Avon - Success Story

Avon Schools flips the switch to Schoolwires®

When the superintendent of Avon (IN) Community School Corporation walked into the IT office in September 2011, the look on his face told the staff that it was time for a new Web-based technology provider. “That’s it,” he said. These problems can’t be solved.”

Avon had used its provider for four years, and the first year had gone especially well. Of the 12 recommended product enhancements, the provider honored nine of them. But when the company was bought out in January 2011, things began going south with a noticeable decline in communication and support.

Compounding that, in June 2011 the new provider was bought out by a holding company. As a result, the start of the school year turned into “an unmitigated disaster,” said Jason Brames, Avon’s assistant director of technology. Teachers weren’t able to use the product until October, leaving them without the vital resources they needed to communicate with students and parents.

“In seven months, our provider went from awesome to see you later,” said Brames.

Rubric Prioritizes District’s Needs

Thus began a rigorous, three-month search for a new provider. Their key strategy was to develop a detailed rubric to prioritize the district’s needs, and then evaluate potential providers. Criteria included over 40 categories ranging from content management and podcasts to scalability and teacher/parent access to homework.

Avon developed the rubric based on input from the administration, faculty, staff and parents. They also studied other school websites and providers. They knew specifically what they wanted from previous experience and had a solid vision of features they wanted in the future.

Beginning with 12 providers, Avon graded each using the comprehensive rubric. After three rounds of demonstrations, Schoolwires was one of two finalists. When the ratings came in, Schoolwires scored higher than all other 11 candidates.

Avon has implemented Centricity2 and chose it for:

  • Assignment dropboxes
  • File storage
  • Web 2.0 tools for podcasts, vodcasts, discussion boards and blogs
  • Scalability
  • Robust and flexible
  • Real time student information updates that are easy to upload
  • WYSIWYG, which was not available with the previous provider

Despite Schoolwires’ dominance of the rubric evaluation, some on the evaluation team expressed reservations.

“In such a complicated process, many factors can impact a person’s opinion and emotional response, such as the product presentation or specific features,” Brames said. “We had reasonable, good, caring folks on our team who wanted the best for the district.”

Now that they’ve been trained and have hands-on experience with Schoolwires, staff is raving about the products. Within 30 minutes they were using advanced features and functionality that Avon never had with its previous provider.

“They’re impressed with how easy it is. We’ve seen a real change in attitude. In fact, we’ve been told Schoolwires is the best choice we could have made,” Brames said.

“Our interpretations of priorities and expectations were flexible throughout our discussions. We had good conversations as we built the rubric,”

— Jason Brames, Assistant director of technology

Training the Trainers

Avon used the train-the-trainer approach through Schoolwires’ WebAcademy. It just took one or two webinar sessions and trainers were able to help teams at each building learn how to use Centricity2. Teachers, principals, and others understood how to move content after just a short introductory session from the training staff.

“This really speaks to the simplicity and power of Schoolwires Centricity2. It’s very logical and intuitive. It’s not a far stretch to figure it out.” Brames continued, “If you could have seen our staff and teachers’ faces at the beginning of this transition — trepidation, stress and pressure going into training — then coming out of the room so excited. The change in attitude and outlook was palpable. It’s been nice to hear the affirmations — we made the right decision!”

Avon is excited to utilize other Schoolwires components, such as the secure approach to social media, emergency notification (e-alerts) and single-sign-on Passkeys. The district is also using student Web pages as a resource for parents to be involved with their child’s education on a daily basis.

Sound Advice

Because a website has a huge impact on how the community views and perceives school districts, the Avon team shares advice for those contemplating a switch.

  • Involve different stakeholders in the evaluation process. “We knew the success of this project was high stakes. It’s not just relegated to information technology,” Brames said. “When you have a good team with diverse backgrounds focusing on what will meet the needs across the district, the products will be utilized effectively and efficiently.” The Avon team included the superintendent, associate superintendent, director of curriculum, director of technology, assistant director of technology, and curriculum specialists.
  • Develop an assessment tool to prioritize the district’s needs. The criteria should spell out specific needs of the administration, IT, staff, teachers, student and parents. Rate vendors based on the school’s specific product priorities and expectations.
  • Look for a true partner, not just a vendor. “As our partner in what we offer as a school district, it’s great to have Schoolwires not only make promises, but also deliver on them,” Brames said.

Avon introduced everything to teachers at the end of March 2012. IT, Web designers, and teachers are working diligently on moving existing content and building out the new sites. The technology department has stepped up training and resource availability to ensure everyone has the what they need to be successful. The website goes live in mid-June.

“When we started this search, everyone’s first assumption was, this is a large endeavor. It will take a long time. We’d better get our ducks in a row and plan a lot,” Brames said. “We’ve discovered it has been an easy transition.”

About Avon Community Schools Corporation

Located in suburban Indianapolis, Avon enrolls 8,500 students in grades K-12, has 11 schools (six elementary, two intermediate, two middle, one high school), and employs 1,000 full- and part-time faculty and staff.

WebAcademy

Schoolwires offers hands-on, multi-day work sessions where top Schoolwires and industry experts share best practices in technology and communications. WebAcademy participants gain the skills and knowledge to effectively engage all the members of the community to help support and achieve district goals.

Learn more about Centricity2

The Schoolwires Story

Schoolwires is dedicated to K-12 education, and to the people who are part of every local school community — students, families, teachers, administrators, and supporters of education. From the beginning, we’ve believed that a successful school district is a product of total community involvement. That’s why our mobile and Web-based solutions are expressly designed to connect K-12 communities with the information, services and people they need to achieve their district goals. For more than 10 years, our intuitive technologies have been helping administrators and educators, students and parents, communicate and collaborate like never before — to come together around success.

Today, more than 10 million users in the U.S. and China rely on our content management system, mobile solutions and safe collaborative learning community to drive engagement in the classroom, locally and across the globe. We’re proud to be a part of that. And we remain committed to helping K-12 communities extend their local reach and transcend the boundaries of their districts so that individuals everywhere can achieve their full potential.