The mission of the Chattahoochee Hills Charter School is to enrich students’ lives and improve the educational outcomes of children in south Fulton County, GA. While that aim is similar to schools across the country, the way the administration and staff go about achieving it is anything but ordinary.
“To me the best part about our school is the school itself, it’s a very nontraditional space,” explains Tim Cailloux, Treasurer and CFO for Chattahoochee Hills Charter School. “We have chickens, rabbits and pigs on our campus, and 15 miles of trails to explore. We really focus on incorporating as much of the outside world as possible into the day-to-day academic experience.”
The Chattahoochee Hills Charter School has a campus like no other. The central “hallway” of the school is a forested path, and its 460 students spend at least one third of their day learning outside. When they are inside, they learn in classrooms that invite natural light and minimize separation from the outdoors.
At a school this groundbreaking, it’s no surprise to see innovative thinking throughout the organization. That’s why Cailloux decided to walk away from the traditional broker model for employee benefits and leverage the streamlined, easy-to-use and cost-effective solutions that Zenefits offers.
Get a peek into a day in the life of the staff at Chattahoochee Hills in the #SmallBizSnapshots video below, then keep reading to find out how Zenefits is helping the school keep teachers and staff happy and focused.
“One of the most important things making this school work are the teachers,” says Cailloux. “We focus very hard on making sure our teachers are happy so that they can provide the best educational outcomes for our students.”
Cailloux cites competitive benefits and salary packages as key to attracting and retaining the best teachers. To make those easier to offer and administer, he moved to Zenefits for his HR and insurance needs.
“We looked at standalone HR information systems and PEOs, but PEOs don’t work for us and most other HR information systems are very expensive. That’s money that I can’t put towards teachers and towards students’ education,” says Cailloux. “Zenefits was the obvious choice for us. It gave compliance solutions, an HR information system and a single place to view all of that information.”
“Our first year of existence we didn’t really have any strong platform to maintain our HR back office, it was a variety of files,” explains Cailloux. “It was a big challenge to have an entire HR system in a filing cabinet.”
Two of Cailloux’s biggest pain points, COBRA health insurance coverage and open enrollment logistics, were the driving forces behind the decision to move to Zenefits.
“With Zenefits, any of our staff can call or email and talk to someone who can answer their questions” he says. “We’re no longer trying to interpret insurance policies on behalf of our employees.”
Compliance was also a struggle during that first year, but Cailloux reports a much higher level of confidence that all important information is being tracked since the move to Zenefits. “We’ve set up custom flows around e-verify and tracking teacher certification expiration dates. If it’s a compliance item for the city, state or federal government, we know it’s being tracked.”
The Chattahoochee Hills Charter School currently uses Zenefits for PTO tracking, its HR information system, insurance coverage and COBRA. It also recently added flexible spending accounts as part of the overall benefit package it offers teachers and staff.
“There’s no more painful process in starting to work somewhere than filling out all that paperwork on the first day. Our insurance coverage is fully automated in the platform, so when an employee signs up to work here they have a process now that explains their benefits, their salary and their PTO,” says Cailloux.
Streamlining operations was critical to Cailloux because the school doesn’t have a full-time HR position. “Our director of operations does HR, tracks teacher certification, makes sure supplies are ordered, and helps receive students in the morning and dismiss them in the afternoon,” he explains. “She is incredibly busy and relying on an approach that wasn’t streamlined would have been very difficult to maintain.”
The school’s director of operations had been spending 10 hours a week before Zenefits to keep track of everything HR related. Now, she spends less than two hours. This allows her to focus on all of the aspects of her job, not just the HR function.
The switch to Zenefits has also eased the process of PTO tracking. “It used to be all paper-based and papers were getting lost, which led to last minute scrambles to get substitute teachers in,” recalls Cailloux. “Now when PTO is requested, the alert goes out and the substitute teacher is scheduled. There’s a lot less concern on the part of the teachers and a lot less last-minute scrambling on the part of the administration.”
And Zenefits has given Cailloux much better visibility into the payroll process. He leverages the payroll syncing feature when onboarding new employees, ensuring that all salary information is sent to the payroll provider accurately.
“What I’ll say about Zenefits is that it lets me focus our time and attention on executing the mission of our school, which is arts, agriculture, and the environment,” Cailloux concludes. “We’re not a place that processes HR paperwork, that’s not what we wake up every morning and get excited to do. And we’re in a place now where we don’t have to deal with that anymore. It’s there, it happens, almost in the background, and that gives our staff the confidence they need to focus on running the school.”