Why are school notification providers now offering anonymous reporting?
By: clientadmin | October 26th, 2012 | No Comments »
By Paul Langhorst
In recent months almost all of the major school notification providers have rolled out or acquired the ability to support some form of anonymous reporting or “tip line” solution. Why is this?
Well, we are either all right, or all wrong.
At SchoolReach we saw the need for some form of anonymous reporting early on and were the first parent notification provider to extend an anonymous reporting solution. Now most of our competitors do, and I suspect if one does not, they are quickly cobbling together an offering or looking at an acquisition.
I think we are “all right” in our market evaluation and development efforts. The need for some form of reliable anonymous reporting, within the K-12 environment is strong and growing. Like our CyberBully Hotline program, the new forms of anonymous reporting are text and web-based and are designed to be compatible with how students communicate and to meet students where they live, which is on their mobile phones and on line. Many of the bad behaviors today, happen online, so its natural that there be some form of online reporting.
In our bullying hotline implementation case study, based on the Wentzville, MO School District’s (WSD) adoption of the CyberBully Hotline, we show that implementation of an anonymous reporting process satisfied multiple goals: improving communications with students, bolstering bullying prevention efforts, and tighter compliance with state laws. Interestingly, one of the very first reports that WSD received, was not from a student, but from a parent new to the district. The parent used the WSD’s CyberBully Hotline to report an incident that had happened to her child on the bus that morning.
This is evidence that a centralized hotline can provide a valuable service to the school community. A program like the CyberBully Hotline strips away all the confusion and work required to find “the right person” to report a bullying or other harassment incident. In the case of new parents, the service is that much more valuable because new parents may not have developed the knowledge base on who to call for what.
Lastly, we know schools like to buy from vendors they trust. Therefore it makes complete sense that a company that has an established relationship with a school/district and specializes in mass notification, should also offer a very targeted notification solution for anonymous reporting. In the case of SchoolReach, we are proud to report that we saw this connection early and were leading our industry with our technology and foresight.
Lockdown Best Practices Helps St. Aloysius Respond to Stranger Danger
By: clientadmin | October 16th, 2012 | No Comments »
Our recent Lockdown Communication Best Practices webinar was attended by hundreds of school administrators across the country. One of the attendees, Principal Jean Kennedy of St. Aloysius School in Springfield, IL, had no idea that she would be called upon to use her new lockdown response skills so quickly. Here’s Jean’s story:
I wanted to share that your information from this webinar really helped us last week! I had just reviewed all of the information sent to me after the webinar, and (on the following Thursday) we had a strange car driving around and on our campus very slowly. The passenger was videotaping. I was able to pull out your suggested SchoolReach Messages and adapt them to let our parents know that we were locked down and why, and then do a follow up call on Friday to let them know that the person had been apprehended and all was well. I really appreciate the webinar and the information. I am not sure it would have dawned on me to use SchoolReach for this purpose before the webinar. Thank you so much! Jean
The materials from the Lockdown Response & Communications Best Practices webinar included sample messages derived from actual lockdown events. Jean was able save time during a stressful situation by creating her own message using the template messages we provided.
We have had many many requests for a rerun of the Lockdown Response and Communication Best Practices webinar, and we are pleased to offer an archived version here. Gary Sigrist, Jr. was our guest speaker, and the webinar received high marks from our attendees.
Jean, we are so happy to hear that our lockdown communication materials were of assistance and that the “stranger danger” situation was peacefully and proactively resolved.
Way to go Jean and St. Aloysius!!
School Notification Programs Reach Disengaged Parents
By: Paul Langhorst | August 23rd, 2011 | No Comments »
Reaching out to disengaged parents can be made easier by use of a school notification program. A school notification program utilizes broadcast phone, email and text messaging to reach parents with timely information.
From my discussion with our customers, I have learned that parents tend to fall into three categories – engaged, somewhat engaged and seldom engaged.
School principals know who their engaged parents are -they are the ones who consistently show up for meetings, volunteer their time, submit forms when asked and are always about. These folks, you know by name when you see them. The somewhat engaged are those that infrequently attend functions, and respond to requests but typically late. They volunteer and attend meetings occasionally; you probably recognize them as school parents, but may not know their names. The seldom engaged are those that never show up for meetings, never volunteer, and are habitually late with forms and fulfilling information requests.
To be effective your communication strategies for these groups must be different and to segment your communications to each you will need to segment your parent population. To do this you will need to compile or amend your parent directory with an engagement indicator – like Active, Moderate, Inactive. Once you have done this, you are set to use a targeted communication approach. This is how businesses work their customer lists; much can be learned from business marketing because we are all consumers of something.
Engaged/active parents will respond to just about anything you do. They are well organized and motivated and take time to mark their calendars to attend or respond as requested. All they need is the information and they do the rest. So, for them you can send information well in advance via newsletter, website or email and use of your school notification system will work great with this group. Typically, the more contact the better, because they want to know what’s going on.
Seldom or moderately engaged parents will respond best to reminders and information sent the day of or night before the need. This is where the school notification system works its magic. Use a personally recorded phone broadcast to motivate this group to engage and respond. Be friendly and upbeat in your message and point out how their support helps improve their student achievement. Often members of this group have very hectic schedules or poor organizational skills; the last minute reminder will help them focus and respond quickly. Also, try having multiple sessions of meetings to meet varied schedules of this group.
According to John Wherry, President of the Parent Institute, in his article Engagement Ideas for Disengaged Parents, the best way to reach this group is through personal phone calls. Automated phone call and emails will likely go unheeded and you may find that they do not have email service and frequently changing phone numbers. Reaching out to them personally will increase their response and uncover these issues. Try offering free meals or other incentives to bring in this group. This is where segmenting your parent list pays off; use the parent notification system on the first two groups and personal calls on the last. In addition, use volunteers from the Engaged group to help reach out to the Disengaged. They may love the challenge!
School Website Management Solution Now Available from SchoolReach
By: Paul Langhorst | August 4th, 2011 | No Comments »
School website management is a very challenging task for most school administrators, just as it is for our company. The school website is not a static page, it must be continually updated and maintained to reflect the current school environment, programs, events, themes, and must convey a professional, engaging image. OK, who has time, skills and the resources for that?
As we talk with our clients we constantly hear stories of how a parent has volunteered to run the school website, or an already overworked teacher, IT director or staff person has been assigned to the task. Many sites are created as standalone programs that are difficult to update, so they get a dressing at the outset of the school year and then are rarely updated in between – except for calendar events.
School websites are vitally important to attracting students and engaging parents and your community. They must be continually updated and managed. To help our clients solve this problem SchoolReach has announced a partnership with School Webmasters, LLC. This firm specializes in K12 website design, management, copy writing, image building, school PR and much more. Unlike many school website providers who sell template sites which then must be maintained by school/district personnel, School Webmasters builds a unique site for your organization and then takes on the task of maintaining it. All you need to do is submit information regarding news, events, etc that you want to see added/changed and they take care of the rest. If you can send an email, you can now update your website. Thus, anyone and many individuals at a school/district can be involved in the website management process – all with no training or special skills.
School Webmaster sites are beautiful (see their portfolio here), filled with engaging images, well written content and follow industry leading best practices for page layout and design. To learn more about School Webmasters visit them today at www.schoolwebmasters.com.
Just spend some time on School Webmasters site, and you’ll see why they are the right fit to create and manage your school website.
Reducing Negative School Lunch Balances
By: Paul Langhorst | July 13th, 2011 | No Comments »
As the school year rolled to a close many administrators were left holding the bag – the lunch bag that is, faced with eating the cost of hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands in negative lunch balance fees. Did these students go hungry? No, many were allowed to continue to purchase lunch items or were given alternative meals, such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the school expense.
Some districts have turned to collection agencies to collect negative balances, while others, pardon the pun…just eat them.
The solution to minimizing negative balances is sending a timely notification to the parents/guardians informing them that their student’s lunch account is low or negative. Many districts and schools send letters and emails, but these often go unheeded or get lost in transit. The best solution is to place a phone call to parents in the evening while they are home on a school night. Upon receipt of such notice the parent is in a position to hop on line, write a check or pull out some cash to make a payment.
But with potentially hundreds of offenders, how does one make those calls? The answer is a broadcast parent notification system like SchoolReach. These systems can be interfaced with your lunch balance tracking system to trigger an automated call to a parent as soon as a student’s balance reaches a threshold level.
The process offered by SchoolReach is called EZ Lunch Balance and it can work wonders on reducing lunch balance debt. Many of our clients have all but eliminated their negative lunch balance issues all but for a few hard core repeat offenders. No one wants a child to go hungry, so the balances are often quickly brought current upon receipt of a timely notification.
So if your district is looking to save money or reduce losses, look into improving your negative lunch balance notification process. The results can be mouthwatering!