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Screenshot of Pittsburg Community Schools graduation

Pittsburg Community Schools

During her job interview, Elishia Seals remembers being asked her opinion about the district's website. She replied honestly, knowing the opportunities it would create if the site was improved.

Once she accepted the role of public information director for Pittsburg Unified School District 250, she was tasked with two specific goals: fix the website and tell their school's story. 

But as a department of one, finding a solution to accomplish those objectives wasn't going to be easy.

The Challenge — A Matter of Trust

Recognizing the need to respond to rising parent expectations, the school board sought a new website provider that offered a long list of features, including the ability to present important announcements and content in an accessible and mobile-friendly design,  streamline the district’s messaging capabilities, and collect powerful data and analytics. The team also wanted to develop a consistent visual identity and branding that could be used across the district, as well as on the schools’ individual websites. 

Seals sensed the frustration users were having when they visited the district's old website with Apptegy. "If they're told to locate something on the website but they can't find it, they're not going to want to come back,” Seals said. “It's really easy to lose that buy-in from the community, and that's where we found ourselves."

Seals began polling families, staff, and teachers to learn more about the pain points of using the website, asking the community simple questions focused on identifying their needs, such as:

  • Why were they visiting the site?
  • What were they looking for when visiting the site?
  • Did they find what they were looking for?

Based on the responses, it was clear users were not able to easily find what they were looking for and were not happy with the current experience.

"Our goal was for our users and our community to be able to click with confidence," Seals said. "As simple as it sounds, I wanted users to come to our site and find what they needed, but we had lost that trust with our stakeholders."

At a Glance

Screenshot of Pittsburg Community Schools baseball


As the largest school district in southeast Kansas, Pittsburg Unified School District 250 thrives on its diversity in people, programming, and opportunities. The district maintains a personalized and individualized approach, ensuring that every one of the more than 3,300 students feels at home.

Related Features

Seals searched for a website and communications tools to regain that trust and help tell the district's story in the most efficient way possible. Maintaining seven websites across the district was going to be a daily responsibility. 

But, she also needed the district to stand out from the competition. Seals realized that several other local schools were using similar templates for their websites. "I didn't like that. Our major competitor was using our template, and frankly using it better because they didn't have ten years of content to clean up." If Pittsburg continued its contract, they would need to go with a custom-designed solution, she decided.

"When they presented me with a custom template, it wasn't up to my expectations. We had a year left in our contract, so it was the perfect time to have a conversation and figure out what we could do because it wasn't working."

Seals was faced with two options: Figure out how to fix the current site or take a leap of faith and start fresh with a website redesign with Finalsite. She chose the latter.

The Solution — A New Partnership 

Partnering with Finalsite, Seals got to work. She felt it was critical for families to be able to access the site during the summer, prior to the start of the new school year. When students, parents, or guardians needed to find supply lists, lunch menus, bus routes, or to enroll a new student, they'd be greeted with a new site and a better user experience.

But with seven sites to launch for the district in just three months, Seals was feeling the pressure. "I think I probably chose the most challenging road!" Supported by a dedicated project manager throughout the redesign and launch, Seals began the process of migrating content from the old site to the new one, designed and powered by Finalsite.

"I was given a person —  an actual human — that was mine and there to help me," Seals laughed. "She gave me great guidance through the design process, and she walked me through a strategy to hit a reasonable deadline. Every Finalsite employee I've encountered is really excited to be doing this work. They're excited to see new ideas; they're excited to bring solutions to problems. I have not once been met with 'we can't do that' — not once, and I think that's really incredible."

Screenshot of Pittsburg Community Schools careers

The career page on a school or district website can sometimes be an afterthought, but not at Pittsburg! Using a media slider and testimonials from current staff members offers potential applicants an opportunity to learn more about the reasons to work there. The large “APPLY” button and the opportunity to apply to be a substitute make it easy for users.

Seals was also impressed with the project management system used to track the deployment process. "I was given this whole system to help organize the process with milestones and benchmarks — I realized I'm not going to put a whole site together by myself."

Knowing that the website content and navigation were in need of a major overhaul, access to the old site's content granted Seals the chance to strategically migrate the site's information — but not a 1:1 copy. "There was a lot of content that was repurposed and a lot that needed to be cut," Seals added. "I originally felt like everything needed to stay, but eventually re-categorized everything because I realized it was cluttered and messy."

"I wouldn't call myself an expert by any means, but I've built a few sites in my day, and the old system was pretty rudimentary," Seals said. "It's not underdeveloped, but it's limited. Previously, every time I wanted to do something, it wasn't something they had the power to do, and it turned into a special development request."

Seals jumped right in and was quickly impressed by the built-in capabilities of Finalsite's content management system, Composer. "It felt very intuitive to me. Every time I would go to do something, it would work! Before, I felt like I was working for our vendor, and I feel like Finalsite is working for me, and I think that that has been such a huge shift. From the beginning, there was quite a difference between how Finalsite approached the process, and that really stood out to me."

The Results — Rebuilding Trust

Since the site's redesign and launch, Pittsburg Community Schools has found new confidence, and with a solid foundation in place, Seals and the school community are excited to see the site continue to grow.

Screenshot of Pittsburg Community Schools homepanel

Wanting to provide equal visibility to all schools within a district can be a challenging task. Pittsburg schools does this seamlessly right on their homepage by highlighting each of the six schools in the district with big bright photographs that feature not only students and staff members at each school but also the uniqueness and welcoming community.

Additionally, including the most critical information (students, staff, parents, portal login, and a search component) in the top sticky navigation bar ensures that users quickly find the information they are looking for.

Screenshot of Pittsburg Community Schools lunch menu

Making lunch menus as easily accessible as possible to parents and caregivers was one big goal for Seals and her website redesign — after all, it was one of the most searched for pages on the site! Using Finalsite’s Calendar module, the district is able to publish and share information from one convenient location seamlessly. Users are able to download printable versions of the menu, pay for food service, submit a free & reduced meal application, and subscribe to calendars to receive notifications on any upcoming changes.

Screenshot of Pittsburg Community Schools newsroom

District news sections can often become dumping grounds for information and, without consistent updating, can quickly become overloaded with out-of-date information. Pittsburg does a fantastic job of organizing and branding their news section, keeping the colors and graphics consistent while allowing enough padding and white space between sections, so it doesn't feel overly crowded or overwhelming.

"The migration was a heavy lift, but it was an exciting move for us," Seals shared. "I think we were past due, and people were waiting for this. Change can be scary, and it was a lot of work, but I think it's a unique moment because, for us, we were ready."

When browsing the site, Seals hopes users gain a sense of what the district is like. "When you walk into one of our buildings, it's not a boring experience," Seals said. "It's high-fives from awesome kids; it's high school students doing something out of this world — that is your experience when you come to our school buildings, and I really wanted users to feel that."

"I think part of that trust building has been my ability to confidently say that our community loves the new site. I knew they would love it. I knew that Finalsite would come through for me."

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