Cathie Anderson

Folsom’s PowerSchool extends reach into half of U.S. schools with $850 million acquisition

PowerSchool, based in Folsom, had made an $850 million acquisition that extends the reach of its K-12 technology to half of all U.S. schools.
PowerSchool, based in Folsom, had made an $850 million acquisition that extends the reach of its K-12 technology to half of all U.S. schools. Don Reid - PowerSchool Group

The owner of Folsom-based PowerSchool announced Thursday that as part of an $850 million acquisition, it has extended the reach of PowerSchool’s K-12 technology systems into half of all schools in the United States.

Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm based in San Francisco, bought PowerSchool in 2015 for $350 million and now has made seven acquisitions to expand the capabilities of the company’s software suite. In the purchase announced Thursday, Vista Equity gained SunGard software programs that help government officials and school district administrators track and analyze data on payroll, assets, expenditures and other financial data.

Hardeep Gulati, who joined PowerSchool as CEO when Vista Equity acquired it, told me: “One of the things we get through SunGard is the entire back office, HR, finance and payroll. As you can imagine, that is very important for districts. That’s where all the teachers, the district officials and everybody gets paid. They’re tracking HR information. They’re tracking all the investments, finance and assets in the schools.”

While SunGard’s K-12 business will be integrated into PowerSchool, Vista Equity will spin SunGard’s public sector software business into a separate company. The privately held PowerSchool has not divulged how much it paid for each of the seven businesses acquired over the last 18 months, but Gulati said the Folsom company has invested $900 million overall to develop a comprehensive information system for K-12 schools

“This acquisition expands PowerSchool’s reach,” Gulati said. “We now touch every other school and child in North America. We got 8 million additional students on top of our 24 million students we already have. We are touching 32 million students now. If you look at our user population, in terms of the parents, teachers and administrators, we are touching 100 million users.”

When Gulati took the reins at PowerSchool 18 months ago, the company had a total of 450 employees. It now has 1,350-plus. About 650 of the new employees have joined PowerSchool after their companies were acquired, Gulati said, but roughly 250 others are new hires. That job growth hasn’t ended, Gulati said.

“If you look at our website, we have 50 to 100 positions open,” he said. “We’ve grown 250 percent in the last 18 months, so as you can imagine as you grow to that size, we’re having a bigger impact, and that is a big responsibility.”

With the acquisitions, PowerSchool has gained software programs that help with virtually every function needed at a school — student assessment, special education, enrollment, behavior management and now finance, Gulati said.

Those programs can be integrated with any company’s software offerings, he said, but PowerSchool has been developing a comprehensive platform that integrates all its software.

“One of our big announcements this summer will be a whole new unified classroom platform,” Gulati said. “Teachers will have one platform for attendance, grading, assignments – all in one experience. They won’t have to go to other screens to look for data or to add data. … We’re making a significant investment in this innovation.”

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee