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Officials want parents to have better Web site

Richmond County schools hope to improve parents' access to children's information

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Before iParent, Garrett Jarnagin might have been able to skip a few class assignments and breathe easy about his grades until report card time.

Kim Jarnagin checks her son's school progress on iParent at Hephzibah Middle School. Jarnagin says her eighth-grader, Garrett, knows she checks the site regularly to review his work.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Kim Jarnagin checks her son's school progress on iParent at Hephzibah Middle School. Jarnagin says her eighth-grader, Garrett, knows she checks the site regularly to review his work.

The Hephzibah Middle School eighth-grader now knows his grades, class assignments and homework can be accessed by his mother with a few clicks.

"At that age, they don't report to you as much what they're doing," said his mom, Kim Jarnagin. "This keeps them in check. They know they better do their best because Mom is going to check it."

For the past three years, Jarnagin has faithfully used iParent, a program that allows Richmond County parents to log into a secure website to review test scores, class assignments and attendance. Though the program has been helpful, with more than 6,200 parents actively using it, school officials and parents agree the system needs updates.

"I'd like to get a more detailed list of their assignments, and I'd like to be able to do that without having to go to two or three different places," Jarnagin said.

Last week, the Richmond County school board's finance committee approved purchasing a new software program, Global Scholar, that will offer more interactive opportunities and make accessing student information more user-friendly, Internet Technology Director Robert Jankus said.

The final vote on the software will take place during the April 20 board meeting.

Penny-tax funds will help cover $1.3 million of the $1.8 million information system. The tax funds will distribute $450,000 a year for three years toward the purchase of Global Scholar.

Parents will be able to get text message and e-mail notifications on their children's attendance. Grades, testing assignments and student assessments will be under one centralized program.

"The parent portal will be much more powerful," Jankus said. "It will make it easier for teachers to put in the information and easier for the parents to access it."

The difficulty of using iParent has likely led to usage growing more slowly than school officials planned, board member Alex Howard said.

His children attend Lake Forest Hills Elementary and Davidson Fine Arts Magnet schools, and he has used the program to access their grades and assignments.

"IParent is very outdated, and it's very hard for parents to get around the site," he said. "You have to go through a third party if you forget your password. I think that has something to do with the number of our users."

Global Scholar will allow parents to create their own accounts and retrieve their passwords through e-mail if they forget them, Jankus said.

The technology staff will begin working on the program in the summer, and parents could begin using the new program by spring 2011.

Though the new program will be user-friendly, the school system will still have the obstacle of getting parents who do not have Internet at home involved, Howard said.

The board has discussed creating a partnership with the East Central Georgia Regional Library that would encourage those parents to use the library to access their students' information.

"We have a low-income school district, so we have to consider these other elements," Howard said. "We have to do a better job at getting the message out there and showing parents and grandparents how important it is to be involved."

Hephzibah Middle has opened a parent lab this school year for parents who lack Internet access or want the option of checking the information at their children's schools, Principal Wade White said.

"We have a lot of parents signed up, and we don't want Internet access to be the issue," he said. "If they can't meet with a teacher, this is instant access to most everything they would want to know."

Go online

For more information on iParent, go to www.rcboe.org. On the left side of the page, click iParent, which will connect to the iParent information page.

Comments (8) Add comment
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disssman
6
Points
disssman 04/18/10 - 07:08 am
0
0
I have an idea. Why don't we

I have an idea. Why don't we give all parents E-mail addresses to the teacher. Then every day the teacher can send out an e-mail telling parents what the homework in. As far as grades, why not just send out an e-mail. Now we have saved 1.8 million that we can use to buy the missing software for the 10th grade math at Crosscreek. Come on folks, when are taxpayers going to say enough is enough. Get rid of the PTA and replace it with a Taxpayer School Association (TSA). It is obvious that the parents could care less what the school spends money on. P.S. we may want to add a policy that requires what teachers are required to post on a routine basis. The times I have accessed the site, they information on class assignments wasn't updated for weeks or not at all.

Martinez
154
Points
Martinez 04/18/10 - 07:12 am
0
0
iParent is not that bad......

iParent is not that bad...... before appropriating funds for a new system, let's hear what percentage of parents actually access it once a week, one a month etc? Let's also look at how often teachers are updating it. Are teachers consistently updating it based on SLAs set by the county or school? The biggest complaint I have heard about it is that only some teachers use it timely. Spending millions on a new system isn't going to fix that. I am not sure I understand any district making this type of capital improvement or upgrade at the same time that they cutting much more needed items directly from the classroom.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 04/18/10 - 10:59 am
0
0
diss-I do hope your being

diss-I do hope your being sarcastic because what you said was just plain ridiculous. You expect a teacher to sit behind a computer sending out 120 plus emails with INDIVIDUAL grades of all his/her students if they teach high school or middle school. When do you propose they do this during instructional time or better yet after the 8 hour day is over they can just sit at the school for an extra couple of hours (not being paid of course) to send out all these emails. Then the next day they can spend a couple of more hours (not being paid of course) to answer all the responses they will receive from these emails. Some teachers actually do TEACH and there are sometimes assignments that are not completed in a weeks time and certainly not graded in just one day. If you have 120 projects to grade using a rubric then you are not going to finish as if you just using an answer key. Somethings are not as cut and dry as 1 is B, 2 is C, etc...

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 04/18/10 - 11:03 am
0
0
To address the timely manner

To address the timely manner question that is easy why not let teachers have the same amount of time it takes these kids to turn in assignments. I constantly have kids turning in work late or getting a call/email from a parent asking if their child can turn it in late. So if the standard for being late is good enough for the parent and child then why complain. For myself though, I update weekly as is required unless I am doing a project that takes the kids a few days or close to a week to complete.

corgimom
38705
Points
corgimom 04/18/10 - 03:34 pm
0
0
I always knew how my son was

I always knew how my son was doing in school, and I didn't need a computer to check it. Because I paid attention to what he was doing on a daily basis.

Parents, stop hovering. If your child isn't being honest with you about his schoolwork, you have a lot bigger problem on your hands.

And then there's this; "We have a low-income school district, so we have to consider these other elements," Howard said.

Countyman isn't going to like that statement.

By the time a child gets to middle school, they know exactly how school works. And if they don't, you have a child with way bigger problems than homework.

This is a huge money wasting project that is a feel-good item for parents. What a waste of taxpayer money.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 04/18/10 - 08:49 pm
0
0
I agree Corgi. Our parents

I agree Corgi. Our parents didn't have a spyparent in order to know what we were doing in school. This system is more of a pain than a help.

emergencyfan
0
Points
emergencyfan 04/23/10 - 08:50 am
0
0
Every child is different.

Every child is different. Some kids need hovering. Some don't. It's nice that the parents of kids who need extra supervision have this option available to them. Unfortunately in this day and age, where both parents work (and some work multiple jobs), it's not as easy as it used to be to keep up with things. Welcome to the 21st century, technology is here to stay. Now if parents would only bother to track their child's cell phone usage and take the phone away when they've used it driving to/from school or during school hours...

emergencyfan
0
Points
emergencyfan 04/23/10 - 08:56 am
0
0
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