One of our Campus Suite customers just got news of a prestigious award they received for their new website (www.d64.org). Park Ridge-Niles District 64, an Illinois school district in the Chicagoland area, was recently acknowledged by their peers in an annual communications competition conducted by the Illinois Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association.
While I’m no judge – the judging panel was in fact made up of NSPRA school communicators from eight states, including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Mississippi, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska – what I like most about the District 64 (D64) website is the ‘user-centric’ focus of how content is laid out for visitors to the site. Four tabs on the site’s home page make it easy for anyone to find the information they’re looking for. A solid homepage is critical to keeping visitors coming back. What’s more, the content managers at the school even suggest the kinds of information visitors could use.
In addition, I like how the district features principal blogs, an underutilized tool that any school ought to be using to extend the outreach to parents, students and the community. Creating a superintendent's blog or principal's blog helps depict your school or district's leadership in a casual, yet measured way.
What makes us particularly proud of our involvement with this project is that it represented a multi-faceted approach by a progressive school district that tapped expertise from three separate companies with broad and varied web communications portfolios.
D64 enlisted Campus Suite along with American Eagle, one of our top 5 best school website design companies and Rhyolite Design, a custom design shop. American Eagle performed the foundational strategic analysis that helped D64 home in on what its users wanted. Then we collaborated with David Pohlmeier at Rhyolite Design, who we’ve worked with on other school website projects, to create branding and a custom design using our CMS.
This site definitely gets five stars in my book and could serve as a model site for any district looking for a custom solution. Campus Suite is a CMS solution that works with both custom-designed sites and those using pre-designed templates – a choice for many schools where budget and time frames are tight.
Custom design, sometimes more costly and time-consuming than using the templates that many school website design firms offer, can yield some great results. In this case, the INSPRA award is proof that combining solid research on the front-end to drive a custom, user-centered design does pay off.
In addition to the award for its website, D64 also garnered awards from INSPRA for an innovative e-publication financial report and podcasts of the district’s system overview assessment, which is in essence a quality audit of how D64 stacks up against other high-performing school districts. Led by Superintendent Laurie Heinz, the award-winning team for these projects included Bernadette Tramm, public information coordinator; Allison Blum, district web technologist; Brian Imhoff, assistant business manager; Mary Jane Warden, director of innovation and instructional technology; and Kara Pottinger, instructional technology coach.
Congratulations to the entire team at D64 on your website award. Your district’s students, parents, staff and community are fortunate to have you leading the way when it comes to web communications.
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him @jay4schools.