Discover what smart strategies, solutions and practices you can be implementing to prepare your IT infrastructure for the inevitable technological changes coming to your campus.
In a Washington school district, the school board established a priority of communicating effectively with the community. At the same time, Kent School District lost half of its Web team members to major budget reductions.
As a result, the district re-evaluated its Web strategy and launched a new cloud-based website in 2010 that earned a Best of the Web Award from the Center for Digital Education last week.
"It was partly survival and partly focused on making sure that we were doing things as efficiently as we possibly could while we worked to engage our community in all the big changes that we had scheduled ahead," said Thuan Nguyen, chief information and operations officer.
Before the budget reductions, a large Web team spent a lot of time creating and maintaining a sophisticated in-house Web infrastructure that had multiple Web servers, app servers and load balancers to manage everything.
With the new site, the smaller Web team could focus on creating custom applications for specific needs like community surveys and online payment systems, said Noemi Flores, the Web and applications manager. The site uses a combination of custom applications, a content management system Centricity and a video streaming platform EduVision.
"We try to stay on the cutting edge when it comes to technology adoption," Nguyen said. "The budget reduction process forced us to look at problems differently as we looked for new solutions."
By approaching the problem differently, the district provides a better website in a less expensive way. And the new platforms are easy enough that anyone at the school level could update information.
And throughout the design process, the Web team looked at the best websites in the country, talked with districts about important elements of websites, and asked for community and staff feedback on several templates and designs.
On this site, a few developers design community surveys which, for example, ask the community to help prioritize budget reduction items. And the superintendent and other district staff create videos like one where the superintendent and chief financial officer explained every component of the budget.
In July, the last 28 school sites out of 40 went live. And this year, Flores' team will work with the schools to make the locations of common information on the site consistent across the district. That way, parents who have students in multiple schools or who move around a lot can find mission statements and contact lists in the same place on each website, Flores said.
"If we can create that standardized location of information, I think we're going to greatly improve our communications going forward."
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