Connect 5 COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS GUIDELINES

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1 Where imagination meets destination Mission: Provide a premier education for all, with long-range goals for: High achievement Meaningful connections A respectful environment Vision (where we want to be) Imagine every student inspired, challenged and cared for by exceptional educators Imagine your family welcomed, respected, and valued by exceptional schools Imagine our community united, strengthened, and prepared for an exceptional future Connect 5 COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS GUIDELINES

2 Table of Contents Overview... 1 Access to Connect Message Types... 2 Message Frequency... 3 Message length... 3 Message Delivery Time... 3 Message Recording Options... 4 Message Language Preferences... 4 Districtwide Messages... 5 Message Data... 5 Incorrect Telephone Numbers... 5 Tips for recording messages... 6 Sample Messages... 7 Frequently Asked Questions... 8 Appendix District Crisis Guidelines... i Translated Messages... TBA

3 OVERVIEW Connect 5 is an automated telephone communications system that allows schools and school districts to send important messages to families and to staff quickly and efficiently. In 2012, the Office of Communication, Marketing & Development (C,M & D) updated these guidelines to provide District and site/program staff with procedures for the appropriate use of Connect 5 and practical suggestions on the effective use of this system to provide important information to families and staff. Connect 5 may substitute some, but not all current written communications with families and staff. ACCESS TO CONNECT 5 The manager of information systems will manage access to Connect 5 by District-level staff. Up to three staff members at each school will be allowed access to Connect 5, typically the principal, an assistant principal and another staff member who is tasked with attendance monitoring. These three staff members are the only ones at a school designated to record and distribute Connect 5 messages to families and employees of that school. The exception is the need to record messages in languages other than English; a principal may designate a staff member to record those messages on his or her behalf. When employees are transferred or leave the District s employment, access to Connect 5 will be terminated. DECISION TO USE The system should be used expressly at the direction of the site leaders (i.e. principals). In the case of district-wide messages, the Superintendent s Office and the Communication, Marketing & Development Director, in consultation with other senior staff, determine the need. The system should be used only for matters that are within the local control and authority of the site leader and not for matters that impact the school system as a unit unless at the direction of the Superintendent s Office or Communication, Marketing & Development Director. The system may not be used to disseminate information on behalf of political candidates or parties, religious organizations or to advertise commercial events or products Care should be taken to avoid the dissemination of non-essential information that could more appropriately be conveyed through other communications tools. Overuse of the system for non-essential messages could potentially overburden or irritate recipients ( message fatigue ).

4 Connect 5 usage chart Purpose Comes From District Comes From School/Site To individual families, automated by Connect 5 Weather-related closing/dismissal Emergency * Attendance Conferences Non-emergency early dismissal Meal account: low balance Community outreach 6/year Single survey Consult with Office of Accountabilit y * Depends on scope and size of event Use wisely to avoid message fatigue MESSAGE TYPES Using Connect 5, the District and schools can send four types of messages: Emergency Emergency messages include, but are not limited to: weather-related emergencies, incidents and events that affect the potential health and safety of students and/or employees. Emergency messages are the only ones sent to up to six different telephone numbers; the system dials telephone numbers listed for each student until it reaches a telephone that is answered. The District will send emergency messages that pertain to the entire district, a region or area of the city, or a significant number of schools. This is handled on a case-by-case basis. In an emergency at an individual school, the principal follows the district crisis communications guidelines. This may result in a consult with his/her Executive Director and the Office of Community Relations to decide whether to send a message. Families first question will be about the safety and well being of their children. Emergency messages should be clear, accurate and reassuring. They should provide the most complete information that can be understood in a short message. Example: A school must go into lockdown just before dismissal because police are seeking a suspect in a nearby neighborhood. Hearing the report over police scanners, television stations send crews to the school and begin live reports. Using Connect 5, the principal could contact families to let them know students are safe in containment lockdown and they will be dismissed as soon as is practical, then follow up with a second message on when dismissal will begin.

5 Attendance Attendance messages alert families and guardians to student absences on the day of the absence. Community Outreach Outreach messages are sent to families and staff to communicate about important news and developments related to the District or a school and to provide information about upcoming events, meetings, meal account balances, etc. The Office of Community Relations can assist with message development. Single Survey Single Survey messages allow recipients, using a telephone keypad, to RSVP for school events or to provide input on school issues. An example might be allowing families or guardians to respond to a survey on mandatory school uniforms. Survey questions must be reviewed by the Office of Accountability prior to sending. MESSAGE FREQUENCY Connect 5 has best-practice research that should govern Saint Paul Public Schools usage of the system. Attendance and emergency calls should be made by schools and District as needed. Families appreciate timely notice on these matters, no matter how frequent. As a guideline, mass messages to all families in a school should be kept to two per month. When possible, combine school-wide reminders and other pertinent information into a single message. Overuse of the system for large-scale broadcast messages on non-essential topics will devalue the mass notification system and result in fewer families paying attention to the messages. As a guideline at the district level, community outreach or single-survey calls to all families in the district, should not exceed six in a school year. If more need to be made, they should be done with approval from the Communication, Marketing & Development Director or the superintendent s office. Exceptions include automatically generated messages that go to individual families, for example low meal account balance reminders from Nutrition Services. MESSAGE LENGTH Messages should be between 20 and 45 seconds. The longer a message is, the more likely it is that a recipient is likely to lose interest and hang up. Answering machines and voice mail systems may cease recording after that length of time.

6 MESSAGE DELIVERY TIMES Because Connect 5 will make several attempts to deliver calls that initially meet busy signals or go unanswered, please schedule your calls to be delivered beginning in the afternoon, no later than 5 p.m.; this allows for repeat attempts to be completed by 7 p.m. on the date of delivery. As a rule, avoid scheduling messages to be delivered between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. (unless the message to be delivered is time-sensitive or is related to an emergency). When scheduling message delivery on the Connect 5 website, remember to select Central Time. MESSAGE RECORDING OPTIONS More detailed information on recording options is available in the Connect 5 Reference and Quick Start Guides. These are available for staff at Connect 5 messages can be recorded in two ways: record with voice or text-to-speech. Text-to-speech The text-to-speech option is appropriate for only certain automated messages such as attendance messages. Connect 5 can deliver text-to-speech messages in English and in Spanish. The advantage of a text-to-speech attendance message is it inserts automatically the first name of the student for whom the call is being made. The technology also inserts the date and the school s name. One disadvantage is that the text-to-speech voice is computer-generated and sounds that way. Another is that the message cannot be listened to before sending; when using text-tospeech message recording, always proofread your message carefully. Record with voice In most cases, including attendance calls if a principal so chooses, the District asks that Principals use the record with voice option for message recording. Best practice suggests that each school establish a consistent voice for its messages or a voice in each language in which messages are delivered. The Principal is the preferred voice for a school. With translations, ELL families also become accustom to a consistent, familiar voice. As is the case with all messages, the Office of Communications, Marketing & Development is available to help develop messages. LANGUAGE PREFERENCES Mass notification messages should be recorded in at least the five languages spoken by a majority of SPPS families English, Hmong, Spanish, Somali and Karen. Connect 5 provides language delivery options based on the Home Language Question (HLQ) information for every student stored in CAMPUS. The message set-up procedure requires the designation of a language for each message.

7 TRANSLATIONS In general, each site should designate appropriate staff members to translate and/or record messages in languages other than English. Best practice is that the same person is the voice for translated messages. Families come to will associate this voice with school-related messages, which helps increase the likelihood that families listen to the message. If a site has no one capable of translating a script, the Office of Translation Services may assist on first-come, prioritized basis. Staffing in Translation Services is limited and there usually is a cost charged to schools. If possible, modify one of the template messages (see pages 6 and 7) and provide to Translation Services for review or editing. Please contact the Office of Translation Services program manager at as soon as is possible in your planning. DISTRICT WIDE MESSAGES The Superintendent or designee, or the Communication, Marketing & Development Director in consultation with other appropriate senior staff, will determine the need to initiate Districtwide messages. School principals do not have the access to distribute district-wide messages. Emergency messages may include, but are not limited to, school closings or delays due to natural disasters, inclement weather, or other occurrences that may impact the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff. The Superintendent or designee may also deliver messages to provide families with information about Districtwide events and/or special meetings, such as the Parent Information Fair or Thinking College Early Fair, etc. For all other Districtwide messages, a request must be submitted in writing to the Office of Commuications, Marketing & Development (CMD) for review and approval at least 10 working days prior to the requested date of delivery. The written request should include the date and time of message delivery, the target audience, the general nature of the message, and a contact name and telephone number. A response to the request will be given within five days of CMD receiving it. A request to CMD does not guarantee approval of the message for Districtwide delivery. Written requests may be sent to: Office of Communications, Marketing & Development 360 Colborne Saint Paul, MN Attention: Julie Schultz Brown, Director (office) (fax)

8 MESSAGE DATA & INCORRECT TELEPHONE NUMBERS Connect 5 sends detailed information via about the receipt of every call to the person originating the message. Principals, clerks and other key staff should examine this data (hang ups, length a listener stayed on the call, etc.) frequently and determine the effectiveness of their Connect 5 messages. Among the information provided by Connect 5 after each telephone call is a list of telephone numbers that are not working and the students for which those numbers are listed in CAMPUS. Schools should review message data and contact families to obtain correct/up-to-date telephone numbers for CAMPUS records. For important messages to reach families, it is critical that contact information is updated regularly. The principal/site leader is responsible for ensuring this data is up-to-date. TIPS FOR RECORDING MESSAGES It is important to note that with few exceptions, these messages, once delivered, become public information and can be requested by any citizen, including the media. Office of Community Relations can help with constructing and developing messages. Prepare Know what you want to say. Make notes or bullets, practice, and then record the message. Listen to your message after recording. Rerecord and rerecord until you are comfortable with the message. Repeat important information Repeat important information (e.g. time, date, and location of a meeting) at least twice during the message at the beginning and at the end of the message. Grab Their Attention Let the recipient know immediately that the message contains important information from the school. Begin the message with, Hello, this is (principal s name), principal of (school name). Please stay on the line for an important message about your student. Be Yourself Say it like you are speaking to a parent face-to-face. Think about tone, inflection, emphasis, but most importantly be natural.

9 SAMPLE MESSAGES The Office of Community Relations has prepared some sample messages to assist in regular communication with families. Assistance with message crafting is available from the Office of Community Relations. Translations of these messages into Hmong, Spanish and Somali are available in the appendix and at Attendance Hello, this is (principal s name), principal of (school name), calling to inform you that (as of TIME CALL GOES OUT) your student was absent today. As you know daily school attendance is critical to promoting high academic achievement. Please contact (attendance clerk s name) to discuss your student s absence. As always, thank you for your support in helping us provide your student with a quality education. If you have questions, please call us at Start of School Hello, this is (principal s name), principal of (school name), with an important message to welcome you and your family to a new school year. We look forward to the first day of school on (first day of school). The faculty and staff are excited about the year ahead and partnering with you to help provide a quality education for your student. We will see you on (first day of school). If you have questions before then, please feel free to call us at Open House Hello, this is (principal s name), principal of (school name), with an important message for you. I m calling to invite you to our open house on (day and date), at (time). This will be a great opportunity for you to visit your student s classroom and meet your student s teachers. We hope that you will make plans to join us. We look forward to seeing you on (day and date) at (time) for our open house. For more information please call the school at Conferences Hello, this is (principal s name), principal of (school name) with an important message for you. Conferences are coming up on (day(s) and date(s)), at (time). Conferences are an important piece of school success. This is an opportunity for us to work together to support our students. We hope to see you on (day(s) and date(s)) at our school! For more information please call the school at

10 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS Q1. How many telephone numbers for a particular call recipient (e.g. a particular parent) can the Connect 5 system hold? A1. The system can hold up to 6 telephone numbers per call recipient. However, multiple telephone numbers are called only in emergency situations, as determined by the Superintendent. The primary home telephone number maintained in CAMPUS will be used for all other messaging. Q2. I am a principal at a senior high school. Can I send messages to the homes of students attending the middle schools as they prepare to make a school choice selection? A2. No. Principals are able to send messages to the homes of students attending their school only. Q3. Can messages be sent to parents /families addresses? A3. The Connect 5 system does have the capability to send messages to addresses. Q4. I am a school principal. The MCA-II is just a few weeks away and I want to send a message to the families of all students taking the test in my school reminding them of this important test. Is this possible? A4. Yes. Connect 5 allows you to create subgroups within your school. For instance, you can create groups by grade level, club affiliation, etc. Q5. What is the maximum number of subgroups I am able to create? A5. With the Connect 5 system, there is no limit to the number of subgroups you may create. Q6. From where does Connect 5 obtain student contact information? A6. The information is downloaded daily from the District s CAMPUS system, which means that the information used by Connect 5 is only as good as the information maintained by schools. Q7. Does the Connect 5 system provide me with any data regarding the status of calls delivered? A7. Yes. Principals will receive via daily reports with detailed information about calls made for their schools. One of the items on this report is a list of bad phone numbers. Principals/site leaders are responsible for ensuring that bad or inaccurate information is corrected and that attempts are made to contact families for updated information. Q8. When there is a district-wide call, how is data corrected/updated? A8. Student Information Systems staff are responsible for generating reports from Connect 5 after district-wide messages and for providing call data to sites. The principal/site leader is responsible for ensuring that CAMPUS data is updated and that attempts are made to contact families for current information. Q9. What time does Connect 5 send the attendance calls for schools?

11 A9. Attendance calls are delivered by default at approximately 6 p.m. daily. Schools can change the time these calls are sent, if they would like families to be notified during the day. Q10. How do I receive additional help and/or training in the use of Connect 5? A10. You may call the Connect 5 24-hour help desk at 866-HELP-NTI ( ) or them at You may also contact your school s client care representative, who always will be identified at the top right corner of the Notification Technologies, Inc. home page when you sign in with your user ID and password

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