The View from the Top:
SI&A’S CEO and COO Take A Breath To Talk About the Company and Its Passion
Susan Cook, SI&A’s chief operating officer, is saying that when children learn the importance of good attendance in kindergarten, “It introduces them to an important concept: that showing up—for school, work and life itself—makes a difference. Studies have shown us that chronic absenteeism, even as early as kindergarten through third grade, is an accurate predictor that those kids will someday be school dropouts.”
“That’s why we created Attention2AttendanceSM,” says Jeff Williams, the company’s founder, president and chief executive officer. “It’s a foolproof tool for early and definitive intervention.”
Cook and Williams are sitting at a conference table in Cook’s office. While the two spend most of their workdays in offices located at opposite corners of SI&A’s expansive El Dorado Hills headquarters, each walks unannounced into the other’s office for frequent brainstorming sessions, updates, wisecracks and, as Williams says with a smile, “reality checks. This is a fast-moving company. We truly feel that nothing less than the future of education is at stake.”
This afternoon, the two are talking about recent enhancements to Attention2AttendanceSM (A2ASM), the company’s signature software-and-service product.
“We’re pretty proud of A2A’s SaveRateSM,” Williams says. “We’ve developed an approach that shows some amazingly positive outcomes. A2ASM gets kids off the path of chronic absenteeism.”
“We tested and re-tested the product long enough, and at our own expense, to gather the kind of numbers—by age, geography and ethnicity—that proves its value,” says Cook. “Nearly a million kids, as well as their parents and their principals, have been supported by A2ASM. And we’re only just beginning.”
Both Williams and Cook are quick to point out A2ASM and the company’s other product-and-service products and partnerships are the link between studies and action. “We analyze the latest research,” Williams says. “We don’t conduct the studies. Our goal is to take the information, apply our principles and get results for our clients.”
Cook says that her job with SI&A coincides with her professional background as a results-driven operations person and organizational consultant. “I’m basically a line manager,” she says. “That’s someone whose role in a company is to improve its performance, year over year. When you think about it, it’s very similar to being a school principal, whose job is to improve the success rate and learning climate of his or her school every year.”
Williams says what he most enjoys about his company’s employees are “their absolute dedication to customizing solutions. They see themselves as a school district’s partners—and they know that our products and approach to service will never be characterized as one-size-fits-all.”
SI&A’s other promising products include SST AssistSM, a software solution currently being piloted to help Student Success Teams become more effective, bringing new thinking to the complex challenges of special education.
“We never presume to know more about a school, students or community than its education professionals do,” adds Cook. “What we do know is that in A2ASM, we have a product that works 100 percent of the time—one we’d like to get into every school in the United States.”
“We’d be very proud to be this country’s back office of education,” Williams says. Then he jumps out of his chair and leaves Cook’s office, heading across the building to his own office to handle his own portion of SI&A’s creative, nonstop activity.