Many school districts are taking advantage of the internet’s reach to step up their community relations and public engagement initiatives. With the help of Family Education Network (http://www.familyeducation.com), the Plainfield School District in New Jersey has been engaged in such web-based efforts since 1996, when FEN was first establishing its services.

The district had important questions to answer to get its web efforts off the ground, primarily regarding the content being provided. What kind of information does the public want, and should it be provided by the district or through links to outside resources? Who should maintain the information and keep it “fresh?”

The district decided content would be best provided not by a technology-geared employee, but by teachers, staff, and PTA members. With a core of volunteers in place, and with training provided by FEN as part of its free package for schools, the district now provides information to the public for each of its 13 schools. The result is that the community now has access to information regarding curriculum, student achievement, and community involvement opportunities, as well as phone numbers and eMail addresses for staff members.

Quantitative results have been evident, too. When it was first launched, the web site drew 2,000 visits a month. It now averages around 5,000 hits a month.