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Plum parents get mixed snow signals from district

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 2:42 p.m.

A glitch with the Plum School District emergency notification system occurred less than 12 hours after board members discussed going with a new company.

The Plum School Board during its 7 p.m. meeting on March 26 is expected to consider an agreement with Blackboard Connect, a notification system based in Washington, D.C.

A proposed two-year agreement is expected to cost $8,000 a year, said district technology Director Chris Davis.

Davis said the Blackboard Connect system is designed to send out notifications to a subscriber in the form of phone messages as well as to email, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Text messages also can be sent.

In addition to sending out emergency notifications, the proposed system has a classroom component for teachers as well as an automated attendance call system to alert parents when their child is absent, Davis said.

Infinite Cohesion, a Columbus, Ohio-based company that manages the content on the district's website at a cost of $4,000 a year, currently sends out the district's emergency notifications.

The district previously used the services of AlertNow.

Blackboard Connect purchased AlertNow a couple years ago, Davis said.

The current system does not send out phone call notifications, Davis said.

A problem occurred March 6 when Infinite Cohesion sent out multiple and late messages about a school delay that turned into a closing to some of the district's 4,000 subscribers that include parents, teachers and staff, Davis said.

Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said a hardware problem was the root of the multiple messages.

The district received notification that the problem was corrected, he said.

Davis said the district experienced problems with the Infinite Cohesion notification system one time prior to last week's glitch.

The school board education committee on March 5 recommended including a motion to sign an agreement with Blackboard Connect on the March 26 agenda.

If approved, the new system is expected to be operational by July 1, Davis said.

“The benefit will be we have a notification system with a nationally recognized company,” Davis said.

Davis encouraged parents to update their contact information by using the parent portal portion of the district's website at www.pbsd.k12.pa.us

“We want to make sure the information the district has on file is correct,” Davis said.

Glasspool said he recognizes the importance of communicating with parents and staff.

“It is too important to leave to chance,” Glasspool said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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