Doing Triple Duty

ID Cards Get the Job Done For Chicago Public Schools Employees

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) comprise more than 600 schools and serves nearly 500,000 students. The system employs approximately 62,000 people and operates within a budget approaching $3.6 billion. Prior to the 2003-2004 school year, each school in the district issued its own employee identification cards with separate cards for tracking time and attendance.

This year, CPS developed a program to consolidate three functions, including a new electronic paycheck option, onto one card used district-wide. A pilot program last summer proved the success of using debit cards in lieu of paper paychecks.

“Rather than have three cards, we have one card serving three functions. It will be an ID card, an automated time and attendance system and a debit card,” says Mike Edwards, director of payroll for Chicago Public Schools. “Now we have a uniform card across the entire system.”

The cards, printed on three Zebra 720i CM printers, include a magnetic stripe that allows employees to access individual ATM accounts, a barcode that they swipe through a reader to record time and attendance, plus a Maestro, Cirrus and CPS logo. The first generation of cards do not include employee photos, but photos may be incorporated later, Edwards says.

The cards are more convenient for employees, and the district expects to save a significant amount of money by not issuing paper checks. Approximately 80 percent of CPS employees have direct deposit; however, many still receive paper checks.

The debit cards will also cut down on classroom disruptions. “Currently if an employee doesn't get paid, they leave the school and come to our facility to get a check. Once the cards are in place, if we need to pay someone, we simply fund the card and tell them to go to the closest ATM and get their money. That doesn't leave a classroom uncovered,” Edwards says.

Identatronics, [a Ban-Koe Company and ID America partner located in] Chicago, was hired to create the new ID/eCash cards. More than 50,000 cards have been printed, each of them dual-sided with encoded magnetic stripes and barcodes. The CPS cards are laminated on the front and on three-quarters of the back, up to the signature stripe.

“We needed a high-volume, high-capacity laminating printer that we could trust to get us through those 50,000 eCash cards. And we knew we would have to do a certain amount of replacement badges every month,” says Identatronics' Mike Grzegorek.

The most difficult aspect of the project was making sure the cards functioned properly with the CPS Kronos time-and-attendance software and the Comdata/Ceridian ATM bank accounts.

~Stellitano, Corrina.  "5 Lessons on Upgrading."  Access Control & Security Systems  February 2004.

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