For the past two years, the Ventura Unified School District in California has used the web to transform the way it communicates both internally and externally. District personnel use a program from Trellix Software to create and update web pages quickly and easily with no prior web programming experience.

Ted Malos, technology director for the district, is the web administrator for Ventura’s extensive web site. When he arrived at the district four years ago, one of his first orders of business was to build a networked environment for its schools and a web site that was a valuable tool for staff, students, parents, and the community.

Malos originally built the school district web site in hypertext markup language (HTML), and as the workload grew, additional people were brought in to help make updates.

But when Malos went back to make changes himself, he discovered the HTML code had “taken on the personality” of the person working on it prior to him.

“I found myself debugging someone else’s work instead of putting up new content,” he recalled. Malos said the site also began to look different, because with HTML you are crafting every line—and the design is left completely in the hands of whoever is doing the programming.

After giving Microsoft FrontPage a shot and finding things to be not much better, Malos and the Ventura Unified School District turned to a ready-made package, Trellix Web.

The web site has exploded since Ventura started using the product, according to Malos. “We now have 45 schools and departments contributing content to our district web site. Thirty-eight of those people are using the Trellix software for their own projects, like master’s degree work for teachers trying to get professional development,” he said.

The Ventura schools’ web site is now a truly collaborative effort—without the pitfalls Malos previously had experienced. In fact, Malos has trained students, teachers, principals, and administrators to build additions to the site and make updates.

“By using [a web community-building solution], the barriers to site creation are so low that more people can contribute than before,” he said.

The district site even ties in with the local community. Ventura’s superintendent, Dr. Joseph P. Spirito, writes articles once a month for the local newspaper, which links to the district site.

Its web community-building tool “has helped the Ventura district web site become a community meeting place. People all around the community tend to use our site as their home page,” said Malos.

An intern completed the Board Policy section of the district’s site. The district’s street directory report, which uses Map Blast, was built by a group of high school students, including Malos’s daughter. Incorporating Map Blast lets site visitors build maps from wherever they are to the school they need to get to. Teachers have gotten into the act as well, building school pages that show the community what’s going on at their school.

“Our parents and other visitors see one, powerful site that does all these things,” Malos said.

All information that goes out over the district site is protected, Malos said, because the county server, which is kept very secure, maintains it all.

Malos also has built an extensive intranet using the product to help teachers select the best computer tools for their classrooms. Teachers can go the intranet for product descriptions, specifications, and prices. When they find what they want, they simply fill out an online purchase request form for Malos to review.

Trellix Web costs about $60 per copy, with an additional small fee for upgrades. “The software cost is distributed throughout the organization, and it’s really negligible. The real cost is the hands-on teacher training we provide,” said Malos.

The program additionally lets teachers use “container” pages to call up files in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Excel. So now, instead of using overhead projectors and the old acetate transparencies, teachers have begun using monitors and computers for their presentations.

Ventura’s next step is to use its web community-building tool make the very best lessons available to every teacher in the district over the network. “This way, you don’t lose the lesson plans when a teacher leaves the school or can’t find the disk,” Malos said. “You get more continuity from year to year.”