Gilroy Unified School District
More than a Vendor: Finding a Communications Partner with Finalsite
Melanie Corona, Public Information Officer at Gilroy Unified School District, said the customer service is what she loves most about Finalsite. "Finalsite staff is so responsive to requests and receptive in helping us figure things out and answering questions. The turnaround time for addressing tickets is incredible."
As for the platform itself, she loves how easy content creation is with the drag-and-drop and WYSIWYG editor. "Switching column layout within an element is wonderful, and switching from mobile to desktop view with the touch of a button makes it very easy to see how our users will view the website they're visiting."
Gilroy Unified School District is located in the southernmost region of Santa Clara County in California. The district is the largest employer in the city, and has more than 11,000 K-12 students enrolled.
"We love working with Finalsite and have utilized the platform in so many ways that we never imagined would be possible. The platform has been a literal lifesaver for us."
PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER
Gilroy Unified School District began their partnership with Finalsite in the spring of 2018 and launched their new website that summer. "We moved 50,000 pages of content to 16 new websites in a matter of 6 weeks. Our project manager was amazing. We were up to some constraints with our previous provider so we had to move quickly, and I remember being on the shores of Lake Tahoe with my laptop moving content over and communicating with her."
The content migration process revealed to Melanie where there were areas for improvement, particularly at the school-site level. "Once we took an inventory of what we had, we asked 'Who is working on the school level? What's the expectation for them? What's the accountability? It was very decentralized. The schools were each responsible for their school site and had given access to parent volunteers." Melanie said.
"What we learned is that the level of the comfort with technology— from office manager staff to administrators — is so wide and vast," said Adminstrative Secretary Natalie Martinez. This led to inconsistency in the content across all of the school websites.
For the new Finalsite website, Melanie and Natalie customized website admin access to allow for a more orderly process. "We quickly took back all of the control and then started parsing things out based on ability and aesthetic." Now, only 1-2 people per school are admins.
"Finalsite has been tremendous in terms of allowing us the control at the district level to take over the schools sites and push things out from a district level," Melanie said.
A Crash Course in Crisis Communications
District-wide communications proved especially necessary in 2019, when the Gilroy community experienced a series of traumatic events that became national news — first, a mass shooting at the town's annual summer garlic festival and second, a sexual assault case that led to a cancelled varsity football season that fall. In addition, the district faced an abrupt principal resignation and the closure of one of their elementary schools. "Never in all of my days did I think I'd be speaking to all these major outlets about our little town," Melanie said.
The back-to-back crises for Gilroy led into the second half of the school year, where the district faced yet another obstacle: the onset of COVID-19.
"The garlic festival was shock training," Melanie said, "we closed the site in and had messaging on social media, our website, all fifteen of the school websites across all communications. I was in a travel trailer with a hotspot from my phone with my laptop doing all of it. But the beauty of Finalsite is that it just made it so easy to do. From start to finish it took 35 to 40 minutes."
"The tragedy trained people on where and how to find their information with regards to the school district, and we built on that [method of communicating] with the pandemic."
"When we went on shelter-in-place in March, we wiped all of the school site calendars off of the websites and added a COVID calendar, so that it was all that populated on those calendar pages. We also quickly turned off pop-ups and other things district-wide that seem inappropriate during a time of crisis." Melanie said. Melanie and Natalie created a COVID-19 hub, where all of the latest news posts and information could be found.
Making a Positive Impact
Overall, the ease of the Finalsite platform is what's made the biggest difference for Gilroy. In summary, Melanie said, "It has made adding content, updating content and adapting content so easy which allows us to push out information online. That has been so helpful during the pandemic and following the shooting in our community two years ago where time was of the essence."
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