Submitted by Lynda Rubin
I’m glad that School District website is being updated as it does need to be made to be more user-friendly for parents, students, District employees and community stakeholders alike to enable them to research current and historical information about school offerings and policies as well as decisions made by the SRC over time. I do appreciate the large undertaking it is to rework a website. But providing information is its reason for being, isn’t it? Information can’t be accessed if it isn’t there or can’t be found. And providing information, even seldomly accessed information, is an educational function, a prime directive so to speak, of an educational institution as is the School District of Philadelphia. Internet websites are supposed to serve that function.
So, among my concerns are:
- I don’t understand why the old site with all of its historic information was taken down while the new website is being created. The City of Philadelphia has kept up its original site for public use while refining its beta version, with both sites available to the public. Months or more of delay for the final version is not helpful to someone who’s seeking information today.
- Next, the SRC’s meeting date notice and links to the agenda and resolution summaries should be highlighted on the home page where they can be easily seen and accessed by anyone coming to the site. In that vein, the SRC tab itself should be prominently placed, not hidden in the About tab.
- Parents seeking information about charter schools should have easy access to the initial application, renewal reports and evaluations to determine the progress of that school. I like the reference to those events and dates on each school’s web-page, but they should act as links to the actual reports, not just be web art on the page.
- The Search engine needs a lot of work. For example, if you type “Networks” into the yellow search bar on the front page you go to a list with “Computer Systems Networking” at the top followed by “Contact (PBIS staff)” and “Class Instrumental Music Instruction”. When I inputted my former school’s name, Fell Elementary School, I was sent to a page headed by “Meet Our Leadership Team – Office of Teaching and Learning”, followed by “School Greenscapes”, a program that Fell was not a part of.
- Any on-line report should be able to be printed by the parent or person submitting the report for their own records. For example, after completing a Bullying report, parents can’t save or print up a copy of their complaint. Once they hit the Submit button, the report goes to an unnamed person somewhere. How does a parent follow up on such a report and with what proof that it was ever made?
All good intentions aside, a website it only as good as it is functional. I suggest that you include focus groups of employees, parents, media personnel, students and local stakeholders to document what they are looking for and their ability of them to find it.