School District Plans to Revamp Website: Make Suggestions in the Comments Section
The district consulted parents about what they wanted to see on the Somerville Public Schools website.
Weary of navigating the Somerville Public School's labyrinthine website? Relief might come soon: the district is planning to revamp the site based on input from parents.
Gretchen Kinder, coordinator of research and development, information and grants for the district, has organized a series of meetings for parents committed to improving the district. The site is included in the itinerary.
While only two parents attended Tuesday night's Ad Hoc Committee on Strategic Planning and Outreach meeting to discuss building a new site, Kinder said that five other parents attended a noon meeting.
Kinder reviewed sections of the site with the parent committee and solicited their impressions.
"It's very hard to navigate the website," said one mother in attendance. "How many pages do I have to click through to find information?"
There are shortcuts to all of the pages, Kinder said, but they're difficult to find.
Here are some of the suggestions that the parents at the evening meeting made to improve the website:
- Put a "parents" tab on the navigation bar on the home page.
- Have teacher and staff e-mail addresses listed instead of instructing parents to use the first initial and last name to figure out the address.
- Replace the contact forms with e-mail addresses
- Eliminate teacher websites for teachers who don't update or use them.
- List a telephone directory for teachers
- Include the subjects teachers teach next to their names
Three years ago, the district held a number of similar focus groups that shaped the current website.
"I'm not sure it's relevant now, considering what we're learning from parents and guardians," said Kinder.
Kinder said she would like to see a faculty and staff directory on the home page's navigation bar. She also spoke of possible improvements to the parent portal.
"From my perspective, this is the least developed part of the site," she said.
"We really need to re-do this... badly."
The parents said they wanted to see a list of school policies and a resource guide on the page. In fact, a "Family Resource Guide" exists on the site, Kinder said, but she admitted that it's pretty well buried.
She also said that the information most parents seek out when visiting the school site concerns lunch menus, after-school programs and registration.
The district has looked at other school sites such as the Scarsdale, N.Y. Public Schools Web site, as a model.
With the suggestions gathered from parents, the district will draft a website improvement plan. Kinder will discuss the draft at a May 10 meeting that will be open to the public.