Districts Throughout Oklahoma Implementing Electronic Alert System
On the heels of a preferred agreement between the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) and electronic alert technology provider SchoolReach, more than 35 districts in the state have signed up for the company's Instant Parent Contact System in the first quarter of 2009.
SchoolReach's IPCS allows administrators to record a brief notification message that can subsequently be sent to all or some of a list of recipients registered with the system. A notable feature is that each recipient can register multiple phone numbers, such as home, work, and mobile numbers, which allows notifications to reach them at any location.
The impact of such a capability hits home in a genuine emergency, as occurred at a school in Enid Public Schools in Oklahoma in April. There was a police pursuit of a suspect in the area where parents regularly dropped off their children in the morning. Administrators used SchoolReach, with its multiple notification feature, to alert parents still at home to delay their drop-offs and, at the same time, alert those already en route that a school staff member would meet their children at the entrance.
"We have a very comprehensive crisis communications plan, and SchoolReach is an essential part," said Amber Fitzgerald, the communications director for EPS. "It helped people make good, smart decisions for their families."
Fitzgerald noted that prior to the IPCS, the district relied on local media and phone trees. However, she said, "it's important that parents hear directly from us. It builds trust between the school district and parents. They can have a better understanding of a situation and how we're handling it." As in many districts, EPS also uses its electronic alert system for more routine announcements, such as events and schedule changes.
In conjunction with the preferred agreement between SchoolReach and CCOSA, all of the group's member districts are eligible for a special discount on the IPCS.
Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.