Category Archives: #leadershipday13

Your Website Needs Work

Scott McLeod is celebrating the 7th anniversary of his blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, with Leadership Day 2013.  He didn’t specifically exclude parent bloggers, so here’s my contribution:

Dear School/District Administrator,

That individual instrument lesson schedule for the 2011-12 school year that I found on your website?  It wasn’t very helpful when I went to your website looking for information about the district-wide performing arts program.  I daresay it hasn’t been helpful to anyone since, oh, the end of the 2011-12 school year but at least it was more recent than the 2010-11 orchestra concert schedule.

Specifically, I wanted to know whether grade 4 students are included (they are) and whether it is for band, orchestra, or both (orchestra only) and what instruments my child would have to choose from if she wanted to participate (strings only).  All of these questions were answered for me by a friendly (and knowledgeable!) local music store employee when I happened to have other errands at the store but the information should have been easy to locate on your website.

Also, I am aware that curriculum has a technical meaning for educators, but please consider the possibility that parents searching your website for curriculum are not, in fact, looking for a link to the Iowa Core (although, I suppose a few might be).  Perhaps we want to know if our elementary student will have PE or art daily? Or if there is an elementary music program and, if so, what does it cover and how often will my child have music class? Or what elementary math program the district uses? Or if phonics instruction is part of the district early reading program?

Aside from content, there are technical issues with your website that make it less user-friendly than it might be.  If I have a page open in my browser window too long or click on a link to a page someone has tried to send me, I am sometimes redirected to a login screen for no apparent reason as the pages are publicly viewable if I start all over again from your home page (not blogger/sharing friendly!).  Some documents download instead of opening in the browser; I know how to download documents I actually want to save copies of but usually I just want to have a look.  I have to click through four pages to access the school board agendas.  The school board videos are inexplicably organized by month/day (so that all of the January videos–regardless of year–are grouped together at the top of the list, and so on) making it difficult to find the latest video posted for the most current meeting.

Your website isn’t all bad, though.  Here are some things you are doing well: linking the current school board agenda to the meeting notice on the upcoming events calendar; linking agenda attachments to the relevant agenda item so that I don’t have to scroll through all of the attachments to find the ones that I want to read; posting long-range planning documents on the website throughout the process; the virtual backpack; and, making school board meeting videos accessible on the website.

As leader of your building/district, technology offers many opportunities to communicate with current and prospective parents, as well as other members of the community.  I follow you on Twitter and I would read your blog if you had one.  Although I won’t visit your Facebook or Pinterest (!?) page and I will be annoyed by excessive use of robocalls, your website is, and will always be, my first stop when I am looking for information; please don’t neglect it.

As technology leader of your building/district, you–or a competent, trusted delegate–should periodically review the content of your website (keeping in mind your website audience–largely non-educators and possibly new to the district) as well as taking the responsibility to:

  • Remove outdated documents and links prior to the start of the school year, while archiving on the website documents of enduring public interest (like that building capacity study or facilities condition report from a few years ago or outdated enrollment reports).
  • Either regularly post on your blog or delete the website link to it.
  • Timely post time-sensitive information.
  • Post current school year documents, forms, and information as it becomes available.
  • Work with other administrators to determine which content should be on the district or school building website–or both–and don’t forget that someone needs to take responsibility for each and every page on the district/school website including pages for programs serving multiple building sites (like that outdated orchestra page).

Nearly every time I leave the store, the cashier will ask me if I found everything I was looking for but you never ask me that about your website.  Of course, if you are reading this, you won’t have to ask me now–at least not for awhile–but consider asking other parents and community members when you see us around.


Sincerely, Karen W

Follow Leadership Day 2013 on Twitter at #leadershipday13