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Progressus Therapy

Interview with Marc T. Calello, President and Founder of Caselite Software

March 15, 2007

Schreiber: Hi Marc. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me this morning about Caselite Software. Is it true that Caselite Software has created online scheduling for speech-language pathologists working in the schools? This sounds like a dream come true! What's the history of this software and
Schreiber: Hi Marc. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me this morning about Caselite Software. Is it true that Caselite Software has created online scheduling for speech-language pathologists working in the schools? This sounds like a dream come true! What's the history of this software and your company?

Calello: Well, I guess it's been a little over four years now since my wife and I first sat down and decided to try to tackle the scheduling challenge speech-language pathologists face. I am a software engineer by trade. I received my bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Appalachian State University and had been practicing in the industry for several years. I was building other software systems, for large companies mostly, and for several small companies. So when Monica, my wife, began to work in the schools, we approached this problem of scheduling the way everyone else does. We were sure someone had to have written some software to do this! This is crazy! You know, she continued to juggle her schedule and we saw that doing it by hand was just not sufficient or efficient.



Schreiber: So your wife is the speech-language pathologist [SLP] and her work experience is in the public school setting. I would guess it didn't take her long to recognize that scheduling is a huge, time-consuming task.

Calello: Yes, that's right. It's been four years since we started the company; it's probably been around five years or so since we started to play around with the idea.

Schreiber: SLPs have so many variables to juggle in preparing a schedule. Your wife recognized this need and you had the talent, the ability, and the experience to solve the problem. The software accommodates these variables.

Calello: Well, I would also say it was the connections we had. I tell people that putting together a software system like Caselite is similar to putting a movie together. It takes quite a large team, a lot of different skill sets, and several years. So it's quite a production to get it to the point where it is available for the general public.

Schreiber: Tell us about this incredible programCaselite.

Calello: When we first started creating the software, we were focused on the problems of the speech-language pathologists that were part of our design team. So when we first looked at scheduling, we were focused mostly on some of the nuances here in the Charlotte areaworking with time constraints and understanding how to not pull students out of certain classesand all in an elementary setting. As we made it available to the public, we started getting new perspectives and learning of different challenges, from different regions, states, school districts, and settings (e.g., middle school and high school). Since then we've added features for things like preferred times (teachers can request a preferred time), or consideration of issues like rotational master schedules of the district, etc.

Schreiber: What are some of the other features in Caselite?

Calello: First, the software allows you to indicate in a student's profile what disorder he or she is being served for, the frequency of service, and the duration of each session. Let's say you want to schedule a student who has an articulation disorder for intervention three times a week for 30 minutes. You can also indicate whether or not services are going to be a pull-out model in a small group, or whether intervention will be done individually, or whether services are delivered in an inclusionary setting.

Schreiber: Will the software consider the kinds of groupings you'd like to see, for example if you had specific students you wanted to group together?

Calello: The way we've approached this from the beginning was to try to have the "easy button" approach or auto-schedule button where there was not a whole lot of set-up and you could press one button and the system did all the work for you. And we decided to go with what was most popular from our design team and focus groups. So when you click auto-schedule, it auto-groups and auto-schedules. And the way our auto-grouping works is first by disorder, then by teacher, then by grade.

However, as you're suggesting, you may already know that Sally and Joey, for example, work better together or that it's a group that you've been working with already, so we created two modes of scheduling: auto scheduling and manual scheduling. If what you want to do is a little bit more customized, you can switch over, at any point in time during scheduling, to manual scheduling. So for instance, you can begin with an empty schedule and just put in your own appointments, as we call them, things like lunch, IEP meetings, time for some caseload management, or maybe some evaluations. You block off your schedule for when you're not available for intervention services. Then you can manually schedule the groups that you know you want together and the times you want them, and let auto scheduling fill in the rest.

Our manual scheduling facility is a feature that a lot of our SLPs, who helped design Caselite, have really enjoyed because even though you're manually manipulating your schedule, all of your time constraint information is still available to you. The options that come up allowing you to move Joey, also allow you to consider all of Joey's time constraints. And the program will still know all of Joey's preferences or preferred times. So all of that "auto schedule" information continues to help you even when you're manually scheduling.

Schreiber: So does the clinician begin by keying in all of her students and their preferences such as whether you're going to see them three times a week for 30 minutes, and other variables that need to be considered?

Calello: Yes, there's definitely some initial key-in time, probably a minute or two per student. However, a feature that we've added in the last 12 to 18 months allows you to import all of the student information from a spreadsheet like Excel. That is definitely a timesaver.

Schreiber: Can you capture information from a previous year or a previous semester and just change a few settings or variables?

Calello: Absolutely. One of the common things we hear is that the very first year that you use Caselite, you're getting used to the system and it's the first time you put data in. But all of the subsequent yearsand we've had, I guess three years now of customers who are returning customersare always easier because you've got most of your caseload from last year entered (if you haven't changed schools). And you'll just be revising for new and exiting students. Your data entry time goes down substantially in subsequent years.

Schreiber: And in comparison to how much time it takes to work and rework a schedule, that sounds pretty minor.

Calello: You know that's the big surprise. When we started four years ago, we imagined that our software would be useful to someone at the start of the school year. And it has turned out to be somewhat of a scheduling phenomenon. We have activity records that we analyze daily so we have an idea of how much use the system is undergoing. And every single day, there are SLPs from all over the country scheduling, rescheduling, exiting, and entering students. It's quite amazing to see how it goes from being a nightmare to something that people are almost enjoying.

Schreiber: Providing students with access to the general curriculum and inclusion are scheduling challenges too, if you are an SLP who is providing services in the classroom. The classroom schedules add a whole new component to the scheduling nightmare.

Calello: We added a feature to deal with this last year at the request of some new school districts and other regions of the country. They wanted to be able to specify preferred times or time constraints that were based on the mode of service. Or as you've said, is the service inclusive or pull-out?

Schreiber: That is a powerful feature! I understand that Caselite is in its third version.

Calello: Caselite Version 3 is in production.

Schreiber: That's excellent. That means that you've added lots of new features over time?

Calello: Yes, and you will always have access to the new enhancements. It's one of the advantages of being web-based. Almost every summer we have a new releasethat's been our model thus farand with it usually a whole bunch of new features. And if there are glitches or issues, we are real aggressive about patching them in the middle of the night so that in the morning when someone logs in the glitches are gone.

Schreiber: Tell us more about the web-based feature; what you're saying is that customers will purchase and use this product online, correct?

Calello: By being web-based, our users can access Caselite from any internet-connected computer, whether it's at home or school. It is novel for some people and I think that once the advantages are tasted it's really something that the SLPs will appreciate. The SLPs that are currently using Caselite have really enjoyed that aspect. There's no software to install, which means there's no computer that needs to be updated or purchased. As long as you have an internet browser, for the most part, you can use Caselite.

Schreiber: Whether you use Macintosh or Windows platforms?

Calello: That's right. We have several Mac users. We've also had users from all over the United States on some very old computers as well. We try really hard to make sure that we're supporting old systems as well as the new ones. We try to work with everyone.

Schreiber: Can I assume that if the customer is on a dial-up system, the program might be a little sluggish for them?

Calello: Most of the site is pretty fast. Other than the training videos, I would imagine that if you're going to the tutorials and you're connecting over dial-up, it would be a little slow. But we've all used Caselite over modems before and I would say it's efficient.

Schreiber: It sounds like the program is really flexible and technical help is available for the buyer.

Calello: With Monica being a speech-language pathologist, who has an intimate knowledge of the stress of working in the schools, we focus really hard on not just the software, but the company as a whole being meaningful to a school environment. Even our support channels work long and hard. Support has been something we've really focused a lot on. We've received excellent reviews for our support team I think because we've approached the product from the mindset of a school-based SLP. Many of the Caselite SLPs send us feedback using the form inside the system, or they send an email if they have questions to help@caselitesoftware.com and our team jumps on it. I'd say we consider ourselves "aggressive support" because we try to prevent customer confusion, not just fix bugs and problems. And with the mechanism we have in place right now, we've gotten just really great feedback in terms of our team's ability to respond.

Schreiber: That's a key feature; SLPs don't have tremendous time to spend figuring out how something works.

Calello: That's right. And you know, one of the things we've noticed is many of the SLPs that use Caselite have contacted us in the ninth hour. You know, the schedule is due tomorrow morning and they started Googling for software the day before, and they find us. So it may be the day before they need it, they start using it. And with any software system, there's an adjustment; there's a paradigm shift. What we've been suggesting to a lot of districts is to start their implementations in the spring. We find that as users become more acclimated to software scheduling, they find it affects not only their schedules but their whole work lives as well.

Schreiber: And that is what makes this product so wonderful. Can you tell us a little bit about the pricing structure under this system? It's a subscription service I take it?

Calello: That's right. It's a yearly subscription fee of $134.95 for individual subscribers, so it's a little bit more than $11 a month or so. That covers the whole year and when the subscription runs out, we don't delete the data but the account goes into a read-only mode. And so you renew.

Then for school districts, we have two different subscriptions we offer. We have a group subscription, which is available to two or more SLPs who would have their subscription purchased through a purchase order. And we offer a district subscription, which is for district-wide use.

Schreiber: And when you do district-wide, do you limit the number of users? Do you provide a quote for that kind of a system?

Calello: Both our group subscriptions and district subscriptions come with a discount based on the number of seats and whether it's a one-year or two-year subscription. For the districts, we have District Administrator seats and these are Caselite user logins (user names and passwords that are restricted to district leadership) that can now view any schedule that is published to them. So when an SLP has completed his or her schedule, it can be published to the district office or to the district administrators. Then, when the district administrator logs in, he or she is able to pull up that schedule and see all the information. We also have what we call a "district dashboard," which produces lots of charts, graphs, and reports for slicing and dicing the information.

Schreiber: This product seems like it would be appropriate for professionals just speech-language pathologists. Do you see other special educators being interested in such a scheduler?

Calello: It's funny you mention that because it's starting to become one of the most frequently asked questions. We've conducted a few controlled studies with resource teachers, and all of them have shown promise and we're really excited about that. The plan for Caselite (Version 4) is to make it generally available to all of special education.

Schreiber: I can see potential for a university clinic setting as well.

Calello: We've actually had some discussions with university clinics about its applicability. But I will say, and this is kind of my wife's voice, we really strive to perfect it for speech-language pathologists in the school setting first. We felt that this is where we started and this is our niche and we want to make it perfect. So with Version 3, we've been working a lot on what we consider to be finishing touches. What we're finding is that there's a lot of regional differences in terms of the way a district or a specific school may approach scheduling and trying to accommodate all of those options in one software system has been the challenge.

Schreiber: Well I'm sure that you've met the challenges. I know readers of this interview can go to the web and see a demo, is that correct?

Calello: That's correct. We have video demonstrations of both the speech-language pathologist's portion as well as the district administrator's portion. And you can also take the free tour. The free tour allows anyone to use a fictitious caseload that's already keyed in and experience all the scheduling features.

Schreiber: I'm really excited for you and Caselite Software.

Calello: Well thank you, we've really enjoyed it.

Schreiber: Marc, I am assuming that interested SLPs can find out how to contact you and receive more information by visiting your website?

Calello: Yes, www.caselitesoftware.com

Schreiber: Thank you so much for developing this timesaving product, Marc. Best wishes in your further development of it.