Creative team: The site was redesigned by a team of employees from the department and other agencies. It was led by Faith Sarafin, deputy communications director; Norris Clark, director of family and community outreach; Doug Moore, the department’s webmaster; and Donna Fletcher-Lugo, a family outreach specialist.
Why it matters: The online face of the department, the website has been undergoing a redesign for several months and was launched last week with some big changes in look and focus. Many of the same components are present, but graphics and images take center stage on the home page, including a picture of acting Commissioner Rochelle Hendricks. Also front and center, the issue of School Choice and the department’s stated effort to engage Communities and Families, neither much surprising for an administration intent on shaking up the status quo for public schools.
Families first: The site reaches out to families with a new Ask the Department of Education tool, which enables them to contact the DOE via phone and email. Like other features on the site, the contact function is not altogether new, but has gained new prominence graphically as well as internally. Four people have been reassigned to answer calls and inquiries. The department also provides a speaker service for local meetings.
In a podcast featured on the site, Clark speaks to the website’s intention: “It will encourage parents to get engaged, it will encourage them to ask questions and it will encourage them to understand more what their choices are. In fact, it is how the website is laid out: Engage, Ask, and Choose.”
What works: The site is easier to navigate than its predecessor, with clearer tabs for Families, Students, Educators and Communities and better-organized pages of additional links. As in the past, the Data page remains especially useful, providing numbers and statistics on everything from assessment reports to school enrollments by age and race to special education transition and placement rates.
What doesn’t: Some of the features on interior pages remain clunky. For instance, the department has spruced up the graphics on its Student pages, including a clear link for helping parents assist their children to learn to read. While intentions are good, the link clicks to a 54-page document that the parents themselves may need help reading.