When Meghan Easterly joined the team at Seacrest Country Day School in Naples, FL, as Webmaster in 2012, she found a school fairly content with its mode of communication. Little did Meghan or Seacrest realize, the school's approach to keeping everyone informed was about to unravel.
Given how vital school-parent communication is to student retention, that's a scary prospect. But Meghan, with a little help from Finalsite, saved the day.
The Cause of Calendar Chaos
A key component of Seacrest's successful school-to-home and within-school communication turns out to be very basic: the humble calendar. Without a clear, effective means of letting everyone know what's happening on any given day, chaos ensues. And Meghan knows that first hand.
When she first arrived at Seacrest, one person handled the school's master calendar, funneling old-timey paper requests into an Outlook calendar. That staffer used the calendar to organize athletic events, special seminars, rehearsals, performances, and just about everything happening on campus — you name it.
Every week, she spent an average of eight hours typing and retyping details for the same events on more than 20 different calendars school-wide. Then, if a room, time or date changed, she'd need to carefully update each individual calendar.
Somehow, Meghan says, that manual system worked for a while. "I don't know how she did it," she commented. Its drawbacks became obvious when the calendar keeper moved out of state in 2014. And then suddenly, the calendar chaos became Meghan's problem.
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Creating Calendar Clarity
Fortunately, Meghan knew just what to do. Over the course of a summer, she converted the clunky Outlook system to Finalsite's calendar management system. "It was so straightforward," she says, "that everyone starting using it right away."
Her first step was setting up an employee portal, so teachers and other faculty can schedule events or meetings from the comfort of their own desks or smartphones.
The "Event Scheduler" looks at Seacrest's Master Calendar, the calendar that shows what's happening that day, week, month etc. Here's the cool part: they find out immediately if the desired date, time or room is open. If so, they enter their event or choose another slot. School administrators edit and approve the calendar as needed.
Events get typed into Seacrest's calendar only once — without any duplication because the calendar is embedded in the school's Learning Management System.
Tah dah — end of calendar chaos!
According to Meghan, this feature alone saved the school 228 hours — nearly six weeks of staff time. That resulted in a savings of almost $5,000!
Seacrest's new way of managing busy days makes life easier and communication smoother for everyone. Teachers can import feeds from important school calendars such as athletics and art, or LMS feeds can auto-update. Front desk staff gets to see what the school calls the "Cruise Ship Itinerary," aka the Master Calendar, every day. They can then tell parents exactly what's happening — whether it's Diving Team practice or Mr. Kapotis's chemistry class in the school's STEM Lab, or that their child is on Bus #247 on the field trip to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Parents see the full public calendar and can access any calendars for their student. Seacrest's calendar is visible on its website, the LMS, mobile site and calendar feeds.