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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Technology encourages parental involvement

Monday, March 31, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Henry County parents who want to check on their child’s grades from home can do so.

They also can find the nearest school bus stop and help their child with their homework through their computer.

All that and more is the result of ParentConnect, a mobile application that not only links parents and students to the same apps, but it also extends the curriculum to all mobile devices.

ParentConnect is just one example of why Henry County Public Schools has earned a national award for its technology program, according to a news release.

HCPS was the first-place winner for school divisions with 3,000 to 12,000 students in the 10th annual Digital School Districts Survey by the Center for Digital Education (CDE) and the National School Boards Association.

The survey showcases exemplary school boards’ and districts’ use of technology to govern the district, communicate with students, parents and the community, and improve district operations, a news release stated.

According to the release, Henry County Public Schools also was recognized for having the largest digital textbook initiative in Virginia. Currently sixth graders have their science book installed as an e-text, with plans to add more textbooks as they become available digitally.

To access ParentConnect, click on “Parents” at the top of HCPS home page.

There parents will find “quick links” on the topics of athletic physicals; code of conduct; how to register a child for preschool or kindergarten; immunizations; menus (including nutritional content); pledge agreement; course offerings and requirements for middle and high schools; school calendar; special placement; summer opportunities for students; a parent/teen driving guide; which bus a child will ride; a directory of school officials; and the policy on bring-your-own technology.

In addition to information on procedures and other things, tips and contacts, there are application forms and in the case WebQuery, a street map showing available bus stops. Some of the information is available in both English and Spanish.

ParentConnect also provides resources on or for apps for students K-12, energy conservation (including Green Quest, a link to help parents manage their home energy consumption), English language learners (ELL), fine arts, gifted education, graduation requirements, how to volunteer in a child’s school, Internet safety, IXL-math practice for students, links to mathematics vocabulary word cards, Reading Connection (tips to help parents improve their child’s readiness or reading skills), special education, school and school division report cards and parents’ role in school safety.

It also gives checklists for success in school.

A Parent Portal on ParentConnect gives parents access to their child’s grades as well as other information. A password is needed to access personal information.

ParentConnect also provides various resources for 24-7 homework help through a link to the Federal Registry for Educational Excellence (FREE), which “makes it easier to find digital teaching and learning resources created and maintained by the federal government and public and private organizations.”

ParentConnect also provides access to tweets with articles on various educational topics and HCPS Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton’s blog.

“Anytime we can use digital to communicate with parents and instruct is good, especially the communication piece,” said Gracie Agnew, principal of Magna Vista High School. She added a lot of times one of the complaints parents have is they feel there is lack of communication.

“I’m so thrilled” the school division has a Parent Portal, she said. Parents can access such things as their children’s grades and attendance without having to call the school, she said.

Most parents are saying ParentConnect “is very helpful,” said Janet Copenhaver, HCPS’ director of technology and innovation. A parents committee designed ParentConnect, where all the information they felt parents needed would be stored, she said.

One of the reasons HCPS received the national award is “we’re digital everywhere” in school operations, she said. “We make technology work. In every aspect of the school system, it works well.”

“Even though we are very rural, our community wants our schools to succeed,” she said. “Our students deserve anything (students) in divisions in Northern Virginia would get.”

Cotton said he was pleased with the technology award.

“We are excited that Henry County was honored with the first-place award,” Cotton said. “I am most proud of the fact that technology is an integral part of our instructional practices in Henry County. Teachers and students view technology as a ‘tool’ to enhance learning, and you can see them using technology effectively on a daily basis in classrooms throughout our school division.”

Cotton added, “In Henry County, we are focused on preparing our students for college, career, and citizenship. Today’s students are ‘digital natives,’ and they rely on technology to gather information, communicate both locally and globally, and create unique products.”

HCPS has been using innovative technology in its schools for a number of years and is working to expand its efforts, he said.

“This award validates our ongoing efforts and our commitment to creating the learning experiences our students need for future success in any path they choose,” he added.


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