The Gates Chili (N.Y.) School District is located in a western suburb of Rochester and serves some 5,000 students in the towns of Gates and Chili. The professional staff numbers 494, and there are 396 support staff members.
This site has a clean and uncluttered presentation, with useful and important information presented up front. The home page offers an interesting variety of choices to complement the text-based links, including video selections and a spotlighted story accompanied by a well-sized photo. The content selections are clear, and they identify the most-relevant sections for various visitors to the site. There is a helpful continuity of design among the individual school sites, each with its own color palette to distinguish it. A more prominent link back to the district home page, however, would be welcome. (The district logo, which appears at the lower left of each school's home page, serves as a link back, but a specific text link for "Home" would be more direct and intuitive.)
The two-tiered top navigation bar-with 13 categories-appears consistently atop all site pages and sections, with the exception only of the separately hosted employment recruitment site. A "Quick Links" side navigation box, which includes links of more narrow but important interest, also is repeated on most pages. In only a few places these quick links vary, in order to feature content directed to a particular audience within a given section; this can be a bit distracting and unexpected.
A search box appears in the top tier of the navigation bar, in the upper right corner (an optimal location). The results that are generated appear complete and deep and are organized by subcategory. However, the presentation of the search results is awkward, as the list is oddly numbered according to the site section in which the content resides. There is an option available to limit a search to certain sections of the site-such as News, Forms and Publication, and Staff Directory-thus garnering more accurate, focused results.
There is an extremely detailed and wellpresented site map (the link to which conveniently appears near the search box) that serves as a solid alternative browsing tool.
General and drilled-down information-on the district, the individual schools and the programs offered-is dependably provided throughout this site. The destination landing pages for "Parents," "Students" and "Community" offer a direct way to get at desired information (although these sections were under construction at the time of this review). The "Parent Resource Center" is a one-stop shop for all content of parental interest, including links for "Developmental Assets," "Documents and Forms," "Dress Code Policy," how to "Get Involved," and much more.
This site is not optimized for access by disabled users.
Information related to parent organizations, sports, district news, upcoming events, and Board of Education meetings, minutes and policies is easy to find.
A "Contact Us" link is part of the prominent and generally consistent "Quick Links," as is the "Staff Directory" link. For general inquiries, there is a direct-submit e-mail form with a variety of subject choices. A phone number and mailing address for the district also are provided on the same "Contact Us" page, as is a prominent cross-reference to the staff directory (containing the e-mail addresses for individual staff members, along with their positions).
In "Upcoming Events," a list of imminent happenings is featured, as is a link to the full calendar (presented in a traditional calendar layout) that is navigable from month to month.
Use of Online Technology
Gates Chili e-News, an e-mail newsletter, is offered to keep interested persons apprised of the latest goings-on. The sign-up link is available from an icon on the home page. It is customizable via a choice of e-news subscriber lists, based on topics of greatest interest.
RSS feeds are available. When selecting that link (on the top tier of the navigation bar), users are directed to a page with a number of category tabs (for "Site Content," "Calendar," "News" and others), but these tabs do not provide links to individual RSS feed subjects, as would be expected, and there is no straightforward list of choices. There is an explanatory page on RSS/XML, which mentions clickable orange RSS or XML buttons by which users can subscribe to the various feeds; however, those icons were hard to find on the site at the time of this review.
"Video On-Demand" is offered on the site's home page, with entertaining and informative school-related coverage.
The "Jobs" section allows access to the personnel pages of the district's site, with online access to job opportunities and the employment application. This recruitment system is hosted separately.
The information on this site is up-todate and well tended to. The "District News" section is especially impressive. It is searchable by news topic and by month, with an extensive archive available.
There are prominent links to updates on new construction projects underway at several schools in the district. Detailed information is provided on contractors, work in progress and project history.
The site's home page has a current date-and-time stamp, as well as a WeatherBug widget noting real-time conditions.
Laura R. Bona is a contributing writer for District Administration. To nominate your district for a site review, contact Judy Hartnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.