Bryan MacDonald, CEO of SchoolMint, joins Discover Lafayette to share the story of how his company chose Lafayette LA as its new headquarters. A technology industry leader in choice, enrollment, registration, and behavior for K through 12 schools, SchoolMint serves more than 12 million students in 18,000 schools nationwide.
With over 25 years of education software industry experience, Bryan has been at the forefront in designing technological advancements that dramatically affect all aspects of the educational experience for students, parents, and schools.
Bryan got his start as a middle school math and science teacher at the University of Wyoming Laboratory School while also working as a Technology Specialist. He loved it, got immersed in statewide committees in Wyoming that were working to improve school data collection, and ended up being hired by the local school district as its technology leader. It was there that he discovered the antiquated ways the school system collected grades, student attendance, report cards, and transcripts and thought, “There must be a better way.”
He looked around for tech help and discovered PowerSchool, a start-up company that was the first web-based system delivering cutting-edge services to schools and families who needed ready access to student information. “For the first time ever, teachers were using the same system as the front office and parents were using. Moms could drop off their kids, go home, get online and see if their kid made it to class.” This was heady stuff for the 1990s tech world.
Bryan was enamored with the work of PowerSchool and moved to join the company which was based in Northern California. Through that role, he had the opportunity to travel to Cupertino, CA to meet with Steve Jobs to pitch PowerSchool’s software. Apple bought the software and the company!
Besides Apple, Bryan’s career has also led him to work with national companies such as Safari Books Online, Maximus Education Systems, and most recently Illuminate Education. He joined SchoolMint three years ago.
SchoolMint’s customer base keeps growing as its services continue to evolve to meet the demands of today’s schools. They offer strategic enrollment management and marketing strategies, and also offer data management and coaching to assist schools with behavior management and support.
Originally based in San Francisco, CA with employees also working in San Jose, Costa Rica, the company made the decision to move its headquarters to Lafayette in 2020 after purchasing Smart Choice Technologies in 2019, which had been founded by Casey Bienvenu when he was a student at the Carencro High Academy of Information Technology. Smart Choice Technologies’ focus was on the development of student registration and lottery system software similar to that of SchoolMint. Bryan said, “They were basically doing the same things SchoolMint was doing. What if we teamed up? Why build the same things twice when we could build it together right and make it amazing?”
During Bryan’s first visit to Lafayette, he was left with a highly positive impression, especially upon seeing the “World’s Happiest City” banner in the Lafayette airport. He thought, “even if it’s not actually the happiest city, this is still special.” Bryan also enjoyed other things about Lafayette, hearing that we were ‘festival-based, food-based, and people-based.” And while having a high-end fiberoptic system was important, that amenity is expected in today’s business world. It was the can-do, optimistic attitude prevalent in Lafayette that really caught his attention.
“What is unique about the LUS Fiber story isn’t so much the fiber itself but the fact that it was the first, it was the fastest, and that story is not unique to this area. The story goes back to the 1890s when Lafayette was interested in having electricity and they built it themself. No one else would bring power to Lafayette so they said, ‘How hard could it be to build our own power station?’ and they built it! I love that. I love that there’s an optimism here that you don’t see in a lot of places. It’s a can-do, optimistic attitude that is so refreshing. Everyone that visits here has the same impression.”
Lafayette is also an attractive place to locate a company’s headquarters for economic and quality-of-life reasons, especially one such as SchoolMint which was based in San Francisco. With San Francisco’s extremely high cost of living ($2000 to rent a garage apartment), it can be hard to compete with the salaries paid by Google and Apple to attract big talent. Plus, SchoolMint hires many educators and it was not critical that they be based in downtown San Francisco. Bryan reports that many tech companies are leaving San Francisco. Bryan personally relocated to Lafayette Parish in the fall of 2020 in the midst of Hurricanes Laura and Delta and laughingly recounts that he now owns the “ultimate Lafayette luxury,” a generator. Luckily he and SchoolMint are happily situated and with the COVID shutdown over, now able to get a taste of what Lafayette is like, including Mardi Gras parades, Rajun Cajun Baseball, and boudin.
Much credit was given by Bryan to city, parish, and state leadership who helped SchoolMint feel confident that moving to Lafayette was the right decision. LEDA hosted virtual job fairs for recruitment and also looked for office space, sending videos to SchoolMint during the middle of COVID when reps couldn’t fly here. LED’s FastStart program ensured that local people could be trained for particular positions. UL-Lafayette offered support as did Mayor-President Josh Guillory.
SchoolMint has experienced an increase in market share as COVID has caused an upheaval in the public school system. Parents now fully realize they have a choice in where to enroll their children. Even before COVID, 40% of parents had access to school choice and a full one-third of kids were not attending their neighborhood school. When COVID hit, all of a sudden kids were attending school virtually and parents realized they could sign up for any kind of educational program. For a lot of parents who never thought about alternative schools, suddenly there was a new reality.
SchoolMint now employs 225 people with 70 employees based in Lafayette. Bryan expects the number to grow to 100 in Lafayette by year-end. They will soon be announcing the locations of their new headquarters which will be in downtown Lafayette.
For more information on all of the services SchoolMint offers, please visit https://schoolmint.com/
We thank Bryan MacDonald for sharing his story and look forward to hearing of his company’s continued growth and prosperity!