Tips for Improving Parent Communications with Portals
Debbie Eisenach

Have you ever wondered how other schools communicate with their parents — especially international schools or boarding schools, whose diverse parent population is scattered around the globe?

With many options available — including email, social media, and your website — it can often be overwhelming to come up with an effective and engaging strategy.  While new tools are introduced often, password-protected Portals are still the most effective platform for keeping parents informed and connected.

It’s not often we get the opportunity to see how other schools are using Portals, though, because of privacy and security reasons. However, in a recent webinar, the Western Academy of Beijing (WAB), give you an inside look at how they successfully rolled out their parent portal, engage their community, and drive traffic to their website with Finalsite’s email marketing tool, eNotify.


WAB is a leading non-profit, independent IB World School in China, home to 1,400 students from over 50 countries.  In 2016, WAB partnered with Finalsite to roll out an AVA Digital Gold award-winning website, which has received much praise from other international schools for its engaging design, thoughtful user experience, and ability to lead visitors on an amazing journey. 

After their team launched their new public facing website, the next big project was to totally revamp their parent portal. Kyle Busechlen, Communication Specialist, led the project.  He said: “The school knew it was time to update our parent communications including newsletters and how parents were using the website. Both were outdated and linked back to an internally developed Drupal portal; when the in-house Drupal developer left, the old portal was no longer being supported so there was a push to move to Finalsite Portal solution quickly.”

Cleaning Up the “Internal Dumping Ground”

Kyle stated their internal portal was a dumping ground for information, with redundant pages, out-of-date content, and a mazelike navigation that only their in-house Drupal developer really understood.  The parents disliked the portal and it was clear that a complete re-design along with cleaning up all the content was required.

Their process was clear and effective:

  • They solicited input and buy-in from the community through surveys and discussion groups
  • Their small team took this input and then developed and implemented the final plan
  • The design also went through many iterations, with a simple user interface being a clear goal
WAB Portal Example 1

With ease of use being a primary goal, their end result delivered just that.  Their new portal includes quicklinks, easy to find resources, quick access to calendars and directories, and much more.

Watch this webinar on demand any time here.

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Data Integration with Powerschool

Security was another big issue as the portal site needed to be very secure.  Working with Finaliste they integrated their Powerschool constituent data to allow for easy logins to the parent portal.  Hourly syncs enable new users to automatically get an account and password while also being added to relevant mailing lists — ensuring new parents, or parents with updated info stay in-the-know.

“With the Powerschool integration, we can easily create highly customized lists to use for communication, which is part of what has led to very high email open rates,” Chris Clark, PR & Digital Media Specialist. “Content is relevant and timely so parents are engaged.”

They also push content out to several social media channels including WeChat, and they boast of a very high following across all their social media channels further engaging their community to showcase the vibrancy of their school.

WAB Portal Example 3

All combined, the parent portal WAB has now is one that is easy to use and navigate, which ultimately translates to more engaged (and happy!) parents.  But instead reading about their story, please watch the recording for yourself and get a rare look at another school’s parent portal!

Engaging Your Community - Tips from the Western Academy of Beijing Webinar On Demand


Debbie Eisenach

As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 8 years while living in both Asia and Europe. From conference planning and presentations, to association events, and client success stories, she helps schools understand how they can maximize their web presence while partnering with Finalsite. In her free time she enjoys traveling and attending events at her children's school in Berlin, Germany.

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