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Published: Thursday, 10/25/2007

Sylvania schools get system for emergency notification

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A system to alert parents in the event of a school or district-wide emergency is being implemented by Sylvania Schools.

Through the new Connect-ED service from the NTI Group, Inc., principals and administrators will have the ability to reach parents in the district through a single phone call.

An Internet-based, school-to-parent communication service, it allows school administrators to schedule, send, and track personalized messages to thousands of staff and parents in just minutes, ensuring they receive the same message quickly.

The system will allow Sylvania Schools to reach every household in minutes of an emergency situation, said Superintendent Brad Rieger.

He said the district will have the flexibility to grow with the system to include other applications, such as streamlining the district's absentee process.

Parents will have the opportunity through the Web site and a phone information line to change or add a telephone number. Changes and additions can be made via a link on the Sylvania Schools Web site at www.sylvaniaschools.org or by calling the Connect-ED information line at 419-824-8971.

Annual cost for the service is less than $4 per student, or about $30,000 for Sylvania's 7,552 students.

The district conducted its first test of the new system last week, and had a success rate of about 91 per cent.

Officials are now checking on the numbers that didn't work; most of those apparently were numbers of people who were not at home and who do not have answering machines, said Nancy Crandell, spokesman for the district.

Those situations can be addressed by adding cell phone numbers and work numbers.

To ensure that the district knows how many and which numbers were reached, results of outgoing messages are reported back to school administrators.

After the test last week, the district received "a report within about 30 minutes that allowed us to begin cleaning up the data to ensure that 100 per cent of our parents will receive future notification, when and if the situation arises," she said.

Part of the district's decision to select Connect-ED was based on the security and integrity of its system.

The system has been implemented within the military, government, and other security-conscious entities, and it has redundancies built into the system on various levels, said Ms. Crandell.

Many large school districts have been using the system for the last five to seven years, she said.

Stew Jesse, principal at Northview High School, used the system in his former district in Los Angeles and "was very excited about us bringing it to Sylvania. His experience helped in our decision-making," she said, adding that the "real selling feature" is the security features and the reporting features.

The NTI Group is a privately held company located in Los Angeles. The company makes and distributes Connect-ED, an emergency communication, attendance notification, and community outreach service designed for K-12 schools.



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