Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205
Referendum Support Starts With a Stronger Website
In 2018, the Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 Board of Education placed a $168 million referendum on the ballot, seeking voter approval to conduct much-needed facility improvements.
Elmhurst 205’s Director of Communications Beverly Redmond knew one of the keys to fulfilling a successful bond campaign was rooted in effective digital communications. Prior to launching their new Finalsite website, referendum information was housed on a Google site, which wasn’t ideal.
When the district’s Finalsite website launched, Beverly quickly shifted gears. She used Finalsite’s Content Management System, Composer, to create a referendum microsite in order to streamline communications for the community.
Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 serves students in the City of Elmhurst and small portions of Oak Brook, Bensenville and Addison.
"Finalsite is head and shoulders, fingers and toes above the competition. There are 10 other options for what we do in school PR. Finalsite helps you stand out."
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS & PUBLIC RELATIONS
“The fact that I could just take the URL and plug it in and redirect to it from our district website - that was dynamite,” she said.
The microsite became the go-to communications hub for all things referendum-related, taking the guesswork out of where to find information on such a critically important topic.
“Finalsite made migrating the referendum piece easier for us. You have one central place for people to go. It was easy to circulate and navigate, move people around. It’s just such a full service website,” Beverly said. “I don’t think that we would have been as successful [with the referendum] without maintaining a true home for information.”
A Solution for Virtual Events
When COVID-19 hit, Elmhurst 205’s summer open house needed to be reimagined. The annual event would attract hundreds of people in-person, which was no longer in the cards. Beverly was tasked with bringing it all online, without breaking the bank.
Relying on the dynamic functionality of their new website, she was able to shift gears and develop a full-scale virtual event completely online instead of resorting to a cancellation.
“Finalsite helps with innovation, particularly during COVID. We just hosted this event on our website. With Finalsite and a little help from Zoom, we were able to take that giant expo with 60 or so vendors and offer it virtually.”
Because of the district’s success hosting virtual events and embedding video directly within Composer, Beverly says virtual events are here to stay in District 205.
“We were constantly pressuring ourselves to host in-person events. We would have to fly in people, hotel costs, all of that. There will never be a day that we will not offer some kind of virtual platform because of the lessons that we’ve learned from using Finalsite,” Beverly said.
In a virtual world, using video has become extremely important for Elmhurst 205. Putting video on their website has never been easier — and doesn’t require a third-party integration with a video hosting service. Elmhurst 205 uses the Resources module, as well as simple video elements within the content management system to add video content in just a couple of clicks.
“Embedding video using Finalsite’s content management system is so easy. I don’t have to go to my video producer for all of that, I just take that link and put it into a page and it can live again. People are now coming to our website when they normally wouldn’t,” she said.
A Place for Parent Engagement
Before Elmhurst 205 made the switch to Finalsite, the community was frustrated with overall website experience. The old site was outdated and difficult to navigate. The district was looking for the right combination of design and function. Finalsite’s content management system and theme design checked all the boxes.
“The website used to be a museum of information, where things would go to die. When I was hired, they [staff and parents] were so frustrated. That’s not uncommon for other districts, “ Beverly said.
As soon as the new website launched, parents instantly commented that it was “1,000 times better than what we had,” Beverly said. Not only are parents happy with their overall user experience, but they are asking to engage with it through district-hosted PTA pages.
Finalsite offers a variety of administrative permissions, allowing each PTA representative to access and edit their own PTA page without compromising the security of the rest of the website.
“We allow our PTAs to manage their websites through Finalsite, and it is very easy for them now.”
Impactful Theme Designs
When going through the redesign process, Elmhurst 205 wanted its site to stand out. They found an optimal solution by selecting one of Finalsite’s theme designs.
“Your home page has to be slamming, and when I say slamming, I mean it has to be off the chain. That home page has to be hitting on all cylinders at all times. It’s your business card, your calling card,” Beverly said.
“The theme design is the next best thing to a custom build, and Finalsite has been able to personalize the designs so much for what we need.”
Beverly said the design and deployment process made her job easier, since the team knew her pain points and had solutions already set up.
“Finalsite takes the ideas out of your head and makes them reality. You don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about how to create something,” she said.
From start to finish, Elmhurst 205’s website design, migration and launch process took only four months.
Beverly said there is no question that she would recommend Finalsite to a colleague in another district or school.
“Finalsite is head and shoulders, fingers and toes above the competition. There are 10 other options for what we do in school PR. Finalsite helps you stand out.”
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