My name is Denise Baer, and I have been an involved PTA member for over 13 years. I have served on PTA executive boards in many capacities, including being elected PTA president twice. My town of Westport, Conn. has eight schools—five elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. Each school’s PTA operates independently, but we work collaboratively through a town-wide PTA council.
A longstanding challenge in Westport was how to manage our student, parent and teacher directory. Each school used their own software such as Microsoft Excel, Word or some combination. None of these systems interacted with the school databases, and there was no easy way to track students graduating from one school to the next without a significant amount of work.
The PTA directory chair position was a time-consuming, difficult-to-fill job. Volunteers spent a tremendous amount of time collecting data and verifying its accuracy. Since the PTA directory only existed in printed form, PTA parent members had to buy multiple copies—one for home, one for the car and one for the office since it was only in print form. The other problem we kept running into was that since it wasn’t cost-efficient to print it frequently, the minute we’d gathered the information, verified it and then published the directory, it was out of date.
After many years of discussing the ongoing problems, we decided it was time to take action. I chaired a committee that investigated how we could provide parents with a more value-added, electronic product—a directory that was up to date, portable, easy to access, simple to use and identical regardless of the school your child attended.
We selected MobileArq as our vendor for several reasons:
- It allowed parents to have a single log in that allowed access to school information for each child, even if they attended different schools
- Ease of branding the look and feel of the directories and usability
- Parent are able to pay for membership at multiple schools (i.e. elementary and middle and high school) with one transaction
We were also able to ask MobileArq to customize the directory and administration portal to incorporate the ability to make additional donations to PTA beyond membership fees and to have a choice of payment options, online and offline.
To ensure accuracy and completeness of the directory data, we got the permission and cooperation of our superintendent to provide us with select non-confidential district data. After extensive testing of the software and marketing of the mobile directory to the Westport parents, we went live. That was almost three years ago.
The transition from a paper to an electronic directory move was a big step for our parent PTA members, but after the initial adjustment period, they can’t imagine going back! As for the PTA executive boards, the once overwhelming position of PTA directory chair became a very simple, almost non-existent job. There are always bumps and bruises as you transition to a new system, but overall we’ve found the system to be a great leap forward!
Get MobileArq for simplifying your school directory and membership management process this year. For a preview of the MobileArq platform, please visit MobileArq.com or reach them at Support@mobilearq.com
Denise Baer has served as a leader in Westport PTA Council for over 13 years.