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The 24-7 school district
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I’ve been doing this work for a pretty long time. The coming school year will be my 38th, which probably qualifies me for “dinosaur status.” A lot has changed in education since I walked into my first classroom in 1975. One of the most significant areas of change has been the way in which schools and school districts interact and communicate with families and the general public.

Back in the dark ages, communication with families and other community members was limited to report cards every six weeks, backpack fliers and notices, notes, letters, conferences and phone calls. (And by “the phone,” I mean land lines without answering machines and voice mail and caller I.D. In those days, if you really wanted to talk with a parent, you called around dinner time or just after.) Information about the budget and school board meetings required a trip to the district office or was done by mail. Times have changed. Technology has completely altered the landscape. In the year 2012, a parent or community member can interact -- and expects to be able to interact -- with our district 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A few weeks ago, Mary Anne Byrd and Julie Putnam from our communications department shared with the school board just how the school district is utilizing technology to communicate with and serve our families and community. (These two folks do a terrific job!) We do as strong a job with this area as anyone in South Carolina, and in the country for that matter. The statistic they shared that overwhelmed me was that our district and school websites got more than 1.8 million hits or visits between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012. That’s almost one hit per student per day. I think this is a tribute to the fact that our websites are very well-organized, and give families and the public access to a great deal of useful information.

Effective July 31, a revamped district website was put on line at the same address (www.kershaw.k12.sc.us). The new format is designed to be even cleaner and easier to use than the previous version. Following are some of the major parts of the website that would be of particular interest:

Parent Portal -- Parent Portal allows parents to access student grades and attendance records throughout the school year. All that is required to access this information is a password, which can be obtained through the individual school.

School Websites -- Each of our schools has a website that can be reached through a link on the district website. These pages include a variety of information about the school, its staff and its programs.

Teacher /Class Websites -- Each teacher in the district is expected to maintain an eChalk page that provides information about what is going on in class. These pages can be accessed through the individual school website.

District Facebook Site -- The district is also on Facebook and Twitter, which can be reached through links on the district website. Folks who “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter will receive regular updates and information.

Free/Reduced Meal Applications -- Applications for the Federal Breakfast and Lunch program can be accessed and submitted from the district website. Simply click on the link that says “Apply for Meal Benefits.”

Superintendent’s Blog/Podcast -- I write a regular blog about the district and education matters, which can be accessed through the “Superintendent’s Blog” link on the home page of the district website. I also do a podcast after each school board meeting, which can also be accessed from the district website.

School Board Meeting Information -- School board meeting agendas and minutes, in addition to contact information for school board members, can be accessed through the “School Board” link on the home page of the district website.

“Ask the Super” -- The “Ask the Super” link on the home page of the district website enables anyone to email me a question, which I try to answer as quickly as possible.

Transparency Spending Reports -- About every two weeks, a detailed listing of all checks more than $100 is posted on the district website. The posting includes information about the specific budget account related to each check. This information can be accessed through the “Financial Information” link on the home page of the district website. Through this link, citizens can also view budget and audit information.

As we start a new school year, I hope families and community members will take advantage of the tools and features of our website. I feel very comfortable in saying that our district is a local, state and national leader in terms of creative and proactive efforts to communicate effectively.

Let’s have the best school year ever! Special thanks to everyone who worked so hard over the summer to have everything ready for the first day!

I’m always pleased to talk with community members about our schools. My direct dial phone number is 425-8916 and my email is frank.morgan@kcsdschools.net.