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New School Web Site Debuts
If the old Web site for Verona’s public schools had been somebody’s homework, it would have gotten a solid “F”. There were rollover menus that never stayed rolled over, pages that had to be downloaded just to be viewed and if you ever had to find a teacher homepage to check for homework, you were in for a 10-minute trip to nowhere.
Somebody clearly learned the lessons of the old Web site because over the summer, Verona upgraded to a new site designed by a company called Schoolwires and funded entirely by a grant from the federal government. The landing page for the district flows seamlessly into pages for each of the six schools, the school calendar can be downloaded to your home calendar in whole or in part, and teacher pages are not only easy to find but display information in a relatively standardized format. The Web site is not finished yet, but when it is, it will be connected to a student information system that will let parents track their children’s grades as they happen.
“Ultimately, we won’t have to send home report cards and progress reports,” says Superintendent Charles Sampson. “It will all be in the system.”
In Schoolwires, Verona has gotten an experienced Web site partner. The Pennsylvania company has created school information systems for 1,000 districts across the country, giving it a foothold in some 5,000 individual schools. In our area, it is already in use in Livingston and Montville and Glen Ridge is in the process of switching over. The Schoolwires site is as easy for teachers to update as it is for parents to use, and it offers 24/7 tech support, which will save Verona from having to have a Web master to run a site that will contain much more information than its predecessor. The initial installation cost and first-year user fee of the Schoolwires site totaled $25,000, which was paid for by a stimulus fund grant from Washington. The yearly fee going forward is higher than that paid to the old vendor ($10,000 versus $6,000), but that cost will be mitigated by the fact that the new system automates so many administrative tasks.
In the very near future, parents will receive a log-in password that will let them subscribe to information from their children’s teachers about homework and other matters. The teachers will be able to see which parents have subscribed and which haven’t so they can use alternate means of communication if necessary. Sports and activities will have standardized Web pages that will all be accessible from the main site.
“The big goal,” says Sampson, “is to break down the barriers of information. Hopefully, we will grow the site in partnership with the parents.”
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