Current Situation

It currently takes between 2 and 4 hours/week to compile, edit, and send out the WAs. We are looking at ways to streamline the process (we have an online form on the website to encourage shorter, simpler notices), but we receive announcements from a variety of sources and have a limited amount of time to edit content.

We use My School Anywhere software (a database of parents and faculty) to compile and send the WAs. This software is used by nearly all the schools in Lexington which makes it easier for us to keep in touch with parents as children move from elementary to middle and finally high school. However, there are some limitations with this system. We do use a template for the WAs, but copying and pasting announcements into this template often results in loss of formatting (font, spacing, insertion of line and page breaks, and removal of spaces)—it can be frustrating and time-consuming. Images and ‘eye candy’ can play havoc with the layout. Each device (mobile, tablet, PC, Apple) displays the WAs uniquely: on an iPhone the internal links don’t work, yet you can connect to emails and external websites; on some phones, no links work; on some computer all hyperlinks work. My School Anywhere software is constantly evolving, but there’s only so much we can do to make the WAs work on every device, for every person with this current version.

We are human. We have a new team on the job this year, and it has taken time to learn and appreciate the different sources and to understand the importance and relevance of some announcements. We started with a new design at the beginning of the year (based on last year’s format) and have tweaked it occasionally—apologies if that has caused confusion. Links (to websites and email addresses) sometimes copy over well, other times not, and we do not always remember to check every single link.

Comments Received

Here is a summary of some of the main comments received in response to the last question in the survey:  What changes would you like to see in the Weekly Announcements? Are there additional sections you would like to see?

Structure Improvements

  • Redesign the weekly announcement to make it more attractive and easier to read

  • Most important LHS related sections on the top, other community information section at the bottom

  • Should be organized better.  It is hard to read because so much text on the page

  • Better organization and targeted notices would help tremendously

  • SHORT LIST OF ANNOUNCEMENTS; -BULLET FORMAT; -NEW ANNOUNCEMENTS; -OLD/PRIOR ANNOUNCEMENTS; -CALENDAR in LIST FORMAT; -LINKS to each announcement within each category in case I want more

  • Maybe you should try a summary in the email format of just a few key ideas and then provide a link to big topics where more content could be on a website - redesign the purpose of the email so it visually and functionally works better for reading on a cell-phone as a design goal, and then help people read more newsletter information on an offshoot website landing page to start to limit down how much announcement material is in each edition

  • The format and sections should be consistent each week so if I am looking for something I know where to look.

  • The categories need to be much better defined.  Many events could be put in more than one category, so there is no way to know where to look for relevant information.  30+ links without clear categories severely limits the newsletters usefulness.

  • Perhaps group messages regarding interest to parents of juniors/seniors or freshmen/sophomores: Dates, Subject Line, relevancy to which grade, and a link or contact information

Comment: we will try to accommodate some of the suggestions in the new format


Highlights

  • Perhaps a way to quickly identify what is new this week, and what is a repeat.  Maybe something like "posted 2/8" to the right of the title.

  • Something that would be very helpful is to somehow indicate which items are new.  For folks who look at it on somewhat regular basis, it would be easier to scan and look for the new items.

  • I missed signing up for school conferences last fall because I failed to read the weekly announcements during a busy time at work, and all the conference slots filled instantly. Putting the "headline" about important deadlines in the subject line of the email would be helpful.

  • Given the content is redundant from week to week, any font highlights to the new content would be helpful.

  • Emphasis on topics that are time sensitive and most urgent to parents and students

  • Perhaps highlight schedule notices a bit better (half-days, etc.)

Comment: we will do our best to find ways to highlight new, timely information

Other suggestions for improvements

  • Please check links within announcements.  In the past, there were a few links that didn't work.

  • The "useful dates' section doesn't always include all the dates in the LHS /LPS events section.  

  • For save our time please link each subject to that article. 

  • If possible, there should be a limit on number of lines in the email.

  • Improvement can be made on the bottom part: LHS community, community education, community events. confusing whether the events are school or PTO sponsored or endorsed etc. PTO may want to add a disclaimer. A title line plus a link to the event by the submission group/organization would be sufficient

  • Biweekly announcement 

Comment: we will do our best to make these improvements especially if we can find more time for editing.

Suggestions for New Sections/Topics

  • More information on volunteer opportunities for parents and students. 

  • More summer camp opportunities for kids/internships

  • Student Tutor info

  • Better parent info section

  • More detail about the school events...sometimes there is a description but sometimes there is just a link to a calendar item and there is no real description.  I like that there is a menu at top and you can click down to an item but sometimes it is a little confusing and it would be easier if it was a website instead of a newsletter where you could click into items and click back to the menu to see other things.  

  • As a parent of a wrestler, I don’t understand why wrestling announcements and matches are never included, if sports are included it should be all

  • Upcoming schedule with descriptions...what is going to be discussed at the parent group, council meeting or other meeting/  if I missed a meeting, what happened?, upcoming junior parent and other parent meetings, topics related to what is going on in the school, more info on upcoming SAT and ACT dates and deadlines, other college application deadlines...maybe a separate section or webpage with info for and announcements for each class.

  • I like the content, but don't feel it is necessary to include the Lexington Community Education

Comment: moving some less-popular sections to the website could create space for other topics, however we cannot add lots of detail of every event.

Too big/long/wordy

  1. it's too overwhelming - i'm scared to open it - too much email and data in life to pay that much attention to such a long email

  2. way too long, very hard to navigate confusing and crowded layout.

  3. The barrage of information is overwhelming even for an extremely organized adults. Thanks for asking.

  4. Shorter email

  5. They are quite long. Shortening them would be helpful. Some of the information is duplicated in emails/notices from other organizations.

  6. Make it a lot shorter. They are very repetitive if you have students in other Lexington schools. (ed. however if you don’t have kids in another school this is your only source of LPS related news)

  7. I think sometimes there is too much other community information at the end, but really I am looking for school related information.  

  8. Less announcements

  9. The weekly announcements seem to be fairly long. It would be better if these were smaller and concise.

  10. I would like to see the weekly Announcements shorter and precise. However, I appreciate very much that the school keeps the communication open and provides parents with information.

  11. So please make the announcements shorter. It is a long email that contains a lot of information so I know it is hard to do. 

  12. It would be useful to be more concise, sometimes it's too wordy or takes a long time to get to the point.

  13. I often find myself not reading them because there is too much information to go through.  I wish they were more concise, either in the number of news and events or (if all those are relevant) maybe in the description.  Reading them in almost like bullet points with links to details may be a solution I would welcome.

  14. It needs to be much more succinct. Section titles and paragraphs need to be easier to navigate at a glance before careful reading. Surveys like this need to be periodic (like twice a year) as opposed to a once-in-a- lifetime event. Thank you, thank you, thank you for asking our opinion.

  15. They contain far too much information and should be condensed to include LHS info only. 

  16. Make it shorter. The links provided at the top do not always link to the right places in the email body, so that should be fixed. Generally, it would be sufficient to provide a link to a better organized website; no need to send a big long email.

  17. A short prompt with link to external websites would be most useful.  Now, I skip over the bullet list at beginning of the email and go directly to the descriptions and links

  18. Better organization and targeted notices would help tremendously

  19. There is too much information that isn't relevant to all the individuals getting the Announcements.  

  20. Simplify the messages to only a headline each, have links to websites. It’s overwhelming amount of information 

  21. Main feedback - every edition has too many items, too many links.

  22. Improvement can be made on the bottom part: LHS community, community education, community events. It is long

  23. Make them generally shorter.

  24. I think slightly condensed and precise information would help.

Comment: we hear you!  If we can get more information on our website, we can really cut the overall length of the WAs down and will have more time to edit individual announcements.

Technical challenges (My School Anywhere)

  • The announcements are really difficult to read on mobile devices.  

  • There is also a lot to be said for adding some "eye candy" to the newsletters. Some graphic bling can do a lot to draw in the reader

  • not very user friendly, so seem to only skim it and not get much out of it. 

  • Minor issue, my co blocks GoogleDocs. So have to read those links -like this survey- on home PC

  • Some way to opt out of 'check list items"...for example, if I buy a yearbook, I don't want to receive any more reminders to buy them as I often forget if I did and then have to go back and check...

  • A newsletter format and possibly adding some graphics is probably an option.

  • A more mobile-friendly layout

  • Easier reading on a cell phone. The template used shrinks the font so I can’t read it. If I expand it, I lose the word wrap.

  • Perhaps it could be a good idea to organize / send the letter by grade so that we can more easily focus on the relevant info. Great job anyway.

  • Could be easier to read 

  • Can you change the font such that it is easier to navigate and read? That can make a significant difference.

  • I find there is just so much highlighted information, bold type, weblinks, that it is very very difficult to read on a computer (visually) and very impractical to read on a cell-phone.  

Comment: we will experiment with alternative layouts, font, etc over the summer and try to find a more user friendly version, however we are limited by the MSA software itself and what we can do with it.

Suggestions we cannot adopt, but are there alternatives?

  • Calendar link where folks could preview calendar at a glance.  Not sure if it's possible, but it'd be helpful to categorize events: Arts presentations, Sports presentations, College prep related, Community, Forum presentation.  Ideally users could 'select' categories on the calendar.  Comment: this is a great idea, but highly intensive use of our limited resources and would be difficult to maintain

  • I know this is resource intensive, but finding a way to have users select the items that interest them and then tailoring the e-mailings to the users (hopefully through some type of newsletter software) would be great.  Comment: another great idea, but MSA software not capable of this yet.

  • Don't lump it altogether try to make it easier to read for parents separate in sections by grade for specific targeting and those that scan and speed-read.  Comment: MSA software not capable of this yet – we would end up doing 4x the work.

  • I'd like those weekly emails go to the students also Comment: we only have parent and faculty email so could not send this to students, but feel free to forward to your own kids if that would help.

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