A district in fierce competition for that next great family
When one of your middle schools is designated as high-performing and academically excellent, and your high school is recognized by Newsweek magazine as one America’s best, you’d probably guess that families would be flocking to your district to enroll their children.
Factor in your district location: an attractive suburb of one of Michigan’s most attractive, right-sized cities, Grand Rapids, and less than a 30-minute drive from some of Lake Michigan’s most alluring beach towns, and Hudsonville Public Schools sounds like an easy choice for a family deciding where to send their children.
Operating in Michigan’s “Schools of Choice” system, Hudsonville competes with eight other districts in the county and 25 private schools. Even with statewide and national praise, however, Hudsonville Schools is like many public school districts these days competing for that next great family.
A website lagging behind in technology; not reflecting excellence
The district’s communications coordinator Rebecca Fabiano says Michigan’s open enrollment policy keeps competition fierce, so branding – and a great school website – are necessary to attract the kinds of students and families that help fuel academic success. Schools of Choice means students from outside the district’s boundaries can attend a school, providing there is room for them.
Saddled with a school website that had been created from scratch by the district’s technology director, Fabiano realized that as the district continued to grow, that besides missing some much-needed functionality, the old website was just too much for one person to maintain.
“It was a good website, but it had run its course,” said Fabiano. “Stuff was so buried on our site, it was very hard to find, hard to access. Plus, the other technology needs of the district were advancing too, so our IT director had so much else to do.”
“The needs of the website were growing right along with us, so the scope needed to expand. We needed a new look, and one that shifted the management of the site away from our technical people to our communicators..."
Fabiano said that important factors like website accessibility and increased mobile use – two major mandatories for a school website – were not being met with the former website, so it was time to explore a solution.
Hudsonville schools is situated in one of the fastest-growing counties in Michigan, and is among the fastest-growing districts in the state. As the second largest district in Ottawa County, it is experiencing growth that reflects the area’s popularity.
“The needs of the website were growing right along with us, so the scope needed to expand. We not only needed a website with a new look, but one that shifted the management of the site away from our technical people to our communicators, so they could focus on technology and we could focus on communications.”
Like many school administrators charged with overseeing district communications, Fabiano herself has a lot on her plate. A 22-year employee of the district, her official title is Administrative Assistant, Coordinator of Community Education and Facilities. A multi-faceted job that touches many aspects of school administration for the near-7,000-student district, the position includes managing the school’s 13 websites and all the content for those sites. It’s a daunting assignment, but one with which many other school communicators can identify.
A website that makes a great first impression, and then some
Although very much a public school district operating in the state of Michigan, Hudsonville Public Schools is not unlike many of the private schools in terms of competing for great kids from great families.
“We need to project a very professional image,” said Fabiano. “Not just for attracting new families, but depicting an accurate image that reflects what our district is all about. We have a culture at our school that it is a very caring, nurturing environment...our new site helps us convey that.”
Fabiano said their district is so popular that many families that move out of the district choose to keep their children attending in the Hudsonville system. (Depending on where their enrollment numbers by grade are, the district accepts students from only certain grades each year.)
“Image is very important, and you want that first impression to be positive,” she said. “Visitors form opinions (about your school district) right away from your website, so you really have to be up with the times and have a great-looking website that uses current technology.”
Besides projecting a beautiful image, the new site helps the school meet its ADA compliance and website accessibility requirements.
Using SchoolNow’s Website Accessibility Managed Services, Hudsonville is assured that all its web content is fully accessible to people with disabilities. Ongoing monitoring, monthly reports, issue remediation and training are all handled by SchoolNow. “It’s a relief to know that SchoolNow is helping keep all our 13 sites accessible,’ said Fabiano.
Fabiano also welcomes the ease with which the respective school principals and secretaries can manage their school’s own content. SchoolNow editing tools enable nontechnical staff to readily create, edit and publish pages, while district-wide content is automatically shared across school websites.
The district’s site is accessible to those with disabilities, but to the increasing number of people in the school community using mobile devices to access the website. “The site looks and works so well on phones and tablets that we discontinued our mobile app,” said Fabiano. “When we started the process, we had a phone app that we paid extra for, so we’re saving thousands of dollars.”
A website that reflects what school excellence is all about
The SchoolNow website solution is helping Hudsonville Public Schools compete in an open enrollment environment that puts school choice in the hands of parents who are weighing schools on much more than just geographic proximity.
Operating in Michigan’s “Schools of Choice” system, Hudsonville competes with not only dozens of private schools but other districts in the county. School administrators recognize the important role a website plays in depicting the excellence of the schools, staff and performance that comprise Hudsonville.
With SchoolNow as its website partner, the district has more than a beautiful, easy-to-manage website, but a communication foundation that’s fully accessible and ADA compliant, one that saves the site administrator time, money and other school resources.