Tuesday, July 24, 2012

NEWS BLOG: Rochester district's website gets a new look

Posted By on Tue, Jul 24, 2012 at 9:14 AM

The Rochester school district has an unenviable communications challenge

The Rochester school district has an unenviable communications challenge. School officials have a slew of audiences, many with different needs and interests. And the district's website hasn't been a particularly helpful communications tool.

But the website has been given a much needed makeover. The site isn't entirely new - many of the features are the same -but it's fresh, upbeat, and much easier to read and navigate. The site moves some of the district's more pressing concerns about programs and events to the center of the home page: registering your child for school or signing up for ParentConnectxp, for instance. The latter gives parents access to an online system that tracks students' daily performance.

School board and special meetings are clearly posted on the left side of the home page, with quick links on the right. Social media links are more prominently featured at the top of the page. And the site can be converted from English to a number of different languages.

But there are still some things about the site that are clumsy. It's not easy, for instance, to search for a board policy. And the site uses almost half the home page for a photo that has no caption and doesn't tell us anything. With so many schools, students, and teachers, there should be a new photo and something to report every day.

But a bigger missed opportunity is the absence of any commentary or discussion with Superintendent Bolgen Vargas or school board members. The site could be much more dynamic if school officials used it to talk to parents and students about important issues, such as attendance, summer reading, and new developments in education.

Local college leaders are doing a much better job at this. District officials, however, have been slow to use the website. Their correspondence is mainly behind the scenes with each other. A daily or weekly blog from the superintendent and a more interactive school board page might help to build something officials say they need: a more engaged community.

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