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Engaging the Community through Automated Communications

Mass notification systems enable administrators to manage the message to parents, students and staff

The latest notification systems enable district administrators to communicate instantly and across a variety of platforms to parents, teachers, staff and communities, from any location and in multiple languages. In this web seminar, originally broadcast on February 11, 2014, a director of educational technology and a 15-year educational leadership veteran shared their experiences using this technology in their districts, how such systems keep the community informed and engaged and the keys to using automated communications effectively and efficiently in any district.

Product Manager
One Call Now

One Call Now is the largest and fastest growing group notification provider in America. We have many interesting and important features. For example, we use our stock library to implement multi-lingual messaging. So if it’s important for you to send out messages in English, Spanish and a variety of other languages to support your community, we can do that. We have a library of pre-recorded, pre-translated messages that you can select and send without having to worry about the translation. We can send emails in up to 52 different languages and SMS messages in up to 18 different languages. One Call Now can also push messages to social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. We also have 24/7 U.S.-based support. You can call us anytime or use live chat online. In terms of security, we have triple-redundant systems, which means we have multiple servers in multiple locations, so when you need to send out a message, our system is there and ready to respond. The data connections are encrypted so that you don’t have to worry about your personally identifiable information getting compromised.

Former Executive Director Kids Read Now
Former superintendent 
Tipp City (Ohio) Exempted Village Schools

I’ve been involved with One Call Now for a couple of years. They work hard to make sure all your messages connect with everyone. To me it’s a for-profit company with a nonprofit atmosphere, and in our business of education, that’s really important. There are lots of ways in which districts, superintendents, principals and others can use One Call Now. It can not only alert parents of school closings or delays, but it can help them understand why. It can also alert parents of all kinds of reminders, like school board meetings. One Call Now also donates calls when school districts are asking voters for additional funds. When I worked in higher education a couple of years ago, One Call Now donated calls to all of our alumni. That was interesting because that was all we did differently that year, but we had the biggest crowd for our alumni football game and weekend that we had ever had. I certainly attribute that success to One Call Now and the messages it sent out.

As a superintendent, there were a couple instances where I didn’t have One Call Now, but wish I did. Once we had a very serious bus accident. The good news was none of our students were hurt seriously, but as all parents know, when something like that happens you want to know immediately what’s happened. At the time, we had several people calling different groups of parents, while parents were calling us frantically. With One Call Now, I could have just made one call, sent one email and one text to parents with real-time information. There’s lots of other ways administrators can use One Call Now. It can alert families of low lunch card balances, technology issues and school safety issues. From my past experience, One Call Now is a terrific vehicle for all of these things. It allows us to prevent as much miscommunication as we can and manage the message as much as we can.

Director of Educational Technology
Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 (Penn.)

We’re an educational service agency that serves 25 school districts in south central Pennsylvania across three counties. We have 96,000 students across those districts, as well as many non-public, charter and cyber charter students that we also provide services to on a regular basis. One Call Now is truly all about controlling the message about making sure that our constituents are well informed. I too remember the days of phone chains and sending newsletters home to parents when events happened or when illnesses struck the entire district.

We all know when we send letters home with kids, they may never actually reach the parents. Today we’re able to control that message, and do so in a way that almost guarantees that someone in the home gets the message. When I moved into the technology director role, my perspective of communication changed drastically. I realized that a mass communication system was something we needed, and in 2010 we examined several vendors. We wanted to make sure we were controlling the message, but also that the parents had some flexibility and control over what phone numbers were called, whether or not they’d receive text messages and what would happen if they had multiple children in multiple buildings.

One Call Now hit a home run with all of those issues. Alerting parents of weather events and school events are naturally worth noting. But it’s also great to be able to send back the “Welcome Back” message from each principal each Fall, and to be able to remind parents that state exams are coming up. Our priority is also to make parents stakeholders in this. We make sure the calls we make are relevant to at least 75 percent of the people we’re calling. If we don’t follow that pattern, they’re going to start hanging up or requesting to be removed from the list, and that’s something we don’t want to happen. We also seamlessly integrated our contact information into One Call Now. This included things like bus lists, so when a bus is expected to be late, we can easily send a message to the right parents. Our employees are also really important. One Call Now has the ability to divide up calls so that your staff get a slightly different message than what your students do, so they can get information that is specific and relevant to them. Why One Call Now? The most important thing for me is reliability. When the decision is made to send a message for weather-related closures for example, we need to know it will send out and won’t crash. One Call Now uses algorithms to prevent crashes and continually hits our 28,000 phone numbers at a 95 percent success rate in less than 30 minutes. At 4:30 a.m., that is peace of mind I can’t even describe.

They also don’t just have great technical support, it’s personalized. Some of their tech support members have added themselves to our phone lists, so they too are getting calls early in the morning to make sure they were actually working and to address any problems we may have. It’s no longer acceptable to just have one method of mass communication in a school district. The cross-pollination between several mediums and social media is essential. Especially when it’s an emergency situation, you shouldn’t be wasting time trying getting everyone connected and communicating.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to: