South Orange-Maplewood District Purchases ‘Let’s Talk’ for One Year

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The South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education voted last night to adopt the Let’s Talk communication software for the remainder of the school year, after what it deemed a successful 90-day pilot program.

The Board of Education approved an agreement with K12 Insight of Herndon, Virginia, to provide an annual subscription to Let’s Talk platform and training and support for the 2015-16 school year at a rate of $11,083 ($19,000 prorated for 7 months).

“Let’s Talk” allows parents, guardians, students and others to submit questions, concerns, suggestions, comments and more to district staff with a guaranteed response time within two days. District Director of Strategic Communications Suzanne Turner noted that the average time to complete and close a dialogue during the pilot of Let’s Talk was 1.1 business days.

Board members discussed the purchase after an update by Turner who had mostly positive feedback about the software gleaned from its dashboard which tracks response time and user satisfaction. Ultimately, Turner is responsibly for screening dialogues submitted through Let’s Talk and routing questions and comments to the appropriate parties to be addressed.

Board Second Vice President Johanna Wright questioned if communication software was really necessary in a district the size of South Orange-Maplewood, noting that some of the other districts using Let’s Talk were much larger, with 24,000 or 30,000 students to SOMSD’s 7,000.

However, Board member Elizabeth Baker championed the software, saying she had heard considerable feedback about Let’s Talk everywhere she went, whether on the train or in the grocery store. “They appreciate it,” said Baker, adding that users wanted to see Let’s Talk expanded. “There are very few things I’ve seen implemented in the district where every single person I’ve spoken to has had a positive reaction,” said Baker.

Board member Maureen Jones added that “with communications being a major issue in the past few years, I see this as something tangible that can help.”

Board of Ed alternate student representative Filip Saulean suggested that there could be more student use of the software if there was an app. District Director of Technology Paul Roth noted that the app was currently only for use by administrators of the software.

Finally, Board member Beth Daugherty said that she had heard from Jane Bleasedale of the Special Education Parents Advisory Committee (SEPAC); Bleasedale had reported that SEPAC supported the continued use of Let’s Talk.

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