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Oceanport Schools Consider Hiring Firm to Improve Communication

Oceanport mom and Little Silver business owner Maarti DeFonce has proposed taking over operations of the school's Web site to help improve communication.

Schools Superintendent Andrew Orefice said last week that the district needed to update its website and enhance communications with parents and the community.

Orefice said at the that he considered using teachers or staff to maintain the site in-house but found it was "not successful to the flow of the school day." Instead, the communications committee is considering hiring someone whose "whole mission is communication."

Maarti DeFonce, who presented her ideas to the board at its July 19 meeting, said her -based firm Connor Communications has been in business for 13 years and counts Johnson & Johnson, Maidenform and Unilever among its clients. She also happens to be an Oceanport mom of two.

DeFonce had met with the board's communications committee a few weeks ago and was invited to present to the whole board last week.

Currently, communication from teachers to parents in the district is a mixed bag of paper, e-mail and digital backpack communications, said DeFonce. Her goal is to give everyone a single outlet through which to communicate.

DeFonce said she would incorporate software her firm developed for business, which would allow teachers to deliver messages directly to parents. Instead of requiring parents to log on to a website after a long day to check if their child had a homework assignment, the app would indicate when there was something new with a corresponding number, like Facebook.

"I can't think of a parent who wouldn't want to get a notification on their smart phone or tablet," she said. "If you expect a parent to sit down at the end of the day and go to the website ... it's just not going to happen."

DeFonce said the new system would also allow teachers who need to notify parents of academic or behavior issues with their children to see whether or not those notices were opened. So if an unresponsive parent were to challenge the teacher on how a situation was handled, that teacher could say, "You read one out 12 messages I sent you."

"Then a parent doesn't have much to say," DeFonce said.

In addition to overhauling the website, which she said was not user-friendly, DeFonce said her firm could "monetize it." She proposed selling ad space on the site and creating a business portal where parents could search area businesses for items they needed to purchase. "Wouldn't it be great if the website pays for itself in a short period of time?"

Board member Joan Osgoodby told DeFonce, "I love your concept of possibly selling ads."  She added that she envisioned "joining with our sister districts to share revenue."

"We know it's time to develop our website and take it into the 21st century," Osgoodby said.

John August 14, 2012 at 04:57 PM
It will be interesting to see how much this costs the district. They already have notified us by email and phone about a new principal. What more could you want. My kids have had valuable programs cut. There should be minimal amount of money spent on a website even under the guise of better communication. The district can call email, and post on a website. More important is maintaining programs. The website has gone downhill. It used to be blue and everything was easy to find. Now it is so complex and I bet it costs more money. Selling ads is easy. No need for an outside company to do this, the PTO has done it for years. Paying more money on this would be a rip off for the community.

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