The Vermillion School District is exploring options that, if enacted, would enhance its Web site and make it easier for staff to post more information to students and patrons.
The Vermillion School Board listened to a unique presentation Monday night by Gary Targoff of Simplified Online Communication System (SOCS) of Lincoln, NE.
Targoff talked to the board from his office in Lincoln, through a speakerphone in the school's library. He demonstrated the various alternatives SOCS could provide the district on a large television monitor that displayed the content of a laptop screen that Targoff used in his presentation.
"SOCS is a Web hosting and Web site management tool that we provide to school districts throughout the United States," Targoff said. "We currently have 510 clients located in 15 different states.
"What SOCS does essentially is it allows school districts to create dynamic and interactive Web sites without having to invest in the software and the servers and the hardware and the technical skills that go along with a traditional Web site," he said. "When I refer to SOCS being a hosted system, what I mean by that all of the stuff that typically falls in the lap of a staff member of the school – the server, the security, the support, the training – would be our responsibility. It leaves the school district with the responsibility of simply creating and managing information."
SOCS allows schools to create an interactive Web site that features articles that are created and managed by the school staff with skills "that are no more complicated than keyboarding skills," Targoff said. "That allows the school to delegate out the responsibility of delegating out information by freeing up the time of the traditional webmaster."
Jason Gault is currently filling that role for the Vermillion School District.
"Now, Jason is actively involved in not only managing the information, but also in helping to post that information online," Targoff said. "With SOCS, anyone can post information as long as they have the appropriate credentials, because SOCS is easy to use. That allows school districts to say to teachers, to administrators, and event to students and even, perhaps board members, that if you want to create information online, you can do so, and therefore help generate a very robust and dynamic set of information for your constituents."
As he talked, Targoff demonstrated on the television monitor features that are included in every Web site produced by SOCS. Those features include school logos, rotating photo images of student activities, calendars of events and articles about different school and classroom happenings.
SOCS allows parents to sign into its Web pages with a password and receive electronic newsletters that push the information of interest to them.
"You can also eliminate, or potentially reduce the amount of hard paper that you are creating for your newsletters, and therefore potentially reduce some costs," he said.
Targoff also pointed out individual pages that teachers themselves include on SOCS sites. These individually teacher-created pages, he said, allow the instructors to keep parents informed of the activities going on in their children's classrooms.
School districts who use SOCS' services enter into a three-year license and pay $5,000 annually.
"That is something that frankly we would be interested in getting up and running, because you would be our first client in South Dakota," Targoff said. "We have, I believe, quoted a very reasonable price. That fee includes unlimited support, unlimited training, and unlimited space (on the Web page)."
The board made no decision following the presentation.
Gault told the board that program offered by SOCS would do a better job of keeping people updated about different happenings in the Vermillion School District.
"It's going to allow the ability to have more than just one person with the expertise of all that's involved in not only creating the Web pages, but also adding content to them," he said. "So we can distribute some of that responsibility out to the different buildings and the different teachers.
"The other thing it allows is a secure area where we can put things, for example, that you just want teachers to access," Gault said. "I don't have the capability to do that."