POTTSTOWN PA – Two technology features designed to make easier the chores endured by Pottsgrove School District parents won high praise Tuesday (Aug. 12 2014) from members of the Board of School Directors. Some said they used both Pottsgrove’s student registration package and its new School Messenger communications program, and marveled at how well they worked.
School board member Dee Gallion during Tuesday’s meeting
Completing a student’s first-day packet turned out to be “the simplest thing,” board member Rick Rabinowitz said, and School Messenger was “fabulous,” his colleague Dee Gallion added. Both, they claimed, represented big advances in the way parents supply information required by the district, and how they learn about what’s happening at their children’s buildings.
The start of the 2014-2015 academic year is Pottsgrove’s third opportunity to substitute digital forms at its online parents’ portal for what once was a heavy envelope of paperwork that needed to be filled in by hand for each child. In large families with several children, the repetitive process often took hours.
Rabinowitz reported his work was whittled down to about five minutes. Electronic forms he completed last year automatically transferred all relevant information to this year’s set; he said needed only to make minor corrections in a limited number of fields, and those were due primarily to insurance coverage changes.
The process seemed flawless, Rabinowitz pronounced. That couldn’t be said of the past two years, when online forms still presented a few glitches. Using the packet “was just the greatest improvement” over previous attempts, he told administrators, and singled out Technology and Communications Director Michael Wagman and his department for their efforts.
School Messenger is being introduced this year to replace what parents complained was an earlier hit-or-miss method of notifying them about school delays and closings, building emergencies and lock-downs, and upcoming events.
Messenger, which meshes with other Pottsgrove technology already in use, gives the district the ability “to prepare personalized and timely messages in any language, delivered through voice, SMS text, e-mail, social media or a website post,” according to the manufacturer. The board in June agreed to pay an $1,800 premium over last year’s messaging costs to obtain the new program.
Gallion considered it worth every penny. She’s received several communications tests already, in the manner she specified, “and I was pleasantly surprised,” she told the board. “It’s a huge improvement.”
School principals received a demonstration of Messenger’s features and operation during a Monday (Aug. 11) workshop, Superintendent Shellie Feola said. “They were excited by the reliability,” she said, and added, “which on snow days means you’ll actually be able to hear from us.”
Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Aug. 12 meeting):