely graduated from high school and only attended a handful of classes at a local college. While I grew up in a high-performing public school district with an exceptional teaching staff just outside of Pittsburgh (the same one as Mark Cuban), I still found it difficult to stay engaged. What my teachers, counselors, and principals didn’t know is that I was struggling at home and in school, and my grades weren’t initially reflecting it. I wasn’t participating in any extracurricular activities, and during my later years of high school my attendance dropped off so significantly that I was summoned to stand before an attendance hearing; of course, like the classes I felt disconnected from, I skipped it. I reached a point where I was so disengaged in class, that I eventually found another stimulant that the classroom wasn’t providing me: computer programming!
See, I had one thing going for me: I had discovered at a young age that I had a passion for engineering. I took apart radios to learn how they worked, then put them back together in a different way. I loved programming, building things, and solving problems. I wanted to make things bigger, better, and faster, and programming gave me an outlet for that. All I wanted to do was write code, which involved overcoming a nearly infinite set of challenges while refining each component of a program. I challenged myself to build obscure things, like a loan amortization calculator for my mom or an artificial intelligence game back when AI was not yet a well-known concept, much less a part of daily life. Programming computers led me toward fixing and building them myself, and inevitably finding ways to do that for others by starting my first computer repair company as well as volunteering as a student representative for the technology department in the school district. I started volunteering my sophomore year of high school and learned how to upgrade the phone system and network infrastructure. I was obsessed with doing and learning more. If I didn’t fix something early in the day, I couldn’t walk away from it; I skipped class to come back and solve it.
When I became immersed in computer projects that interested me, I lost track of the outside world, often forgetting about assignments that were due or tests I was supposed to study for. What great opportunities would have existed for me if my teachers had known what I was passionate about? If there had only been a way to inform my teachers through data so they could personalize my learning experiences, or to connect me with students who shared similar interests to take on projects together! To challenge me through my peers would’ve been, I think, such a phenomenal way to engage me.
But the kind of data that informs educators about student interests didn’t exist back then, and data like this is infrequently used or underutilized to this day. I don’t excuse my own adolescent decision-making, but I do wonder: If the educators around me knew more about my learning habits, could I have had a more balanced school life? I wish they’d had more data about me in order to understand what I liked without me having to tell them directly — like many kids, I didn’t even know myself well enough to communicate that at the time. Now, I believe the company I’ve created makes it simpler to collect the information that helps educators stay informed about their students to help them reach their full potential.
AccelaSchool was the passion that drove me to focus more intently on improvement — my own improvement as well as that of educators and the entire school system. My own education was a learning moment for me that has in many ways inspired how I think about education and what I would do to change it if I had the chance. Starting AccelaSchool gave me that chance.
When I became a district staff member alongside the teachers who taught me, I found that what they needed most was guidance and support when adopting initiatives or dealing with the inevitability of change. Every department needed the right tools to be efficient, and the relevant implementation strategy to use them effectively.
When I started AccelaSchool in 2011, it was a consulting agency working with school districts to configure and enhance their data collection processes. I created the company to help schools identify challenges they didn’t know they had through collaboration and communication. Ecollect was built to adapt to the needs of the district, not the other way around like many software applications. It laid the foundation for flexible data collection and analysis as well as the cyclical implementation process that helps administrators determine what needs to be adjusted over time in data collection, and why it should be adjusted. Ecollect helps identify gaps in the process and close them. It constantly assesses the efficacy of the initiative by letting the learners themselves participate — communicating those gaps to their teachers without having to raise their hands and say what they are.
Now, Ecollect has expanded to do so much more than its original purpose. It puts the power of data collection into the hands of the school district and bolsters its own capabilities by learning from other districts collecting similar data points.
The learner profile that Ecollect was originally created for is the foundation of our work today, but flexible data collection extends so far beyond the classroom: Administrative functions, enrollment, threat assessments, field trips, community service, counselor support, activity participation, parent-teacher conferences, and teacher evaluations are just a few examples. As educators, we adapt to the changing needs of students. Similarly, adaptability is the guiding framework we use across this company. We help identify the right initiatives to help collect the data you need, when you need it, in the way you need it. Our hope is that Ecollect can help all learners, including ones like me, by identifying what they’re passionate about and helping them achieve their potential.
Founder & CEO