The Oregon City Schools district, in an effort to save money and improve communication, has recently implemented Power Announcement, an automated communication tool which allows parents to choose how they want to be contacted for various types of district communications.
Parents can choose to be contacted via text message, e-mail and/or phone (cell or home) for emergency notifications, student bulletins, attendance notifications, school cancellation messages, and general messages. Power Announcement is tied directly to the PowerSchool parent portal, which can be accessed via the district’s website at http://www.oregoncityschools.org
The district believes it will improve communication by allowing the parent to choose which modes of communication are most convenient, according to Nathan Quigg, technology coordinator with the district.
Traditional ways of communicating with parents are becoming outdated and less effective, said Quigg. As a result, the district is using social media to connect with the community. The public can “like” Oregon City Schools on Facebook and follow @ClayHS on Twitter.
“The new Power Announcement allows parents to decide how they want to be contacted. If there is school cancellation because of the weather, they can choose to be contacted by phone, or for general messages they may just want an e-mail,” said Quigg. So they have full control to decide how to be contacted. They don’t have control if it’s an emergency. If there were, we would send out an e-mail, text, phone message – we send everything.”
The district is simultaneously cutting costs and improving communications, he said. Power Announcement replaces the old automated attendance calling system at roughly half the cost while the social media outlets are free. The district is also scaling back printed communications to reduce printing costs and postage.
“As part of this cost reduction strategy, the district will continue its transition to electronic grade cards. Schools have to change with the times to make sure we are effectively sharing information in ways our parents and students utilize. Today’s society expects information as soon as it is available. Parents and students don’t want to wait a week for us to print and mail a grade card when they can simply login on their phone and get the information instantly through PowerSchool.”
Like last year, parents can sign up to have their children’s grades e-mailed to them in the PowerSchool parent portal.
“We took up the PowerSchool parent portal years ago,” said Quigg. “It’s where we manage all the students’ data, including their grades. Parents can log in and check their kids’ grades. Within that parent portal on the district’s website, they just click on `powerannouncement,’ so it’s not another user/password system. It’s all integrated together. Parents love the online parent portal and the new iPhone apps, `PowerSchool for Parents’ and `PowerSchool’ for Students,’ said Quigg.
There has been some discussion about those parents who may not have computers at home and whose access may not be as easy or even non-existent.
“That’s something that we’ve thrown around in the district. With the advent of smart phones, we’re finding fewer people without access. Most kids in high school have smart phones. We realize there are still some families out there who don’t have access to computers at home, as they do at their employers’ or at the public library,” said Quigg.
Four thousand access letters for Power Announcement and the parent portal were mailed home in September. “Every parent was provided access, he said.
In the last two weeks of September, parents and students logged into the system nearly 20,000 times, he said.
“My statistics tell me that during that time span, over 60% of our students had records checked by parents and/or the student themselves,” said Quigg.
The district, he added, needs to get the word out to those who have not logged in.
“I’m trying to find that 40 percent that maybe didn’t read that letter,” he said.