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Connecting parents across the Kannapolis City Schools system through new technology

By Michelle G. Lyerly

Kannapolis Citizen

Visualize a school system in which every parent stays informed regarding important events and issues in his or her child’s school and you have Kannapolis City Schools.

As of Dec. 6, thanks to Connect-ED, a product of NTI Groups, parents of children in KCS can be instantly informed in the event of emergencies, field trips, testing dates, bad weather cancellations and other vital information affecting students. “Instantaneously, everyone’s phone rings,” said Ellen Boyd, director of community relations for the schools.

“It’s a great way to communicate with parents and keep them informed,” said Deborah Morris, principal of A.L. Brown High School, which led the way last year in having the new system installed.

“We know it worked at A.L. Brown, now we can expand it to everybody,” said Boyd, who added that 87 N.C. school districts have already adopted the program.

Connect-ED, an Internet-based program, works in three simple steps — the user records a message, selects the desired recipients, and then presses the button that will send the message to thousands in a matter of minutes.

School administrators can opt to send messages to home phones, cell phones, work phones, e-mail addresses, voice mail, text messages and other devices.

On Dec. 6, KCS, with the exception of A.L. Brown, launched the new program by sending out a trial message to parents explaining the new system. The next day, school principals followed up with calls to parents asking them to confirm that the correct number was reached, so that any unforeseen errors could be corrected. As of Dec. 8, the system went into full force.

The new communications system is proving to be a reliable resource for school administrators. According to Boyd, the system tells which households are being reached. If for some reason a number cannot be reached, several tries will be attempted within the course of the hour. “It’s a great way to update records,” Boyd added.

The only regret for A.L Brown principal Morris is improvements still need to be made to more effectively meet the needs of Spanish-speaking families. Connect-ED also provides this service.

Boyd reassures parents that the system will not be overused, adding that confidentiality will be strictly maintained whenever necessary. “We will still send home notes and pick up the phone to call parents (if students get into trouble). This is one additional tool; it doesn’t replace anything.”

One other noteworthy feature Connect-ED offers schools is the ability to send surveys regarding issues from safety concerns to ways to improve student achievement. To respond to these surveys, parents will simply key in the corresponding number.

So far, feedback regarding Connect-ED has proved to be “nothing but positive,” said Boyd, who added that every time she has attended a conference, “everyone has raved about it.”

“It’s one of the best things a school can do as far as communicating with parents,” Morris said.

Contact Michelle Lyerly at 704-932-3336 or news@kannapoliscitizen.com.

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