In an effort to improve communication with parents across the school district, New Haven Public Schools launched a new smartphone app on Friday.
The app allows parents to receive district-wide notifications about snow days and upcoming events, and features an idea box where parents can submit their thoughts about ways to improve schools. Superintendent Garth Harries ’95 and Mayor Toni Harp met with parents at East Rock Community Magnet School last week to announce the app and other new communications tools for parents.
The app came as a response to parents’ calls for better communication from NHPS. In addition to the app, Harries promoted a website for parents launched in September and a “welcome team” that will help parents navigate the complex student enrollment process.
Harp embraced the new communication tools and said that they will increase parent engagement.
“It is my sense that students respond favorably when loved ones keep current with activities and events at school — it increases participation in those activities and provides concrete evidence that the whole family is engaged in the student’s education,” Harp said at the press conference. Harries said that during his recent “listening tour” — a project to gather feedback about school progress — he heard many requests from parents and community members to improve access to information. The app addresses this problem by allowing parents to receive district notifications, as well as providing ready access to other relevant links to websites such as New Haven Promise, Parent University, school lunch menus and the NHPS Facebook and Twitter pages.
Board of Education member and president of East Rock’s parent teacher organization Daisy Gonzalez said that she hopes the app will encourage parents to become more involved in their children’s education.
“The more parents become familiar with the app, the more they are going to realize this is really simple to get in touch with the schools, and that’s going to get them to open up more,” she said. “I think [parents] didn’t realize that NHPS wants them to be involved.”
Jennifer Ricker, a member of the Citywide Parent Leadership Team, said the new app will compliment the parent website already in place. Last September, the Citywide Parent Leadership Team launched a website that, like the app, notifies parents about important events and offer resources. The website includes information about upcoming workshops and allows parents to connect with each other on an online portal.
Ricker said the app will help her stay on top of district announcements she might otherwise miss.
“The district didn’t always leave a phone message when there were important announcements, and my husband didn’t even get the calls, so if I missed the call we would have no idea what was going on,” she said. “This app allows us to both be connected and access information if we missed something.”
Another way the district is trying to improve communication is by creating a welcome team of staff members from different departments who will help answer parents’ questions during busy times like registration and the School Choice lottery. Harries piloted the program on a smaller scale when he first became Superintendent last year, and he decided to expand it after receiving positive feedback, said NHPS Director of Communications Abbe Smith.
The welcome team will be available during the School Choice lottery from April 9 until April 24 in Central Office at 54 Meadow St.