Cape Girardeau School District launches new Web site

Friday, August 8, 2008

School communication with parents has been lacking, Cape Girardeau parent and school board member Tony Smee said.

"I don't think there's been any concerted effort to limit or conceal information, but there certainly hasn't been a big push to encourage it," he said.

The district hopes a revamped Web site will improve relations and keep parents better informed. The Web site, www.capetigers.com, was launched this week. Technology director Brian Hall said the new site is easier to use, easily updatable and more uniform.

ParentLink, which allows parents to view their child's grades and attendance record, has been expanded to include elementary schools and the middle school. Parents can sign up for the service during school registration. Technology specialists are working to add an online homework module where parents can see previous and coming assignments.

An existing feature the district is promoting is "TigerText," where text messages are delivered to cell phones, pagers or wireless PDAs. Those who sign up on the district's Web page receive announcements about school closings, emergencies or school events.

"The new Web site is considerably more organized. We have a staff member section, a parent section and a community section. The bulletin board on the main page is going to change with any important information. It will be much easier to update," Hall said.

School board members identified communication as one of their top concerns at a board retreat last month, and communication was a talking point in the April elections.

At the retreat, Steve Trautwein said the Web site was "not uniformly valuable" and that "all of our teachers should be using it." Kyle McDonald worried that "the public sees us as noncommunicative," and Stacy Kinder said the district is facing a "PR issue."

While campaigning, Smee in particular emphasized the need to shed light on district decisions. He continually pointed to the school board section, where at the time meeting agendas were months old and no minutes were posted. He suggested updating the district's comprehensive school improvement plan to show which goals had been achieved.

Long-range planning "isn't secret stuff," Smee said Wednesday. "It ought to be available for anyone to look at. I don't know if putting it out there will motivate someone to get out there and get involved, but I can't help but think it will help improve community relationships and parent relationships."

Hall said agendas and minutes will be updated, but he is uncertain about posting board packets, which provide detailed information about each agenda item. "I'm not real sure how that would work out at this time," he said.

At the last school board meeting, Paul Nenninger suggested posting an audio recording of meetings online. He is looking into equipment costs and feasibility.

Work on the new Web site began a year ago, Hall said, and it could take another year before every page is moved over to the new system. Web pages for each building will follow a uniform template in the future, he said.

After receiving calls from parents complaining back-to-school orientation information was not available online for all schools, Smee is glad to see the new Web site launched.

"I think we've got a handle on it, and I am real encouraged," he said.

lbavolek@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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