Autodialer system helps schools communicate |

Autodialer system helps schools communicate

Re-2 NewsTheresa HamiltonGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Submitted photoKim Frees Roy Moore Elementary second-grade class performs during Readers Theater. This is an opportunity for students to perform a short play for family and friends. Because of the authentic nature of the performance experience, Frees has seen reading performance increase dramatically.

“Hello Wamsley Elementary families. This is Robin with some important news from Wamsley Elementary.”This is the friendly message that Wamsley Elementary parents receive via the autodialer system. Most of the schools within the Garfield School District Re-2 are regular users of this automated calling system, and make calls for everything from attendance, to parent teacher conferences, to reminding parents of school holidays.”The autodialer is such an efficient way to contact our families and inform them about important events and activities that our families will not want to miss,” explained Robin Bustad, Wamsley Elementary secretary.Garfield Re-2 has had an automated calling system in place for several years to handle phone calls home for attendance issues at the middle and high schools. During last year’s shooting of a state trooper, Garfield Re-2 schools went on lockdown as law enforcement officials searched for the suspects. As a part of the lockdown, the district used the existing four-line autodialer system to try to alert parents of the situation. There was a quick realization that the system was too slow to contact all the family members in a timely manner.”We attempted to contact our parents as quickly as we could and alert them of the situation,” said Re-2 Superintendent Gary Pack. “But the automated system was just too slow to get the information out quickly.””It’s a great communication tool,” said Coal Ridge High School Principal Jeanie Humble. “We use it frugally because we want to make sure that people realize it is an important message that we are sending. Parents really appreciate the information. There is nothing better for us.”The autodialer system also provides detailed reports of who was contacted, how many attempts it took to reach them, and who was unable to be contacted. This is excellent information for school secretaries.”The autodialer provides us an effective rate of contacting parents and lets us know immediately if there are discrepancies in phone numbers so we can have accurate information in our records,” added Bustad.

That is when the district made the commitment to upgrade the system, and now all 2,600 households can be contacted within approximately 40 minutes.All autodialer messages now are created through a Web-based interface, as opposed to the previous automated telephone menu, and work through autodialer service provider SchoolMessenger’s telephone network off site.Using SchoolMessenger’s resources allows the telephone calls to be made almost instantaneously.But the autodialer system is not only used for emergency alerts. Many schools are now using it as a communication tool, in conjunction with notices home, to convey important school information and events parents may wish to attend. The autodialer provides a message in Spanish and one inEnglish to match the primary language spoken in households.And Wamsley has seen parent involvement increase due to the communication home. “Our first second cup of coffee (an early morning opportunity to meet with the school principal) we had about 15 people attend,” explained Bustad.”For the second event, we used the autodialer to send reminders, and we had 49 people. I think that is directly related to the autodialer.”The SchoolMessenger autodialer system has become a crucial component of many schools’ communication program and is yet another method that Garfield Re-2 utilizes to keep parents informed of what is happening in the district’s schools.Theresa Hamilton is director of districtwide services for Garfield School District Re-2. She can be reached at 625-7621.

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