Until 2021, we were using a legacy mass notification platform for our school-to-home communications. The system was cumbersome and difficult to use, and teachers didn’t want to use it for their own communication. To fill in where the other system left off, we were using email, text, and our own websites.

Like many other schools, we wound up with a very disjointed communication approach. Ready for a change, we started looking for a platform that could serve as a centralized repository for “closed” community communications (e.g., calendars, files, and classroom information) not meant for public view.

Here are the steps that we took to ensure a successful adoption and smooth transition to our new platform:

  1. Put together a task force. First, we assembled a stakeholder task force that included administrators and teachers who would be using the new platform. Together, we considered the features and functions of communication tools available and recommended by other schools and school systems.
  2. Know your shopping criteria. The task force was primarily focused on features, cost, and the technology itself. We also needed a platform that would support the 20 percent or so multi-language students that attend our school. Finally, we wanted an interface that would be easy to understand, and that didn’t require us to “reinvent the wheel” when we moved everyone over to the new platform.
  3. Find a platform that takes the pressure off. Speaking of not having to reinvent the wheel, we also picked our new platform based on the many different templates and ready-made features that helped take the pressure off our teachers. Even the introductory letter was already written; we just had to edit it some to give it a Sterling flare.
  4. Select a company that supports you before, during and after implementation. We were able to direct new users to our school-home communication platform’s help files, PowerPoint presentation and videos for additional help. Those materials provided the exact information that users were asking for, so I was really appreciative of that.
  5. Use the platform to hone your school’s branding and messaging. We use our new communication platform to personalize and customize the “look and feel” of Sterling Montessori’s outward-facing presentations, which previously were incohesive and a bit disjointed. We’ve been able to build the school’s brand from the development perspective and there’s consistency in everything we send out now. For example, we use the templates to create weekly messaging and other communications. That way, everybody knows exactly where to find the information they’re looking for.
  6. Build trust through reliable communications. Our families know that our messages come out on a regular cadence and that they can scroll to the bottom and see what’s coming up next week. This has really helped to establish trust, keep families engaged and ensure high levels of contactability. Currently, we have 94 percent contactability with our parents, 40 percent of whom log into the application itself to retrieve, read and respond to messages.

Moving Everyone Under One Umbrella

Looking ahead, we’d like our school to start using more native features from our communications platform in the near future, including its form approval capabilities and a volunteer signup feature. And while the school is already using the platform’s permission form management capability, we may also begin processing monetary transactions through the platform.

We also envision having a single repository for these and other activities right in the platform at some point. We really like the idea of having everything under one umbrella. It makes it so that we’ve not ever asking, "Now where was that again?"

About the authors

Stephanie Deming is development coordinator and Brittany Long is communications manager at Sterling Montessori/Academy/Public Charter School in Morrisville, NC.