Phoenix Union gets a fresh start with Schoolwires® Centricity2™
|Phoenix Union gets a fresh start with Schoolwires® Centricity2™|
It’s a school district’s worst technological nightmare. The website crashes, the backup servers are corrupted and the provider doesn’t provide crisis support. The words ‘We lost everything’ send a deluge of dismay from office to office and classroom to classroom.
The Phoenix (AZ) Union High School District lived that nightmare when its server crashed in June 2011. But despite the information and data casualties, the district saw the crash as the opportunity to get a fresh start. Phoenix Union had never been satisfied with its website or provider. The site was ten years old, half the teachers never developed Web pages, customer service was lacking and the staff struggled with troublesome software.
“We really had to work to ‘trick’ the software program to make it look good,” said Renee Ryon, the district’s community relations specialist. “Given the circumstances, rather than rebuild something we weren’t happy with, we decided that this was the appropriate time to shop around and get something better.”
The search for an exceptional provider
The district began to explore new providers, but quickly discovered that many were owned by the same company as their current provider, so they were immediately ruled out. “We worried that we might encounter the same negative experiences and poor service levels we had before, and we didn’t want to go down that road again,” Ryon said.
Phoenix Union’s search focused on the need for an exceptional design with strong branding.
The district browsed school websites that they liked, then talked to colleagues about their providers and experiences. They also sought additional input from peers in the Arizona School Public Relations Association (ASPRA) then narrowed it down to two providers. Schoolwires consistently emerged at the top among school district and ASPRA recommendations. Based on that input and its own research, Phoenix Union partnered with Schoolwires. Together they hit the ground running to build a new website.
Because all of the district’s content was lost when the original website crashed, staff had to recreate it. They Googled cached sites to obtain their content and captured some from documents people had saved, to build a temporary site with critical content.
With impressive speed that didn’t compromise excellence or effectiveness, a new high-end Phoenix Union website went live in January 2012. The website had been redesigned with vibrant colors, eye-catching graphics and the latest Web platforms.
Phoenix Union designed its district site using the Schoolwires Centricity2™ Platinum template package. The package provides a consistent look and feel through dynamic templates, yet each school site has its own color schemes, icons and footers. It allows common branding between all sites with some flexibility, which was crucial for the district’s needs. Phoenix Union has 16 high schools, including magnets in aviation/aerospace, marine science, and public safety. With such diverse educational focuses, individual school websites reflect that uniqueness but are uniformly branded so it’s evident they are part of the same district.
In its commitment to work closely with clients in the design process, Schoolwires welcomed input from Ryon, a graphic designer. She occasionally used her expertise and creativity to illustrate the solution she was looking for, such as the school name header. The Schoolwires designer recreated it.
Phoenix Union also chose Schoolwires for its ease of use, as well as creative Web page opportunities. For those with no website experience, the intuitive CMS platform makes it simple to update content. Higher-end features, such as Dreamweaver and HTML, are available for advanced users. Templates include suggestions for page development and offer a variety of layouts. Training enhances engagement. Once the website was designed and built, the focus turned to training hundreds of the district’s CMS users. Schoolwires provides valuable training as part of its services, which helps schools engage in development of their websites to increase efficiency, productivity and effectiveness.
Phoenix Union’s training began with Ryon, who traveled to Schoolwires’ state of-the-art facility in State College, PA. She also built some of the new content while at Schoolwires headquarters.
Ryon then brought in a Schoolwires trainer to work with the Web managers from each campus, who in turn were responsible for training staff and teachers. Phoenix Union has also taken advantage of Schoolwires webinars, including a recent session on minibase data management, to help staff build out their sites.
Ongoing service and support
Phoenix Union’s CMS users didn’t have to wait for answers to their questions because Schoolwires provides support as part of every service package.
Ryon appreciated the ability to call a Schoolwires help desk technician. “They are very good at responding to our needs, and fixing issues right away. We get same-day or one-day response.”
Additional technical assistance is built into Centricity2 through self-help and service request options. Users soon discovered the value of the “How Do I?” tab, which became the first place to check for help before consulting the school’s website manager.
A fresh start and an eye toward the future. Thanks to a fresh start with the new website, Phoenix Union now has its eye on the future of educational technology.
“Schoolwires responds to market needs and advancements,” Ryon said. “We’re getting ready to use the Mobile app. We also see great potential for online shopping, ranging from selling prom tickets and bookstore merchandise to accepting contributions.”
Overall, Ryon and the IT department have received consistent feedback about how easy the CMS is to use and how great the websites look.“The vast majority of almost 3,000 staff like the Schoolwires product,” Ryon said.
It’s been a year since Phoenix Union lost its website. What emerged from that technology nightmare wasn’t just a more attractive website. Schoolwires technologies brought together teachers, students, parents and the community to further the district’s educational objectives.
Custom website design
Centricity2 offers four template packages and an array of add-on features that allow various levels of customization.
Platinum Custom templates offer the ability to change colors at the school level for an exclusive look and feel. All sites within a district use the same “dynamic” template, but each site can have its own unique color scheme with custom global icons, MyStart bars and footers. This allows common branding between all sites, but with flexibility.
Gold Custom templates are ideal for clients looking for a custom look without the need for different color schemes. The gold template provides a unique visual experience through custom global icons.
Silver templates are customized with school colors, school names and imagery. These templates feature rotating flash imagery, logo placement, custom MyStart bar, global icons, or other dynamic features for a brilliant look and feel.
Bronze templates allow schools to choose from pre-designed templates, then customize with colors, school name, and imagery. Features can be added for a fee.
Keeping it relevant
The development of a new website doesn’t stop when it goes live. To keep it relevant, content needs to be constantly updated. To ensure this, Phoenix Union developed its own e-newsletter, “Website Insider,” to keep the site in front of its staff and remind them to update and create pages. The newsletter features three sections:
About Phoenix Union High School District
Phoenix Union is one of the largest high school districts in the country, with 16 schools, over 26,000 students and almost 3,000 employees. It consists of 11 comprehensive high schools, two specialty small schools and three alternative schools. Phoenix Union covers 220-square miles of Arizona’s capital city. Visit its new website at www.PhoenixUnion.org
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