Just like thousands of other school districts across the country, Kentucky’s Newport Independent School District faces a constant battle with tight budgets. In Kentucky, district funding is determined solely by Average Daily Attendance (ADA). The more students who attend, the more state support the school district receives.

In just one year, Newport–a district of 2,200 students–managed to increase its ADA from 93.6 percent in the 2004-2005 school year to 95.1 percent the following year. This 1.5 percent increase in attendance generated $80,000 in additional state funding for the district, the equivalent of two teacher salaries.

Behind this dramatic improvement is a service designed to help schools alert parents about emergencies, schedule changes, and other events, which the district applied to increasing student attendance.

Honeywell Instant Alert for Schools, used by nearly 850 schools across the nation, quickly sends messages through a web-based interface or by phone to parents’ home phones, cell phones, eMail accounts, and personal digital assistants (PDAs) to notify them of events ranging from weather delays to school closures and emergencies.

Most districts still use calling trees to reach parents one by one. Instant Alert, by contrast, can reach thousands of parents simultaneously. Administrators also can develop an unlimited number of groups, including sports teams, clubs, bus routes, committees, and parent organizations, and send customized messages to them. When parents register for the service, they specify how they want to be reached in each type of situation–for example, cell phone for a weather delay, or eMail and cell phone for an emergency.

For Newport, a district consisting of three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school, the ability to broadcast important messages to parents is an added bonus. The most significant benefit to using Instant Alert is the day-to-day resources and staff time the district has saved in its efforts to confirm student absences throughout all five buildings. “In a 2,200-student district, if five percent of students are out, that’s 110 students,” said Bill Shamblin, director of communications for Newport Independent School District. “It would take five minutes to contact each parent by phone, equaling 550 minutes or eight to 10 hours of administrative time per day.” And this is a conservative estimate.

Of course, not every parent answers the phone, and not everyone has voice mail. Further compounding the problem, administrators don’t have time to continually follow up with parents. “We can’t keep making calls,” said Mark Goetz, director of pupil personnel for the district. “But with Instant Alert, we know parents received our message in the manner they asked to receive it.” In the past, it would have been impossible to have the same reach. But after receiving a message, many parents now call back, realizing they forgot to notify the school of an absence. In cases where students are simply skipping class, however, the school is able to get a jump-start in trying to locate them. Another benefit: Most students now realize their attendance is closely monitored, and word of their absences can quickly find its way to their parents and guardians.

By using Instant Alert to combat absenteeism, Newport has posted its highest attendance rate in 50 years (95.1 percent). And the goal moving forward is 96 percent attendance, two percentage points above the exceptional mark for a school district of Newport’s size and location. “This record is one large step in making Newport the finest small-urban district in the country,” said Michael Brandt, superintendent of the Newport Independent School District. “As the first school [system] in Kentucky to use this system, we are ahead of the game in curbing a never-ending problem schools face.”

As a result of the increased funding earned with its higher ADA, Newport now has one more administrator devoting time to students and focusing on performance issues, and more students are in class learning.

Seeing the value in the service prompted the district to sign a three-year contract halfway through the first year of its trial. Newport generated enough extra funding to more than offset the cost of the service. “The return-on-investment has been outstanding, and our attendance records put us in competition with suburban school districts,” Shamblin said. “More importantly, there are more students in class and, as a result, those students are more likely to move on to higher education.”

The district also is using the service for reasons beyond attendance. Since signing its contract in 2004, Newport has sent alerts to notify parents and staff of orientations, cancelled sports practices, power outages, and so on.

Additionally, the district uses Instant Alert for recruiting purposes. Parents considering Newport schools are impressed by the technology and comforted to know that the district offers a nearly foolproof means to ensure they are contacted quickly through multiple channels on any urgent matter pertaining to their children. This is especially important for parents with preschoolers and kindergartners who are new to the school routine. As a result of its efforts, Newport has managed to increase preschool enrollment by 50 percent over the past two years. This year, Newport is focused on making sure every parent is registered for the service to help increase the attendance record and meet its new goal. The district will proactively sign parents up through training sessions at public libraries and PTA meetings and is producing an educational video to air on the public-access television channel. With all of its benefits, Instant Alert is bringing peace of mind to more people than parents and guardians. School officials also are more at ease. “There is a peace in knowing that our students are in class and getting the education they deserve,” Brandt said. “In our case, every day we have 22 more students in class, which is 22 more students receiving an education. To me, it’s the clearest measure of the success in utilizing this system.” Links:

Newport Independent School District
http://www.newport.k12.ky.us

Honeywell Instant Alert for Schools
http://www.honeywell.com/instantalert

By using Instant Alert to combat absenteeism, Newport has posted its highest attendance rate in 50 years (95.1 percent). And the goal moving forward is 96 percent attendance, two percentage points above the exceptional mark for a school district of Newport’s size and location. “This record is one large step in making Newport the finest small-urban district in the country,” said Michael Brandt, superintendent of the Newport Independent School District. “As the first school [system] in Kentucky to use this system, we are ahead of the game in curbing a never-ending problem schools face.”

As a result of the increased funding earned with its higher ADA, Newport now has one more administrator devoting time to students and focusing on performance issues, and more students are in class learning.

Seeing the value in the service prompted the district to sign a three-year contract halfway through the first year of its trial. Newport generated enough extra funding to more than offset the cost of the service. “The return-on-investment has been outstanding, and our attendance records put us in competition with suburban school districts,” Shamblin said. “More importantly, there are more students in class and, as a result, those students are more likely to move on to higher education.”

The district also is using the service for reasons beyond attendance. Since signing its contract in 2004, Newport has sent alerts to notify parents and staff of orientations, cancelled sports practices, power outages, and so on.

Additionally, the district uses Instant Alert for recruiting purposes. Parents considering Newport schools are impressed by the technology and comforted to know that the district offers a nearly foolproof means to ensure they are contacted quickly through multiple channels on any urgent matter pertaining to their children. This is especially important for parents with preschoolers and kindergartners who are new to the school routine. As a result of its efforts, Newport has managed to increase preschool enrollment by 50 percent over the past two years. This year, Newport is focused on making sure every parent is registered for the service to help increase the attendance record and meet its new goal. The district will proactively sign parents up through training sessions at public libraries and PTA meetings and is producing an educational video to air on the public-access television channel. With all of its benefits, Instant Alert is bringing peace of mind to more people than parents and guardians. School officials also are more at ease. “There is a peace in knowing that our students are in class and getting the education they deserve,” Brandt said. “In our case, every day we have 22 more students in class, which is 22 more students receiving an education. To me, it’s the clearest measure of the success in utilizing this system.” Links:

Newport Independent School District
http://www.newport.k12.ky.us

Honeywell Instant Alert for Schools
http://www.honeywell.com/instantalert

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