Board discusses ways to honor law enforcement, approve new communication platform
The William S. Hart Union High School District board approved a $2 million state grant Wednesday night to promote inclusive access to college and career readiness opportunities for its students.
In addition, the district approved an approximate $89,250 agreement to transition from Blackboard, a one-way mass communication system, to ParentSquare, a two-way communication system with capabilities of translating messages in more than 100 languages, as way to enhance communication between the district and parents. Lastly, members of the board received information from its advisory committee to honor law enforcement, first responders and the military.
According to Michael Vierra, deputy superintendent of educational services, as part of the grant objectives, the funds are to be used to enhance career pathways with industry standard equipment and curriculum, and support students through various college and career exploration tools and resources such as field trips or hands-on experiences.
Vierra said the funds will need to be spent between January 2023 and June 2025.
The governing board unanimously voted to approve and receive the state grant with little discussion. The grant was provided by the K12 Strong Workforce Program, which was designed to support K-12 local education agencies’ approach to career technical education and postsecondary education.
Debbie Dunn, executive assistant and communications representative, led the presentation on ParentSquare.
“Our strategic plan calls for us to increase and enhance our communication efforts,” Dunn said. “We are working on timely communication in emergencies and getting alerts up on our websites. We have updated the website and we are putting information out on social media on a constant basis.”
“So, we’re actively looking for ways to engage with families more effectively,” she continued.
Currently, the district uses Blackboard as its mass communication system, but it’s a one-way program. The district can also send phone calls in case of emergency, but the district mainly uses emails through Blackboard.
Blackboard can also translate messages into Spanish. However, in looking at other communication systems, ParentSquare offered a “more engaging” communication platform, Dunn said during her presentation.
“It offers families choices — choice in how to receive their communications whether they want to receive messages through downloading the app on their phone, through emails or through text messages. They get to go in and choose their method that they receive communications,” she added.
She noted ParentSquare offers a wide variety of languages, and the big difference, it includes a two-way communication.
“If a teacher messages a parent in English, it translates to Spanish,” Dunn said. “The parent responds in Spanish. It translates back to English for the teacher.”
The four elementary school districts in the Santa Clarita Valley use ParentSquare to communicate with parents. Parents who have children in different school sites or districts will be able to communicate with those teachers via ParentSquare.
The Hart district’s governing board voted unanimously to approve the transition to ParentSquare. According to Dunn, the district will begin training through the spring and recommend implementation of ParentSquare for the fall.
Superintendent Mike Kuhlman reported back to the governing board about ideas from the advisory committee to honor law enforcement, first responders and military. The ideas were brought forth to the student communications council to hear their opinions, too.
All high school sites will create an honor wall, like the already existing honor walls at Hart, West Ranch and Saugus high schools. Those walls will be completed by next year, according to Kuhlman.
Another idea was for associated student bodies to create or designate “first responder nights” during athletic or extracurricular events. The details are still being worked out, but those nights could look like, for example, first responders, military or law enforcement being invited to attend those events or offer free admission to them.
The final idea discussed was to feature school resource officers in morning announcements, so students could get to know them better. Kuhlman noted this is something already being done, but it would occur more frequently.
“I wanted to bring that information back to the governing board and let you know that we have lots to look forward to starting next year,” Kuhlman said.