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Vail Daily column: Improved website debuts

Jason E. Glass
Valley Voices

The next couple of articles (including this one) will focus on two exciting changes coming for Eagle County Schools. First, an entirely redesigned website, designed to both engage and make life easier for our parents, students and staff. Second, our new strategic plan — just approved by our Board of Education — which lays out our multi-year approach to turn Eagle County Schools into an education powerhouse of globally competitive status.

In this article, I’ll provide some context and background for our website redesign and our larger communications strategy. Next week, we’ll go deep into the strategic plan.

The current Eagle County Schools website has been in use since 2008. It replaced a very basic site with a colorful and exciting template that was much better at conveying the richness and beauty of Eagle County and its people. The current website was built by an outside website design firm at the cost of several thousand dollars.

That initial investment has seemed to pay off — in this day and age, a website that lasts six years is unusual. The current website also received critical acclaim, earning an award from the Colorado School Public Relations Association.

So why change it? Well, there is a lot different between now and 2008 — when Facebook had but a tiny fraction of the accounts it does now and Twitter barely even existed. When the current website was designed, the kind of instantaneous information sharing via social media and blogs was just gaining steam. Pinterest and Google Plus didn’t even exist. The current website wasn’t designed to handle the kind of hyper-networking we see today.

The new website is actually built on blogging backbone, specifically made for interactivity, sharing and instantaneous publication. Our community no longer expects static and stale content — they expect (and deserve) responsive, personal and timely communications from their public schools.

Toward that end, the new website is designed with our end users in mind. Things for our parents, information on school safety, pages for individual schools and things our staff need handy access to are prominently featured in the new design.

We’ve also studied click patterns and most visited pages on the existing website. Using that analytic data, we built the new site to make the most sought after information also the easiest to find. We’re eliminating the need to click through multiple pages in order to get to the things our parents, students, staff and community want.

Finally, we’ve moved key financial and accountability information right up front and featured it prominently in the new design. As a public institution, we have a fiscal and moral responsibility to show our community what we are doing with taxpayer dollars and how our schools and students are performing on state accountability tests.

While tales of dollars and test scores certainly don’t tell the complete tale of the magical work that happens in our neighborhood schools, we understand these are key performance metrics that our community is interested in. One final point on the matter of financial stewardship — the previous website cost thousands to design and was built by an outside contractor. Now, we’ve developed the internal capacity to build and maintain the new site on our own — at a fraction of the costs of the previous site.

We’re excited about this new website because communicating with clarity and in a timely way is a core part of our commitment to the Eagle County community — which we deeply love and are honored to serve.

So, take a moment and visit us at http://www.eagleschools.net — we’d love your feedback and thinking on how we can make this new communications tool even better!

Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at jason.glass@eagleschools.net.


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