SCHOOLREACH CHOSEN AS PREFRERRED PROVIDER OF PARENTAL NOTIFICATION SERVICES BY MINNESOTA ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS

ST. LOUIS, MO., July 1, 2009SchoolReach, one of the fastest-growing parent notification services used by public, private and parochial schools in the United States, announced today that it has entered into a partnership agreement with the Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA).  Through this alliance, the SchoolReach system will be made available to MASA member schools at an exclusive discount.  A state-chartered association of the American Association of School Administrators, MASA is the leading advocacy organization for school administrators in the state of Minnesota.

 

“Making this quality service available to our membership means school administrators will have the tools they need to foster a greater collaboration between school and home,” said Dr. Charles Kyte, executive director of MASA.   “We believe this comprehensive parental notification system will exponentially expand schools’ ability to provide the kind of information parents have come to need and expect at a moment’s notice – any hour or day of the week.”

 

With its simple, three-step ‘Record-Select-Send’ instant messaging process, SchoolReach allows administrators to record a brief message, select a specific list of parents, teachers, district staff, or community members to whom the message can be sent, and deliver those messages simultaneously via voice, email, or text messaging. 

 

The SchoolReach system is web-based, requiring no additional hardware or phone lines for schools to install.  It also offers customizable features, giving administrators the ability to automate absentee notices, make multi-language recordings, and launch phone-delivered parent polls and surveys.

 

SchoolReach also includes robust reports detailing call data, such as which contacts received the message, who listened to the entire message and when the message was sent to an answering machine.  Replacing older forms of communication, such as phone trees and sending notes home with students, the system allows for beneficial and up-to-the-minute distribution of essential information including attendance tracking, weather and schedule changes, community outreach, rumor control, and emergency notification.

 

“This alliance represents a significant step in our strategy to provide an amazing communications tool to all Minnesota school administrators,” said Paul Langhorst, co-founder and vice president of operations at GroupCast, SchoolReach’s parent company.  “SchoolReach is committed to helping MASA members dramatically improve the way they manage parent communications efforts –with every call.”

 

For more information about the program, please visit www.schoolreach.com.

 

ABOUT GROUPCAST AND SCHOOLREACH 

GroupCast is a St. Louis-based instant messaging notification service, delivering automated messages via three platforms: voice, email, and text messaging.  SchoolReach, a subsidiary of GroupCast, is the nation’s leading parent notification service among private schools, and the fastest-growing communications service used by public schools.  More information about GroupCast or SchoolReach can be found at www.groupcast.com and www.schoolreach.com or by calling 800-420-1479.

 

ABOUT Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA)

The Minnesota Association of School Administrators is a professional organization whose mission is to establish the statewide agenda for children, serve as the preeminent voice for public education, and empower members through quality services and support. MASA members are school superintendents, directors of special education, other central office school administrators, regional administrators, and higher education administrators and professors from throughout Minnesota.

 

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Media Contacts:

Charlotte Andrist @ 770-578-8007 or Charlotte@EicherCommunications.com

Leslie Eicher @ 314-965-1776 or Leslie@EicherCommunications.com

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Blind Mountain Climber Erik Weihenmayer and Actor-Director Eric Close Show Teachers How to Inspire Adventure in the Classroom, Using Verizon’s Thinkfinity.org

WASHINGTONBlind mountain climber, adventurer and author Erik Weihenmayer teamed with actor-director Eric Close of the CBS series “Without A Trace” on Tuesday (June 30) to demonstrate how bringing a sense of adventure to the classroom can inspire and engage students to reach their full potential.
Titled “Inspiring the Inner Explorer: Creating a Spirit of Adventure in the Classroom,” the session at the 2009 National Educational Computing Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center here was hosted by the Verizon Foundation.
Weihenmayer, a former teacher, and Close appeared together for the first time in this new initiative, which pairs principles of adventure sports with practical tools like Verizon’s Thinkfinity.org, to help teachers move beyond the textbook when teaching. Weihenmayer put that concept into action by inviting Close and several teachers from the audience to take part in a rope team exercise to demonstrate the importance of teamwork on the mountain and in the classroom.
“I would not have reached any of those summits without the right tools or the right team,” Weihenmayer told the teachers. “In this time, when you as teachers are expected to do more with less, and the mandate for student achievement is greater than ever, I hope you will leverage Thinkfinity.org as one of the tools that can help you reach the summit in your classroom.”
Thinkfinity.org is the Verizon Foundation’s free, comprehensive Web site that contains thousands of educational resources including K-12 lesson plans, online educational activities, videos and other materials to enhance teacher effectiveness and improve student achievement.
In addition to the demonstration, the Verizon Foundation unveiled a new feature on Thinkfinity.org that includes a collection of free educational resources designed to inspire adventure and curiosity in the classroom.
Among the resources included in the Thinkfinity.org adventure feature are:
· Blind Mountain Climber on Summiting Everest — In the fifty years since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay first saw the view from the top of Mount Everest, thousands have tried to reach that lofty vantage point. In this question-and-answer session with Weihenmayer, the only blind person to ever stand on Everest’s peak, National Geographic offers a first-hand account of the brutal cold, savage winds and crushing fatigue at 29,000 feet (8,840 meters). http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/07/0730_030730_everest.html
· Blast Off to Learn New Words — This lesson plan from the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association’s Readwritethink.org, will take students on a virtual trip to the moon to help children become excited about reading and develop new vocabulary skills. For grades K-2. http://www.readwritethink.org/beyondtheclassroom/summer/gradesK_2/NewWords/

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Schoolwires Offers Turnkey Suite of Solutions At Unprecedented Pricing to Help Districts Weather Tough Economic Times

State College, PA July 1, 2009Schoolwires is offering significant savings on its premier suite of solutions and services designed to help districts realize the value of the strongest, safest and most effective website and community management solutions, the company announced today. Schoolwires is one of the nation’s leading providers of strategic online solutions for building stronger school communities, more effective schools and greater student success.

 
The 2009 Value Bundle is a specially-priced solution suite that includes the industry-leading Schoolwires platform being used by more than 1,000 districts to help engage students through online resources, empower teachers through online classroom collaboration tools, and inform community members through dynamic web content. Integrated within the Schoolwires platform is a digital file sharing solution that is designed to increase opportunities for collaboration within and beyond the classroom as well as a service request management solution that is designed to ease the process of requesting and tracking service requests across the district. The specially-priced suite also includes a flexible package of professional services credits for districts to use as they choose to meet their unique professional development needs.
 
Natomas Unified School District (USD) in California purchased the complete turnkey suite of Schoolwires solutions to meet the communication and collaboration needs of its large district population of 12,175 students. “We have seen tremendous value already, in part because Schoolwires offers optimal pricing for the full suite, but also due to the faster adoption and flexibility that comes with this comprehensive, easy-to-use solution,” said Joe Jenkins, chief technology officer at Natomas USD. “Since we implemented the Schoolwires suite, Natomas has increased and enhanced its communications capabilities significantly, and adoption has skyrocketed due to ease of access of all applications across the platform.  Licensing this specially-priced suite is the most cost-effective, sustainable and smart approach, even if a district does not have immediate plans to implement the entire suite immediately.”
 
Schoolwires understands that budgets are tight and dollars need to be stretched.  By providing this robust solutions suite with favorable pricing—the 2009 Value Bundle—we hope to make it easier and more affordable for districts to connect with their communities. Because of the economic times we are facing, getting more connected  is a strategic imperative for every superintendent who believes community and parental involvement is key to the district’s success,” said Edward S. Marflak, founder and CEO of Schoolwires.
 
To read an in-depth case study of the Schoolwires implementation at Natomas Unified School District, visit http://www.schoolwires.com/corporate/lib/corporate/Campaigns/2009/Why_Schoolwires_052209/SWJenkins_CaseStudy_0509.pdf
About Schoolwires, Inc.
Schoolwires Inc.
(www.schoolwires.com) is headquartered in Pennsylvania, USA. The companyprovides strategic online communication, community-management and productivity solutions to the K-12 education market. The company’s core product is CentricityTM, which brings together robust and flexible website management, community management and web 2.0/social network capabilities in a single, user-centric solution. Schoolwires also delivers Schoolwires Synergy™, a digital file sharing solution, Schoolwires Assist™, a service request solution, and Schoolwires Share, an exclusive online client community and support center.

Schoolwires is recognized in the Inc. 500 List as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation. The company’s on-demand solutions are deployed at nearly 5,000 schools serving nearly five million students, parents, teachers and administrators throughout North America.

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Study: Students want more online learning

Despite a growing interest in online learning among students, the availability of online classes in K-12 schools and districts hasn’t kept pace with the demand, according to a new report from Project Tomorrow and Blackboard Inc.

According to the report, more than 40 percent of sixth through 12th graders have researched or demonstrated interest in taking a course online, but only 10 percent have actually taken an online course through their school. Meanwhile, 7 percent of middle school students and 4 percent of high school students instead have pursued opportunities outside their school to take online courses–underscoring the disconnect between the supply and demand for online learning in today’s schools.

What’s more, a majority of school principals, 58 percent, say the online classes currently offered in their districts are primarily for teachers; just 31 percent say the classes are primarily for students. Additionally, while a third of teachers have taken an online course for professional development–a 57-percent increase from 2007–only 3 percent of teachers say they’ve taught a class online, a number that has not changed in three years. Just 13 percent of teachers say they’re interested in teaching online, a considerable mismatch with the growing student desire to learn online.

The findings are included in the report “Learning in the 21st Century: 2009 Trends Update,” which offers a further analysis of data from Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up initiative, an annual survey that has collected and reported on the views of more than 335,000 K-12 students, parents, and educators in the United States about online education and 21st-century learning.

“While many of our nation’s K-12 schools clearly recognize the advantages of online learning and instruction in teacher professional development, there remains a lag in utilizing this technology for student achievement,” said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow. “Educators must embrace these emerging technologies to enhance student learning and fully prepare today’s students for future success.”

School administrators cited funding and teacher preparation as key barriers to offering expanded access to online courses, with 22 percent reporting that online learning was not a funding priority in their district. Some administrators said their teachers are not comfortable using the tools (18 percent) or teaching online (17 percent), are reluctant to try (14 percent), or their school does not have the expertise to create online courses (14 percent).

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Microsoft tests free security software

In a move that could help keep higher-education campus networks safe, Microsoft Corp. released a beta test of a free computer security program on June 23 and is on track to launch a finished product in the fall.

The program, Microsoft Security Essentials, is designed to find and eliminate malicious software that can steal passwords and other personal information or turn PCs into spam distribution hubs. The beta test was launched in the U.S., Israel, and Brazil in English and Brazilian Portuguese.

"There are many [high-]quality security products to choose from, both free and subscription-based–however, cost and performance barriers prevent many consumers from using up-to-date security software to protect their PCs," Microsoft states on its web site.

Microsoft Security Essentials is designed for individual consumers, not enterprise users. However, Microsoft continues to offer security solutions for businesses and schools with the Forefront line of products as part of its Business Ready Security strategy, a Microsoft representative said.

Once the PC security software is installed, Microsoft said it will download updated lists of identified malware daily, but the program will keep a low profile unless it detects dangerous software.

Theresa Burch, a director on the security software team, said the program tries to spot malicious software even if it’s not on the list of known corrupters. When it encounters something suspicious, it checks with a Microsoft server for updated intelligence before allowing the program to run, a process Burch said is almost instantaneous.

Microsoft also maintains a database of trusted software sources, so the tool won’t accidentally block items like Google Inc.’s web browser toolbar, she said.

Security Essentials will compete with rival subscription-based programs from McAfee Inc. and Symantec Corp., and with several other free packages.

Tracy Stewart, vice president of information technology for Regent University, said Security Essentials will be a welcome addition to the things already being done on campus to ensure that a school’s public networks are staying safe.

The security software will come as a free download, but it won’t be part of Microsoft’s new Windows 7 operating system, which is scheduled to go on sale in October. Bundling the two could be fodder for antitrust complaints.

That means students whose machines are connected to a campus network must download the software themselves. Microsoft is encouraging users to download the software by offering it free of charge, and school leaders also could point their students to this tool.

After the final version launches, Microsoft will discontinue its existing security program, the more robust $50 Windows Live OneCare.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Links:

Microsoft Security Essentials

Forefront line of products

Business Ready Security strategy

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