Cassville schools to implement modern communication tool

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New platform allows parents to choose how they receive information

The Cassville school district is getting a technology makeover that aims to make communication more efficient for the school, parents and the community.

The technology is a digital communication and notification platform called Dewsly.

"We wanted to go to a more modern platform that would provide us with calling, texting, emailing, updating of our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and allow parents to set up how they want to be contacted," said Richard Asbill, superintendent. "If they want to receive updates by email, a Facebook post, or a tweet they can do that. So, it's going to allow us more options and communication with parents and our community because if you want to be updated about band or a sporting event or something else you can go into preferences and update it."

Asbill said parents can also choose what information they want to receive and do not want to receive, so they are not bombarded with information that is not pertinent.

"If I am a parent and have child in elementary, I can select only things to update me on the elementary school," he said. "That way, a parent who is not interested in middle school or high school activities does not get those updates, but is able to pick and choose what they want.

"It's a Facebook-like type of atmosphere so it allows individuals to say, 'I want these updates but don't care for these updates,' and still allows us to communicate with parents rather than with just a phone call."

In the past, the school has relied on SchoolReach, an automated, robo-dialing phone program to update parents. While that option may still be used for emergencies or other pertinent notifications, the school will no longer have to use the older technology to keep parents informed. Cassville had been using the SchoolReach notification platform for 10 years, and while it worked, it had limited options.

"SchoolReach gave us a good opportunity and we used it but the problem was it was only district level communication," said Asbill. "It doesn't allow for our teachers to communicate with their individual class or parents. So we wanted something more customizable.

"SchoolReach and SchoolMessenger offer a similar platform, and when we looked at cost to add a new system and looked at Dewsly, it was less expensive, provided a better option, and a couple of other school districts we talked to really liked it. What we liked is parents were able to choose how they were getting their information, verses an administrator saying I'm going to send out a phone call."

Asbill said Dewsly will also be more convenient to parents than the previous automated-calling method that arrived at a set time.

"If someone is driving down the road, they don't necessarily want to get a phone call," he said. "It helps the parents and the community. There's a lot of control and ability to say, 'this is how I want to get school information.'"

With advances in technology and social media, including so many diverse ways to communicate, Asbill said the change was necessary to keep up.

"We've reached the point where so many people have their phones, work addresses, texting and email that if they want to get an email or a text, they'll be able to select how they want to get [their information]."

Dewsly was launched on July 1 and will be implemented in the 2015-2016 school year.

"We're in what they call the set up time period," Asbill said. "We're updating all of our records into Dewsly and setting up the links so everything corresponds with our new classes. It will take two to three weeks. So, the end of July or first part of August is when we will really start utilizing it."

When school starts in the fall, parents will be given an information sheet on how to set up their Dewsly accounts.

Asbill said implementing the new platform helps the school keep up with technology and operate more efficiently, both within the district, and outside the district in its communication with parents and the community in general.

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