Two years after implementing “Let’s Talk” software to improve communications between district staff and stakeholders, the South Orange-Maplewood School District is discontinuing its use. However, the district will be adding new communications tools such as a post-board meeting newsletter, a public speaks tracker, and a contact list.
Disappointingly, a new district website will not be ready during the 2017-18 school year.
Board of Education President Elizabeth Baker said that the breaking point for her regarding Let’s Talk was the fact that board members were not receiving communications via the software in a timely fashion.
Madhu Pai, Chair of the board’s Community Engagement & Outreach committee, said that there were two main reason for the discontinuation of Let’s Talk. The first being that the cost per dialogue was coming in at around $16 per dialogue. This was money that could be better leveraged, said Pai.
In addition, Pai said that the district would need to exponentially expand the use of the software, replacing email, in order to get the kind of tracking and accountability that was expected from the program.
On the downside, Pai said that the district would lose the ease with which stakeholders can submit questions. “We’ve created a contact list to direct inquiries,” said Pai. “There is a back-up plan.”
(In response to an email from Village Green, Pai reported that the district would “clarify last usage date in followup from this meeting.”)
In addition, Pai said that district administration is working on overall accountability measures for district communications and that new Acting Superintendent Dr. Thomas Ficarra plans to push out more information from board meetings — including an email newsletter that will be sent to all parents and guardians within four days of board meetings with information on actions taken and including the superintendent’s update and associated links to policies.
Pai added that, at the behest of the Community Engagement & Outreach committee, the district will institute a public speaks tracker, making sure all requests and questions from public speaks are tracked.
Unfortunately, said Pai, the district did not expect for the long-anticipated website revamp to be completed during the 2017/18 school year — however, the district would be updating the existing website with essential and pertinent information.
Board member Susie Adamson noted that although she understood that the website would not be ready this school year she wanted to go on the record saying that the delay was unacceptable.