Raising the Bar  
Intent on gaining a better understanding of its constituents and communicating with them, Bethlehem Central School District of Delmar, N.Y., has adopted a multi-pronged slant to parental engagement. According to Sal D’Angelo, chief technology and information officer for the 5,000-student district, the approach includes a website that’s regularly updated with pertinent information, a social media presence on Twitter and Facebook, and an Aspen SIS that includes a parent portal. Through this multi-faceted solution, the district has been able to stoke a “meaningful exchange of information regarding student grades, discipline, and attendance,” says D’Angelo.

“Roughly 90-95 percent of the information we distribute as a school district goes through our parent portal,” says D’Angelo, “whether that’s grades, report cards, assessment reports, or anything else that needs to be communicated with families.” When parents log onto the portal, they can access the information across multiple students, drill down to one single student, and then view the related teacher pages and other information. “Parents come right into their student’s world,” he says, noting the direct correlation between ease-of-use and utilization. “In a world where people have a variety of technical competencies, we really need to provide parents with easy-to-use, reliable communication options.”

To other districts looking to improve their own approaches to parental engagement, D’Angelo says a good first step is to survey parents on how they want to be communicated with. Then, look at how other schools and districts are successfully tackling the challenge and explore the current tech tools that are on the market. “Navigate the options and narrow them down to the tools that will work most effectively in your own environment,” says D’Angelo “all while focusing on reliability, simplicity, and ease of use.”

Bridget McCrea is a contributing writer for eSchool News.