Sunday September 11, 2011

BENNINGTON -- New websites have given Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union and its nine schools new online looks and the flexibility to add new and creative features in the future.

The new supervisory union site, www.svsu.net, keeps the same features of its former ".com" page including school board documents, parent forms, policies, contact information, and other features, but it also adds more content the community may find helpful.

The sites are designed by Jennifer Holley, owner of Websites and More in Shaftsbury.

"The reason we changed the website is because we were using a School Center template that didn't really allow much flexibility for design. It was a strict format," Superintendent Catherine McClure said. "Hiring a local website designer was a way for us to tailor our websites to fit more of what we would like and also offer a variety of types of websites."

The new, more user-friendly sites that have been under construction since last fall, all incorporate scrolling photographs from SVSU schools to add some color to what used to be bland pages.

"Everything's is just more organized and more professional looking now," Holley said.

The sites also allow individual schools more flexibility with what they can put on their sites, such as schools linking information to Google Documents, as some have done.

Each site also includes a section with links to published articles both from local media regarding the supervisory union and its schools as well as other academic articles.

"The idea is we can post other things. It might be an article specific to middle school philosophy or academic rigor at the middle school level," McClure said.

The SVSU site links to different departments within the supervisory union where additions have been made. One addition on the finance page is a link that lists the work "request for proposals" that are out to bid within the supervisory union.

McClure said a number of features are being tried out and the sites are still being refined to make sure any documents the public or school boards may want are easily accessible.

Richard Pembroke, SVSU chief financial officer, said the flexibility of the sites will allow the supervisory union to add many more features that still haven't been determined.

"We're hoping once this thing gets up and running and gets out of construction, it will give us more opportunity to do more stuff on there," he said.

An idea Pembroke said has been considered is making it so employees can manage their personal benefits through the secure Website to cut down on the expenses and time spent at Central Office mailing paperwork and handling the forms.

Although it is not new this year, the SVSU site also links to "Parent Portal," a confidential page parents can log into and access a child's classroom grades, assignments, student information, attendance, and behavior data.

Initially, only parents and guardians of Mount Anthony Union Middle School Alpheus students can access the portal as the supervisory union pilots the program, but the goal is to expand access to all schools in the near future after any bugs are worked out.