ConnectEd keeps parents informed

ConnectEd keeps parents informed
When it comes to sending information about illness, tardiness, absence or even an upcoming open house, the Weakley County School system has latched on to an alert program seeking to revolutionize the traditional not home to the parents.
The alert system, known as Connect Ed, operates on phone calls directed towards parents in the event of both emergencies and announcements.
“It is a county wide system. Every school has one. It’s able to notify parents of an event or an emergency,” Dresden Middle School principal Pam Harris said.
“I’m able to go in, record a message and send it out to students’ households. I retrieve the phone numbers and it has the capability of reaching both landlines and cell phones. I can also select the recipients I send the message to. For example, I can send the message to just the sixth grade.”
Lorna Benson, in charge of safe and drug free schools for the Weakley County School system, reported having had great success from the system thus far, but that, as anything new tends to start out, the wrinkles must be taken care of for maximum success.
“We’re getting our feet wet,” she admitted.
“We had a few glitches the first time, but it’s gotten better. It allows us to enter information into the database and it’s stored away. Say we find out we have to close schools because of an impending snowstorm. The system allows us to contact parents, but it’s only as good as the information that parents provide us. The key thing is that parents need to update us often or the system will not work.”
“We are so excited to have this,” she added. “This system has the ability to let parents know that buses will be loaded in a storm or that report cards will be coming out. It helps with truancy issues if a kid doesn’t show up for school. There are so many positives in the aiding of the communication between parents and students. It will take time, but it’s nice to hear a positive message from a principal on the phone. Parents get so busy sometimes and they sometimes forget things and this serves as a reminder.”
The Connect Ed system is not a new idea, but Benson remarked that it has taken a larger role in schools since the Virginia Tech shootings earlier in the year.
“I would be remiss to say that the whole Virginia Tech incident catapulted school systems into using this and having all the ducks in a row as far as getting a message out,” Benson said.
“We’ve been doing our homework, the training has gone well. It’s very user friendly. We didn’t want it to be laborious. Every principal has been pleased. The system gives detailed reports including calls made out, unanswered and missed calls and those that went to machines. It lets us know what mistakes have been made too.”
Recently, the system came into play in alerting parents of a staph infection case in both the Dresden Elementary School and the Dresden Middle School.
“I called the central office and they advised me to do a Connect Ed call,” Harris said.
“I got out the message that the school was being sanitized and the student was being taken care of. It’s a proactive measure rather than a reactive measure and we got it out on a Friday rather than Monday so that rumors were less likely to spread, but some did anyway.”
As everything else in the world is being made more expedient through technology, so now is the school announcement list and in Weakley County, the Connect Ed system will continue to alert parents at the speed of a phone line and concerned educators.
WCP 11/21/07

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