How the right communications platform can strengthen your school community

You can use these platforms for more than just school-home communications.
Patrick Gannon
Patrick Gannon
Patrick Gannon is the director of communication at Pleasanton Unified School District in California.

When I joined Pleasanton Unified School District in 2016, I inherited a communications platform that was doing its job but didn’t support good two-way communication between our district, schools, families, and the broader community. It was, in fact, primarily used by me and our principals to send out emails or autodialers—all one-way communications that did not consider our stakeholders’ preferences for receiving information.

With more than 14,000 students in 16 schools in our suburban location east of San Francisco, we’d reached a point where we needed an accessible two-way communications platform that would not only keep our close-knit community apprised of school happenings and events, but would also encourage more interactions between parents, teachers, and administrators.

Finding the right communications platform

After researching our options, we implemented a new school-home communications platform across all our schools in August 2021. As someone who likes to explore innovative uses of technology, I went a step further and began looking at how we could use the platform for more than just school-home communications.

The shift in the school board election process in California was a key driver behind this exploration. Like a lot of districts and cities in the state, we’re transitioning to by-area elections that will change the way Pleasanton voters elect our board of trustees. As a result, it’s not just a school district conversation—it’s a community-wide conversation.

Using a recently introduced Community Groups feature, we’re also able to “bring people back” who want to stay connected to their schools regardless of where they’re living or working. We now have a platform where we can engage our alumni in meaningful ways. This is particularly important for a district that’s graduated generations of families in a world where not everyone is using email anymore. In fact, one of the things that I love about this community is the generations of families—as well as teachers and principals—who have gone through our schools.

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Now, if we have their mobile phone numbers, we can send text messages to them via our Community Groups. We’re now thinking about enlisting some of our famous alumni to record phone messages that will be used for further outreach. This gives us another tool for engaging a broader audience—not all of whom decided to stay in Pleasanton as adults—in a meaningful way.

Getting Everyone Onboard

We’re finding new ways to use ParentSquare every day. I’ve been engaging a group of alumni to celebrate our oldest high school’s 100th birthday in 2023. We now have a platform to engage a broader audience in a meaningful and systemic way.

Our school-home communications platform gives us a tool for streamlining communications to our staff, students, families, and the greater community at large. Even more than that, it allows us to not only communicate but actually engage our community in meaningful ways versus just pushing out information.

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