Poor website usability

At the December BOE meeting a parent complained about the lack of a district response to the Newtown tragedy. The person said that there was nothing on the district website. District administrators disagreed, saying that a letter was sent home to students and was also posted to the website.

It turns out that both were correct. The Superintendent's letter was posted on the NECSD website. Unfortunately, when originally posted it was item number seven in a "carousel" style rotating image web page component. A web site visitor who maintained focus on the changing images and then clicked between 28 and 32 seconds later, would be able to retrieve the letter.

The NECSD website continues to do this. Some subset of news items are only available by clicking on the image carousel. This is poor web design.

May 17 Finance Committee meeting

There was a Newburgh School District Finance committee meeting scheduled for Thursday May 17 at 5:30 PM. The meeting was cancelled but the public was not notified. The district Google calendar and meetings page still list this non-event.

The Board of Education should post an accurate schedule of when and where public meetings will occur. They still do not do that.

Director title swap

On the Newburgh School District "Contact Information" webpage it looks like the new director job descriptions have gotten mixed up. The page says:

Bilingual Education, ESL and Foreign Language, Carmen A. Vazqueztell
Social Studies and Accelerated Learning, George Teasdale

What was discussed at the BOE workshop meeting and approved at the Dec BOE meeting was to have "Bilingual Education, ESL and Accelerated Learning" and "Social Studies and Foreign Language".

Open positions not posted on district site

The Newburgh School District website Human Resources page says "No current openings" (except for some internal School Violence Prevention postings with a closing date of November 9).

However, another website lists a Technology Teacher position at TH and a Special Ed position at Heritage. Both are described with a start date of 11/22/2011 and an application deadline of 11/30/2011. These jobs are also listed on the OLAS website: Special Ed, Technology Ed.

Policy Manual Available

The Newburgh School District Policy Manual is available again at the district website on this page. This is a very good thing.

Missed November Curriculum Meeting

I missed the Newburgh School District Curriculum Committee meeting today because of an unannounced change in the meeting time.

These are public meetings about public matters. The very least that the Board of Education should do is make sure that the schedule of when and where the meetings will occur is made available to the public before the meetings occur. And they do not do that.

Performance review document available

The Newburgh School District's Annual Professional Performance Review plan is available from the district website. This document outlines how teachers of ELA and math for grades 4 to 8 (and their principals) will be evaluated for the 2011-2012 school year.

Given the complication of NYSUT suing the NYS Board of Regents over certain APPR regulations, and mostly winning (EdVantage has a good summary), it is an accomplishment for the district to have produced a document on the schedule required by NYSED. There are some significant areas where further negotiations between the distruct and the union are necessary to fill in details. Where these gaps occur, there is at least an estimate for when the negotiations are expected to be completed (September and October are mentioned).

The APPR plan and the new attendance and extracurricular participation policies, are linked from this new policy page on the NECSD website.

Early Closing Today

At 9:20 Newburgh Schools robocall says: "This is the Newburgh Enlarged City School District. Due to inclement weather, all schools will close early according to the early dismissal schedule today, Wednesday March 23. All afternoon and evening activities are cancelled."

The Early Dismissal Schedule 2009-2010 can be found here.

Ah, it's on the district home page as of 10:15. Glaringly.

Homepage Design For Zombies

Back in September 2007 we posted that the Newburgh School District homepage needed help. The homepage has received something of a makeover. It is still deficient in most of the ways mentioned earler.

I was about to go back and check each thing I complained about last time, but the only thing more boring than looking at bad design is to look at the same bad design twice.

The truly interesting thing about the new homepage design is how it preserves the demented bizarreness of the previous incarnation. If you set out to suck the life out of a web page and leave a tattered bloodless shell, this is what you would make. The name of not one human being appears on the homepage. How odd is that? The site quite literally remains dehumanized.

For a sample of a passable school district web site, have a look at site of the Enlarged City School District of Middletown. Why look at that, the names of fifteen human beings appear on the homepage; upcoming events are front and center; budget development is under way (anything like that happen over in the Newburgh School District?). They've got a Calendar, Job Openings, and Search. And look at that, a friendly link to welcome newcomers. Goodness, even a link for vendors! Why doesn't the Newburgh School District have anything to say to vendors? Melissa Cortellini is doing great work for the Middletown School District, well done!

There are students in the Newburgh School District who could create a better web site than Middletown's. Some of them might even enjoy the challenge.

Class Size Reduction Plan

The New York State 2008-2009 Budget Briefing Book says:

Newburgh: Newburgh has a three-year plan to reduce class size to 20 students for all grade levels at its elementary schools, providing its neediest students with more individualized attention.

An admirable goal. If the Newburgh School District is commited to such a goal you would expect there to be some information about the plan on the district website, right?

Kingston has some Good Ideas

The Kingston City School District has a well-designed web site, and has several ambitious plans...

On their website they provide full contact information including multiple phone numbers and email addresses of each Kingston City School Board Member.

Here's an innovative grant-funded program:

The Hudson River Maritime Museum and Kingston City School District have received a $6,600 Teaching the Hudson Valley grant to develop a program that enriches the third grade social studies curriculum while creating a sense of place and a connection to the early history of the Hudson River Valley.

The Daily Freeman reports that Kingston is planning a Montessori approach for grades 1-3 at an elementary school.

Good work Kingston!

Homepage Needs Help

The homepage of the Enlarged City School District of Middletown does the following:

  • links to a printable 2007-08 school calendar
  • links to the 2007-08 bus routes
  • links to a 22 page document containing their 2007-08 Contract for Excellence plan
  • displays the dates of school open house events, and other upcoming events
  • acknowledges the first day of school
  • discusses tax issues
  • has a search feature
  • displays the name and email address of the person who maintains the webpage
  • The homepage of the Newburgh Enlarged Central School District does not one of these things. Not one.