Lighthouse - Demographics

Tying It All Together

The demographic database function in Surfside Lighthouse is the link that ties everything together, both for individual students and for school-wide analysis of data.  Because Lighthouse offers the highest degree of database integration ever, the database function is virtually "invisible" behind the rest of the program. 

A great deal has changed since our first student demographic database products The Director (1985) and The Locator (1987).  Can you imagine trying to cram demographic data for 1,000 students on a 3.5 inch diskette?  Been there!  Done that! Got the t-shirt!  Sometime we'll tell you about using Commodore PET cassette tape drives to schedule 800 students....

Once upon a time, the demographic database was a vortex through which everything from the other modules passed - and required quite a bit of attention and housekeeping as a result.  Over the years, our student databases have evolved into more of a background function.  While absolutely critical to the operation of any integrated administrative package, the student database is no longer a visible entity unto itself. 

How does it work?

Well, as we just said, the database more or less "hides in the background" and services the other functions of Lighthouse.  There are really only a few times when you will directly interact with a "pure database" function:  when you first set up the program, when you prepare certain reports or export files and when you roll over into a new school year.

Many student database products come with all of their demographic fields pre-defined.  Lighthouse is different.  Lighthouse comes out of the box with a many of the most important data elements, but the user may also define as many "user fields" as are needed by the school.  These fields can be altered and added to throughout the school year.

Lighthouse prepares many "database" reports - such as a student birthday list, database rosters (i.e. all members of the football team, everyone who rides Bus 14...etc.).  It also is able to build complex reports using a sophisticated Query function.  Surfside Lighthouse can present those reports in a number of ways or even export them to external data formats.  We suppose you also could call Lighthouse's password-based security system a database function of sorts.  At the end of the school year, Lighthouse can purge out the departing students, promote groups of students from one grade to another and can accumulate "student history" data that will be available in various parts of the program for as long as the student record is maintained.

Lighthouse offers context-sensitive help for virtually every screen which is available by pressing F1 almost anywhere in the program.  To give you an idea of the scale, the Version 4 Help system would be over 600 pages long if it were published as a standard word processing document.

Extensive Reporting and Data Import/Export Features

Surfside Lighthouse includes many customizable, pre-defined reports as well as tools for preparing all kinds of user-created reports.  It also offers extensive data import/export features to enable Lighthouse to read and write many different file formats.  If Lighthouse cannot prepare a particular report, users can export data to another application (i.e. database, spreadsheet or presentation graphics) and prepare the report in that other application.  This functionality is most useful with the advent of "No Child Left Behind " reporting and the growing popularity of electronic submission of state reports.

Core Database Features:

  • Supports an unlimited number of students
  • Maintains a student database with a virtually unlimited number of user-defined fields
  • Includes utilities to purge groups of students and globally increment students to their next class level
  • Provides a global update facility - this lets you select a group of students and change certain data elements for those kids all at once (i.e. everyone who rides Bus 14 now rides Bus 24)
  • Offers a powerful Query tool to search and filter student data
  • Exports query results to other applications
  • Saves and retrieves queries for later use
  • Sorts and filters lists
  • Provides a comprehensive student photograph management system that imports, exports and manages picture files for your students.
  • Offers password security to all parts of Lighthouse
  • Exports any data to Excel 2000, Access 2000, XML, HTML and text files
  • Imports from all versions of The Surfside Solution III, The Administrator's Powerpack and The Classifier
  • Easy year-end changeover
  • Accumulates student history data for attendance, discipline and guidance contacts so that users can see data from prior years.
  • Holds report card data in the historical transcript at year end - this means that data for all credit-bearing marking periods is retained on the transcript after the current school year's data is purged
  • Generates rosters keyed from any database field (i.e. roster of students on Bus 24 or list of varsity football players)
  • Supports advanced customizing of all reports, including font colors and wording
  • Allows user customization of color schemes

"Word Processor" Features:

Commencing with Version 2.6, Lighthouse includes a new, built-in word processor.  It is an excellent tool for preparing mail-merge letters and for production of all kinds of labels.  The word processor includes a spell checker, comprehensive mail-merge functionality, mailing label publisher and automated attendance letters. 

  • Offers complete formatting features such as font control, bold, italic, underline, bullets and coloration
  • Permits paragraph alignment to the left, right or center.
  • Provides standard cut, copy, paste functionality
  • Stores documents in the widely supported RTF (rich text file) format.  This lets you open word processing files created by Lighthouse in other programs such as Microsoft Word
  • Includes an excellent spell checker

Mail Merge features permit users to:

  • Customize each letter or label with dozens of student data elements.  Choose from core demographic fields, user-defined demographic fields, school information and even calculated data such as GPA, credits and attendance totals.
  • Print letters or mailing labels.  When publishing labels, you may choose from the most popular Avery label types or create your own label definitions.
  • Use a comprehensive student selection feature to select which students will receive a letter or generate a label.  Student selection options include:
    • All students
    • All active students
    • One class
    • One student
    • Basic student filter (simple yet powerful)
    • One of your saved queries
    • Students returned from any report (i.e. send a letter to all students who appear on a chronic attendance report)
    • Yearly absences above a certain threshold
    • Yearly absences for a student who passed a certain threshold since the last attendance letter was generated for him or her.