Indiana School District Uses ParentSquare for Both Secure Document Sharing and to Reach Families in Their Home Language
Case Study: Portage Township Schools (IN)
Parent/guardian communications were disconnected and largely handled manually in a district where many languages are spoken.
The district selected ParentSquare to do away with expensive paper mailings and to electronically and securely synchronize all routine communications in parents’ preferred language.
All district parent communications take place on the ParentSquare platform, where the district now has a retained history of all messages, in addition to more equitable communications across 7,200 students and 20 different languages.
With about 7,200 students speaking 20 different languages, Portage Township Schools in Portage, Ind., needs technology tools that support its diverse student population and families. Up until last year, the district was using standard mail for most of its parent communications, with some announcements distributed via social media (e.g., Twitter and Facebook) and email.
This approach was time consuming and costly. “We added up the cost of sending just 3-5 core documents annually—not counting report cards—and it was quite high,” said David Lesich, Director of Data Services. “With stamps costing 55 cents each multiplied by 7,200 students, sending those communications several times a year added up pretty quickly.”
Language barriers also came into play, and prevented clear understanding of the district’s messaging for some families. “We needed a system that could accurately translate the messages that we were sending out,” Lesich explained, “to ensure that the messages were getting home and that parents understood those messages.”
It Had To Be One Way
Wanting a more efficient, unified system for parent communications, Portage Township Schools looked for a secure, online platform that would meet its needs. After seeing a demonstration of ParentSquare’s safe and secure platform for all school-home communication at a Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators (HECC) conference, the district decided to start using it.
“We were tired of everyone communicating in different ways; it had to be one way,” Lesich said. The district started using ParentSquare just before the pandemic emerged and saw benefits of its decision pretty quickly. Not only could it consolidate its many different communication tools onto a single platform, but that platform also catered to the diverse number of languages spoken in Portage Township Schools’ region.
“Translation services were a huge draw for us,” Lesich said. “We also liked the additional features that ParentSquare offered, including text messaging and the opportunity to have two-way communications between teachers, administrators, and families.”
“With stamps costing 55 cents each multiplied by 7,200 students, sending those communications several times a year added up pretty quickly…now, instead of mailing those notices out, we’re using ParentSquare’s Secure Document Delivery to save money, maintain a high level of security, and hopefully get more parents using the [ParentSquare] portal.”
Director of Data Services
Secure Documents, Please
The district also wanted to leverage ParentSquare’s Secure Document Delivery capabilities. The only communications platform that allows variable length documents in the master file, ParentSquare’s Secure Document Delivery lets districts define their own templates, and includes text, app, and email notifications that reach families in their preferred modality and language.
The secure platform also generates a separate PDF file of documents for parents who did not receive them, and lets districts print and mail these “missed” documents, thus helping districts improve deliverability and equity. “These features were another major draw when we were selecting our platform,” said Lesich, who can also use ParentSquare to integrate directly with the district’s student information system (SIS).
“Each year we send out a PowerSchool parent portal setup to our new families, who use it to check student attendance, grades, and other types of information,” Lesich said. “Now, instead of mailing those notices out, we’re using ParentSquare’s Secure Document Delivery to save money, maintain a high level of security, and hopefully get more parents using the portal.”
A Running Script
Today, all of Portage Township Schools’ parent communications take place on the ParentSquare platform. For example, Melissa Deavers-Lowie, director of communications and community engagement, can send out text messages, create social media posts, or use other forms of communication to reach parents.
“Some people will take screenshots and then send them out, and in some cases we can see our ParentSquare posts on Facebook,” said Deavers-Lowie, who sees ParentSquare as a long-term solution to the district’s communication challenges. The high school’s music department, for instance, uses the platform for two-way communication with parents and sends out messages at least 2-3 times per week.
Deavers-Lowie especially likes how ParentSquare retains a history of all communications, which gives parents, teachers, and administrators a chance to review the past chats and notices before responding. When one parent sounded the alarm over closed registration for returning students, the district had proof of the many notices it had sent out about the upcoming closure.
“As we move forward with technology, many times that history gets lost,” said Deavers-Lowie. “With ParentSquare, we not only have one application that meets all of our needs, but literally have a running script that we can refer to.”
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