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Facebook makes inroads in school communication efforts

Published: Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 8:23 a.m. CDT

DECATUR (MCT) - Mary Ann Stolley was checking over the Dennis School Facebook page on Monday when Principal Matt Andrews poked his head through the door.

"The seventh-graders made a video congratulating Parsons for winning the food drive for DPS," Andrews said.

Stolley pulled up the video on her desktop computer and looked at the first couple of minutes of it.

"Nice," she said. "I'll post it later."

Dennis' Facebook page is active, with more than 3,000 views this week, though several other buildings have Facebook pages, too. The district also has one.

"The district Facebook page is another communication vehicle for the community," said district spokeswoman Kendall Briscoe. "It is a great way to learn about upcoming events at the district and celebrate successes. We also use this page to remind families of upcoming days when the schools will be closed, as well as any information on weather-related closures. We actually post those emergency closures or schedule changes to Facebook first because of the ease of creating the communication. We know that we have to use multiple communication channels and Facebook has been a great addition."

Dennis' Facebook page started thanks to a suggestion from now-retired Principal Dan Fuentes. When Dennis and Millikin University teamed up for the lab school model at Dennis, Fuentes wanted to get the word out, and Facebook was the obvious way to do that.

Stolley, the Alternative Placement Room assistant, updates the page with the help of parent volunteers. She highlights everything from sports events to classroom projects.

Principal Jonathan Downing handles Parsons School's Facebook page. The immediacy and ease of communication with parents is what drew him. Even if not all families have a computer in the home, seemingly everyone has a smartphone and can check in.

"It's a really quick and easy way to post pictures of what's going on at school and what kids are learning," Downing said. "I tried to do that yesterday with a collage of all the things going on in the arts programs, drawing and music, pictures of kids doing that, showing what is happening."

Cerro Gordo schools are considering a Facebook page, said Superintendent Brett Robinson, but have yet to start one. Board member Tony Piraino asked Stolley several questions about how Dennis manages its page.

"We are in the studying it stage," Robinson said. "We are weighing the benefit of Facebook as a communication tool against the understanding that there have to be procedures and policies in place to ensure it is being used properly."

(c)2013 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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