The Matanuska-Susitna Borough (Alaska) School District is located just north of Anchorage and covers approximately 25,000 square miles. It includes 43 schools, with close to 16,500 students.
This site’s design is straightforward and intuitive. The home page offers an adequate selection of content, including distinct sections for “News & Information,” “Site Shortcuts,” and a toggle choice for “Announcements” and “Events.” As is the case with many Web sites, some of the functionality doesn’t work with the new Internet Explorer 8 browser; however, there is a link on the home page that quickly gets visitors to Microsoft’s solution—a nice touch. The district logo (appearing at the top center throughout the main district site) does not serve double duty as a direct link back to the home page. However, there is a consistent “Home” link at the top left.
Individual school sites helpfully share the same design template as the main district site.
The top navigation bar has nine consistent choices, including one for the site’s home page, and most have cascading menus with secondary page selections. There is a right-side nav box in most of the primary sections that is customized to that section (for example, “About Us,” “School Board” and “Departments”).
The site search is available from a box on the majority of the site’s pages that is on the left and directly under the main navigation bar. Powered by Google, the search delivers largely relevant results. There is a site map—a navigational plus—although the link for it is not offered adjacent to the search box, which would be a more useful location.
A healthy selection of information is available on this site, and it speaks to the wide audience of visitors. There is an option to translate the site contents into several languages. This site is not optimized for access by disabled users.
The main district site’s “Parents” section has information and links on registration and enrollment, testing and assessments, handbooks and policies, parental tips and much more. The interactive “i-Parent” portal offers round-the-clock access to student grades, attendance records, scheduling and discipline information.
There is a “Help” section (available from the “Site Shortcuts” menu), which offers links to “Website Help & Features” and “What Department Do I Want?” in addition to other helpful content. At the time of this review, a “Contact Us” link (or similar offering) for the main district could not be located. Each school site appears to provide such contact information, however. The district’s mailing address and phone number are available as part of the top header throughout the site.
Use of Online Technology
There is a customizable calendar of events and a monthly online district newsletter. A number of the individual schools also offer online newsletters. The “Employee” section features information on how teachers can build their own Web pages and also provides intranet access for district employees as well as access to SubFinder (an employee absence management and substitute placement system) and “MyLearningPlan” (a service for tracking professional development activities), among other choices.
RSS feeds are available, along with clear instructions for subscribing.
The content on this site is timely and well-maintained. The news archives, however, appear only to go back as far as November 2008.
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.