Adopting a District Communication Platform that Goes Beyond the Classroom
Elmhurst Community School District 205 (IL)
The district’s new executive director of communications wanted to replace its aging and less-than-efficient communications solution with a more modern, multifaceted school-home communication and engagement platform.
It implemented the feature-rich ParentSquare school-home communication platform for its principals, head office staff, and teachers.
The district now has a platform that supports fast communications during urgent situations—so much so that principals don’t receive individual calls and texts from concerned families when a situation arises—that keeps families informed and stakeholders in the community up to date on district happenings.
As executive director of communications and community relations for the 9,000-student district, which encompasses 13 different schools, Daniels looked first at the tools that teachers and staff were using to communicate with those stakeholders. The primary tool was SchoolMessenger.
“I didn’t think SchoolMessenger had the features and resources we needed to be able to reach our communication goals,” said Daniels, who began looking for a better option by researching online and speaking with other districts about what they were using. Through that due diligence exercise, she learned about the ParentSquare safe and secure school-home communication platform.
A Modern Look and Feel
Daniels liked the modern look and feel of the platform, and put herself in the teacher’s, principal’s and parent’s shoes when reviewing the various options on the market. “We wanted something that would be easy to use—both for ourselves and for the school leaders, teachers, and parents,” Daniels explained. “Using ParentSquare’s Community Groups, we’d also be able to reach the greater Elmhurst community, if they choose to receive communications from us.”
Another selling point for Daniels was ParentSquare’s built-in language translation capabilities for over 100 languages and how the platform delivers consistent messaging to recipients. “The translation feature really stood out right away,” she said. “Our primary languages are Spanish and English, so the Spanish feature was important.”
Elmhurst CSD kicked off its ParentSquare implementation with its principals and district office, with interested teachers able to jump in and start using it at their own pace. This would leave ample time to train teachers on the platform’s use. “We encouraged teachers to try it,” Daniels added, “knowing that ParentSquare would subsequently be a communications tool that they’d have at their disposal.”
In Case of Emergency
Elmhurst CSD was still using its previous communications approach when it found itself having to send out an urgent communication about a tornado siren alert. By the time Daniels gathered the information, created the messaging and assembled the groups that it was going to be sent to, the situation was already over and done with. “The tornado had moved on and was already gone,” she said. “We weren’t able to get the message out fast enough to any students who would have been in danger. We knew we had to make a change.”
Today, the district is well equipped to handle any emergency situations, should they arise. Now the district uses ParentSquare to quickly distribute emergency messages and to keep both parents and the broader community aware of important happenings.
The district used the platform’s emergency communications feature recently to keep everyone informed about a situation at its high school. Because the district was out in front of the situation and keeping everyone up to date on it, the high school principal received zero text messages or phone calls from concerned families during the incident. “We know that we need to be on our toes and keep everyone informed,” Daniels added, “because a lack of information breeds uncertainty which in turn breeds nervousness. Now we are building trust.”
ParentSquare has also helped the district cut down on the amount of paper it generates and distributes during the school year. In the past, for example, student handbooks were printed and handed out. Students read them, signed the back page and then returned that page to the district. Today, that entire process is handled digitally in ParentSquare.
“This has not only reduced our paper usage,” Daniels said, “but it has also simplified the process and eliminated the chances of the guidebook getting lost, damaged and/or never read.”
“We know that we need to be on our toes and keep everyone informed because a lack of information breeds uncertainty which in turn breeds nervousness. Now we are building trust.”
Executive Director of Communications and Community Relations
Data-Driven Decision Making
The district, which is funded by community tax dollars, is also using its communication platform to stay in touch with stakeholders in the community—even those who may not have children attending school in the district.
“Using ParentSquare, we can keep everyone in the loop and give them the chance to stay informed about what’s going on in our school district,” said Daniels, who has created numerous Community Groups in the platform along with a landing page that lets recipients select which type of communications they’d like to receive.
Creating a District Brand
“A school’s brand is more than just a logo or colors; it’s about what the school stands for, its message and what people think when they receive a piece of communication from that school,” Daniels added.
“ParentSquare really helped elevate our brand while also letting us include pictures and videos that showcase the personalities and our brand in the way that we want to in our newsletter and social media posts,” she continued. “Ultimately, this platform helps us communicate in a more user-friendly and visually-appealing way and we’ve received a lot of compliments from parents about that.”