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LAUSD website offer lots of information, much of it out-of-date

Craig Clough | July 15, 2015

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websiteWhile LA Unified has taken aggressive actions to fix two of its highest-profile computer technology initiatives — MiSiS and the iPad program — it has all but ignored its primary communications tool to the public — its website.

In a word, it’s a mess.

Clicking on to find current information and answers to specific questions is an exercise in rolling the dice: Sometimes you win; more often you come up empty with insufficient or outdated material. A few glaring examples:

  • The superintendent’s home page does not say who the superintendent is or provide any contact information.
  • The school board archives section is not active but has a message saying it will be up and running “sometime during 2013.”
  • The Intensive Support and Innovation Center, a gigantic division of 132 schools, was eliminated in March, yet the webpage for it remains active.
  • The school board’s committee page provides links to six committees canceled years ago and no links or information about the current ones.

The unevenness of the website mirrors the district itself — lots of good, lots of problems — and stands as a counterpoint to a major priority of the district’s new board president, Steve Zimmer, who is eager to reverse a decade of declining enrollment by trying to attract parents and students to district schools.

This effort has included adding a marketing arm to its communications department to produce paper brochures advertising its traditional schools, but the marketing resolution proposed at a recent board meeting did not include any efforts to improve the district’s online presence.

As a result, the district has left its website as a relic from a bygone era. In some instances, bygone eras.

For one, if you want to know who the superintendent of LAUSD is, the last place you will find any help is on the superintendent’s home page. There’s no indication that Ramon Cortines has led the district since October. There is no photo, no basic biographical information, not even contact info, like an office phone number. By typing “Ramon Cortines” into the search box, you are taken to the superintendent’s home page (see above).

The superintendent’s page actually suggests John Deasy — who resigned in October — is still in charge. After all, there is a section on the page titled “Superintendent’s Newsletter” with links to a monthly newsletter, the last of which was by Deasy, published in September 2014.

Even searching for such basic information as a demographic breakdown of the district’s student population is a head-scratching endeavor. The site provides a series of charts with some data from the most recent school year and other data from the year before.

And don’t even think about searching an issue and finding results in chronological order.

Shannon Haber, the district’s director of Communications & Media Relations, explained that no one person or department is in charge of the district’s overall website content. Whoever is in charge of a particular division or program generally is in charge of what information that part of the website provides, she said. This has led to vast unevenness, as some sections — like the Office of the General Council or the Office of Environmental Health & Safety — are up to date while others are glaringly out of date and highlight programs that were cancelled years ago.

Clicking over to “district information” one finds a section titled “achievement indicators” and three links to something called the “School Performance Framework,” a Deasy-era program of ranking schools on a color-coded scale. The district doesn’t do this anymore, or at least it doesn’t appear to, because the reports only go through the 2013-14 school year. There is no indication whether the district has a new ranking system, or whether the previous one was actually cancelled.

On the school board website, clicking on archived meeting materials brings up this message: “The archive site is being replaced. It is aniticipated that materials will be available sometime during 2013 after they are transferred to a new service.” This certainly leaves the impression no one is actually working on this, and that the materials are not currently being transferred to any new service.

At the top of board member George McKenna‘s page is all the important information about his educational town hall meetings  — which were held in January and February. A hot link provides access to his latest “McKenna Memo,” which provides no information on anything beyond 2014.

Monica Garcia’s page provides outdated news updates, as one of the top posts is about the board postponing its May vote on the A-G curriculum. That’s where it stands, according to her page. (The board did vote on the measure at its June 9 meeting, FYI).

On board member Monica Ratliff‘s page, the first piece of information provided is her Common Core Technology Ad Hoc Committee report from last August — a near year-old report on a program that has been cancelled. Below that is a letter she wrote to LA Mayor Eric Garcetti in March.

Zimmer’s home page provides no current information, just an encouragement to sign up for his newsletter and a few dated Tweets. Richard Valdovic‘s home page provides lots of photos of Richard Vladovic with lots of people who are not identified. Clicking on “newsletter” takes you to a big empty box that was posted on Oct. 29 — or so it says.

From the board’s home page, one can click on a heading called “committee websites,” and choose from seven committees, six of which were suspended years ago. The website informs you the committees were disbanded when you click on them, but what is missing is the fact that the board has added new committees that do similar work the last few years, none of which is represented.

Part of Cortines’s major restructuring of LAUSD included eliminating the Deasy-era Intensive Support and Innovation Center (ISIC). But along with the extensive ISIC webpages that remain active, Tommy Chang is still listed as its instructional area superintendent, four months after he left the district to run the Boston school system.

In response to general and specific questions about the website, the district said in a statement that improving the website is a work in progress, with improvements underway since 2011.

“Our website is an essential tool to keep our employees, parents, students and the public informed,” the statement said.

“With so many different audiences to serve and so many different departments, we need to ensure that the LAUSD website is comprehensive and that all of our systems are inter-connected. To that end, we have been transitioning our website – not only to enhance the overall look-and-feel and ensure that functionality is robust and easy, but ultimately to provide a comprehensive web solution that is on a single platform and addresses multidirectional needs for offices and schools.”

The key word, is seems, is “ultimately.”


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