District switches to new messaging system

In a recent change of events, the school has decided to update it’s messaging system to a new app.

This new app brings various different elements and is thought to bring more benefits to the school, students, and the community as a whole.

“The company that we switched to is called School Messenger. They have been a company in the market for quite some time. And one of the things that we really like about this company is that they integrate with our PowerSchool,” said director of technology Michael Marassa. “So, all of our students’ information and contacts for parents and such easily integrate in a secure way.”

There are a few reasons as to why the district messaging system was changed. One of the reasons being that the school wanted to have an up to date product that is innovative.

“The company that we were using just wasn’t innovating and updating their product, and as a school district, we want to have multiple ways that we can get in touch with parents. We also know that there are some families that are split families, and this will still allow both parents to get messages without one parent going in and changing someone’s phone number or contact information,” Marassa said.

In order to change messaging systems, there was a process that the school had to follow. These steps are important in order for the school to ensure that the new messaging system will work for the community.

“Anytime you make a change like this you go through several things. One, we start to do some research on what are the requirements that we have for that product. We started to talk to some other school districts to see what other school districts are using, and there were several other districts around us already using School Messenger. We had seen this product and several others at workshops that we go to, like bigger and larger conferences,” Marassa said. “Then we have vendors do presentations to us so that we can look at our criteria and see how many of the boxes does this company check. After that, we get some references of school districts that are in our area and we call them and find out how the transition process works with this product.”

The new system being used by the district has three different pieces to it. These three pieces are important because they work to make the new system efficient. The last piece, however, is still in the works.

“The system has three different components that we use for it. We use it for emergency notification, or just general emails or phone calls that we want to send out through it. It has a second component where it can send out individualized reports to each individual email address that’s in there so that’s how we used it for report cards at the end of the semester. The third piece that we’re working on that hasn’t been ruled out yet is it’s going to have an attendance component. So, it will do a couple of different things,” Marassa said. “Let’s say you were out sick today and your mom or dad forgot to call you in at 10 o’clock. It will send an email, a text message, and eventually, a phone call to your mom or dad for them to say that you’re absent and that if you’re sick you can call the attendance numbers. The parent would also be able to go into the mobile app if they have it and put in your absence. If they know you’re going to have a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday next week, they can go in and put the doctor’s appointment in today and it will automatically be in our system so that they don’t have to call in that day.”

Although the system required some hard work to put together, there were not many difficulties.

“The only thing that we took a little bit of challenge with was that PowerSchool has a new way that they collect parent information in terms of contact so that was all new to us. So, we had to work with School Messenger just to make sure all of our parent information was in there. Another thing that was really important to us was that we collected student cell phone information at the beginning of the year so that in a crisis we would have the ability to easily mass message our students,” Marassa said. “ Let’s say we’re in a lockdown and we want all of our students to know, we can message them and then people aren’t guessing the situation, and we can notify them with what we’re dealing with.”