Archive for Thursday, September 23, 2004

District leaders encouraging switch to digital communication

September 23, 2004

In place of the nightly ritual of pilfering through students' backpacks, Eudora parents and caregivers may soon find logging onto the Internet is the best way to find out what's going at school. At least that's what local school leaders are hoping.
The schools took a first step toward a digital district Sept. 9 when the Eudora USD 491 Board of Education agreed to discontinue the quarterly district newsletter. Superintendent Marty Kobza said the real-time capabilities of the school Web site would disseminate information to parents more efficiently than the newsletter.
Moreover, he said production cost the district about $1,200 and took two days to fold and address. However, he said the newsletter was a good start for the district to communicate with parents.
"We didn't have anything before, and it was good," he said.
With that, the Board began asking the question of how to get parents to make that transition from paper to PCs.
Marge McElwee, the district's technology director, said the school's site was still under review to update information and correct errors. Kobza said school patrons had already been checking www.eudoraschools.org.
"It's under construction, and that's what people need to understand," Kobza said. "The structure is there, the outline is there. There's just some of it that's being updated because it was entered about a year ago."
He said personnel information was being updated and that a few pages were being added. In all, Kobza said the site was expected to have more than 500 pages of content. The Web site includes basic information about the district and its buildings, staff and organizations, and includes calendars of events.
McElwee said PowerSchool was being piloted during the first quarter, and Kobza said the system would be available to the rest of the district at the end of October. PowerSchool is a system that allows parents to view information like students' grades and attendance, as well as announcements and other such information. McElwee said eventually the district Web site would have a link to PowerSchool.
As PowerSchool became available to all parents during the second nine weeks, Kobza said the district would begin to publicize and inform users about the program.
The newsletter was great, but Kobza said communicating through computers would be even better. For instance, Kobza said parents could get on a listserve for various activities in which their children were involved.
For instance, parents of band students could get on a band listserve, meaning whenever the site was updated with information about band, parents would receive an e-mail of the updated information without even checking the site.
The district will also begin phasing out paper progress reports, Kobza said. But despite progress, Kobza said there were still kinks to work out, such as how parents would "sign" electronic progress reports.
With the school's Web site under construction, the Board discussed Sept. 9 how to encourage parents to log on rather than shuffling paper. Board member Mark Chrislip said it would take a lot to get parents and caregivers disciplined about checking up on schools on the Internet.
Another concern was whether all parents and caregivers would have access to school and student information via the Internet. A survey of local elementary school parents several years ago showed 93 percent had access to the Internet either at home or work, Kobza said. In addition to directing parents and caregivers to the Eudora Public Library, Kobza said one idea being considered was to set up computers in the district's attendance centers specifically for parents and caregivers to access PowerSchool and other information.

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