Like other applications in the Centricity platform, the usage of Synergy is building organically as more and more teachers and students use it. We have some teachers who are early adopters who started using it soon after we went live. Then their students started asking their other teachers to use it. The evolution of usage of the applications has been really a grassroots build up, rather than an edict given out by the administration. I know that usage of Synergy will continue to grow as news of its value spreads among teachers and students.
The district uses the Assist service request system to track all technology work orders. Teachers and other staff members can use their network login via LDAP integration, so it is very easy for them to access Assist. They click on a drop box and then enter their work order. A workflow automatically routes their request to the IT staff. Then they are automatically kept updated on the request’s progress. For example, a teacher will receive a notice when his or her request to have a printer fixed has been received by the IT department, and later another notification when it is being worked on. Also, building principals have access to all work orders for their buildings so that they can prioritize requests. Previously, we used a home-grown, web-based Access database to track service orders.
The software also benefits the entire IT staff. The fact that it is web-based allows us to view the work orders from any building. Additionally, it saves me time with my staff because I have one central location to track everything and we can prioritize service requests across the district. It has been a great product and it is something that we use every day. In the future, Glassboro intends to use Assist for facilities work orders and transportation requests as well. We really like the fact that Assist was created specifically for the unique situations schools must manage. Already, Schoolwires has incorporated the functionality required by the State of New Jersey in 2010 for electronic work orders.
Stronger engagement with broader district community
The Centricity platform’s value extends well beyond the staff, students, and teachers of our district. It is also helping the district keep our parents and broader constituent base more informed and engaged. Prior to implementing Centricity, we had several individual school web sites that were managed by different staff members. Each page had a different look and feel. There was no standardized navigation or content, and often there were broken links. Our web sites were a presence but they had no real resources or value for anyone.
Development of the web sites and content management were done by several teachers who received stipends totaling $8,000 a year for their efforts. Although they did an adequate job, there was no uniformity. Also, content updating was sporadic. When I saw the Schoolwires platform and how easy it is for anyone to create a web site and post content, I immediately recognized its power to help connect our community and to bring 21st century teaching tools to the classroom.
Eventually, our administration and school board also saw the power and authorized the purchase of Centricity. Now we have made it possible for all 320 of our employees to be content providers. As a result, we constantly have fresh and updated content on our sites. Yet the look and feel and navigation are all consistent because all content providers are using the same standards and templates established by the district.
Our main district page provides a wealth of resources and information. Users can access our weekly Bulldog bulletin, the New Jersey State school report card, the superintendent’s web page, news and events, announcements, the district budget, and much more. They also can eMail their concerns and participate in surveys that ask for their input on important district discussions. Parents can log in to the Parents Page and view their child’s progress book, lunch menu, transportation information, and much more. We frequently refer parents to the web site for additional information on specific incidents. For example, we did a phone tree when we had a bomb scare at the middle school recently. When we made phone calls, we directed everyone to the web site for more information. In addition, each of our five schools has its own web site with information specific to events and activities at each building. The fresh and comprehensive content across all our sites brings parents and other visitors back to the site repeatedly, a fact that is confirmed by the data we track through our web analytics software.
The web site is effective not only because of its wealth of resources, but also because it is available 24/7. Most parents are not available to interact with the district during the school day. Instead, their interactions occur in the early morning or evening. They can go on the web site at their convenience and get the information they need, as well as electronically reach out to teachers and administrators. And now we are seeing the same increasing demand for new applications from our community that we have seen within the district. A parent will say, “My son’s teacher is posting photos from the classroom, why doesn’t my daughter’s teacher’s web site have that?”