The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Monday, October 7, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
Franklin County public schools recently implemented a new communication system, which has caused some confusion and frustration for some parents.
School officials said some parents are complaining of receiving an over-abundance of out-dialed phone calls, text messages and emails from their child's school.
"At the current time, we know that it is receiving mixed reviews," said George Washington, director of technology for schools.
Even though the new system offers more features and functionality, it also offers more challenges, Washington said.
"A standard out-dial from the school or district goes to every contact phone number in the system for a child," he said. "Elementary schools can make the designation prior to each out-dial by deselecting the additional numbers. It is a more timely process for the middle schools and the high school because of the processing time (during the deselection process)."
The current method for addressing this is for parents to access the Parent Portal and make the determination of which numbers should be called for standard out-dials, Washington said.
"For example, a parent might go into the portal and select home, mom and dad's cell phone and mom and dad's email," he said. "If these fields are appropriately populated in our Student Information System for the child, these are the numbers that will receive voice messages, emails or texts."
Another reason to access Parent Portal and make the determination as to which numbers should be called for standard out-dials is that teachers utilizing the system to make calls to parents regarding events specific to classes do not have the ability to deselect phone numbers, Washington said. Those calls will also go to all numbers listed in the system unless parents have deselected them in the Parent Portal.
Many teachers who are using the system have been sending messages via text and email, Washington said. Those who are using voice mail have communicated with parents to ensure that they have made the appropriate selections in the Parent Portal.
For school and district-wide emergencies, the calls and messages go to all numbers in the system, regardless of what has been selected in the Parent Portal.
"That is the nature of an emergency call," said Washington. "We want to ensure that the message reaches everyone associated with the child. The Power Announcement system does not give us an option of deselecting in these cases. We hope that any emergencies will be few and far between."
The new communication system offers features that were not available in the old system, Washington said. In previous years, the school system used a program called "Intouch Online" for out-dialing. That program restricted the standard calls to only one number and emergency calls to specific numbers selected within the system.
"We did not have the texting feature in the Intouch system," said Washington. "In order to receive texts for school closings or emergency situations, a parent or community member had to sign up for this through a separate system called Trumpia."
Trumpia is still available via the new integrated system. The Franklin County public schools website will have an Emergency Texting sign-up form posted on its main page in early November for those interested in signing up for Trumpia.
Those parents not yet signed up for Parent Portal can contact their child's school and ask for an Access ID and an Access Password," said John Vehmeier, support coordinator and network engineer for county schools.
After receiving that information, parents can then log on to the Franklin County public schools website at www.frco.k12.va.us and click on "Create Account."
The parent must enter their first and last names as well as a valid email address.
"At that time, a parent should enter a username and password of their choosing," said Vehmeier. "Parents will use these credentials to access Parent Portal."
By entering the student's name, access ID, access password and the user's relationship to the student, parents can link their Parent Portal account to their child.
"Once parents have completed these steps, they will have access to their student's grades, attendance and discipline, as well as a school bulletin posted by the schools and access to Power Announcement, which gives parents the ability to choose how they are notified by the schools," said Vehmeier. "Due to the increased interest, we have posted instructions for both Parent Portal and Power Announcement on the school website."
On the front page of the website is a link called Power Announcement.
"That page has an explanation of our new notification system, a document with instructions on how to set notification preferences and a video showing how to update the preferences," said Vehmeier.
To access the video containing instructions on setting up a Parent Portal account, click on "Parents," then click on "Power School."
"As the school system and the community gets accustomed to the functionality of this new communication system, I believe that we'll be thankful that we have the means to do what we do, once we work out all of the temporary issues with the system," Washington added.