We recently talked with faculty at Lake Washington School District a 50 school district in Washington state and asked them what they thought about Tandem. Watch the full video.
Kathryn Reith, Communications Director Lake Washington School District
We had a specific situation one spring where there was an end of the school year concert at Redmond Junior High that conflicted with one of the graduation activities at Redmond High School at the same time. That was just sort of my aha, oh my gosh, we really need to find some way of getting a hold of what’s going on at the schools.
Laurie Pelham, Technology Program Manager Lake Washington School District
When we started interviewing schools about their needs for having a good communication from their website, one of their biggest needs was that they needed to have a place to have calendaring available online for their parents.
I’m Communications Director for Lake Washington School District, I have been with the district for about five years now. Last year, we were faced with some very difficult budget cuts and one of the items we looked at was the printed wall calendar that we have sent to parents every year for I don’t know how long. It’s a very traditional thing to do. People put it up in their kitchens and write on it, etc. But what we discovered was, this is something that we could do without now that we have an electronic online calendar and many more parents are relying on electronic calendaring. So they can either go directly to the Tandem calendar or if they have imported it into another electronic calendaring system that they use, they have access to all those dates without having to get a paper printed calendar that was costing us a lot of money. Once we decided that we wanted to look for a calendaring tool, we just went out and looked at what other districts, other schools were using, really just went out and did a search and discovered that there was this wonderful company right in our backyard that was doing a great calendaring program.
My name is Laurie Pelham, I have been a Technical Project Manager for the district for the past 15 years. The project we were working at the time was to build out 15 school websites for each one of our schools. A secondary problem that we were trying to solve was to consolidate them so they communicate to the public or to their community about the events that are happening in their school. In the project that we were doing, it was definitely secondary but it turned out to be something that we could train in Tandem, no pun intended. Because the two worked together so well, it’s that school to home communication that we needed to really improve and I think we did with both. We were implementing on the SharePoint platform and so SharePoint comes with a calendaring program built in out of the box. Our question was should we use that or should we buy something else? And upon looking at what it would cost us to customize the SharePoint calendar and when I say cost us, I mean because we are hiring outside developers to write dot net programming to alter the look and feel of this SharePoint calendar. In order to make this SharePoint calendar do what Tandem already did out of the box, we figured it would cost us more in development than it would be for us to implement a product that was already in place. So, it was a no-brainer for us to go with Tandem.
Shannon Parthemer, Community Relations & Communications Coordinator Lake Washington School District
Before Lake Washington School District used the Tandem calendar, each school was responsible for their own calendar so some may have kept paper and pencil, some may have done newsletters, others just didn’t keep any consistent calendar. That didn’t lead to a whole lot of understanding about what’s happening at feeder schools or nearby elementary schools, junior highs high schools. The complication that I would have if I didn’t have the Tandem calendar is I wouldn’t know what’s happening at all of our schools and we wouldn’t have a good way of displaying the information to parents and community members. The majority of parents that are using the Tandem calendar and using the My Tandem section of the calendar really do appreciate the features and getting notifications when events are added, canceled, changed in any way. We have started training opportunities that we offer about once a month to different staff members or parents depending on who from the school is going to add events. People understand and say, wow, this is easier than I thought it was. So, I would describe the Tandem calendar as intuitive and very easy to use.
How I would describe Tandem is it allows many schools within the same school district or a single school alone to really keep track of what’s going on, have it available in a way that’s accessible to parents and teachers. If you are talking from a district administration standpoint, it makes it much easier for us to be able to schedule district wide events that don’t conflict with some really important event to the school that’s been on the calendar for a year. We don’t always hear about those things, we have 50 schools so keeping track of what’s going on 50 schools from a central standpoint is pretty difficult. Now it’s very easy to just open up a Tandem calendar and see all the things that are going on at those schools on a particular day at a particular time. One of the the things that happened after the Tandem calendar was put in that we didn’t even realize it was going to be a benefit. It was our front desk receptionist at our Resource Center is often the place for parents to go to when they have forgotten what time an event is. They try and call the school, the school was already closed or front desk to staff have left so if they are making that last minute phone call, when they call, Shelley at our front desk has a place to find out where all the school events are and what time they are. She has a reference for all 50 schools, that sometimes means she can get the information to a parent who has forgotten so they can get access on the computer or if they don’t have a computer nearby at the time. Feedback from administrators has been very positive. They are very happy to see all of their items in one place to make it very simple. The office managers and secretaries are the ones that usually would be getting all those phone calls when is this meeting or that event and are not getting so many phone calls anymore and not having to answer the phone over and over again about the time the PTSA meeting and those kinds of things. Parents love it. It’s very simple for them to keep track of what’s going on.
Jenna Robertson, Parent
My name is Jenna Robertson, I have been a parent in the district since 2000 for ten years. Our PTSA brings together the bulletin and I’m pasting a calendar into our bulletin and then our school has a way of sending it out to their database. Having an online calendar that can be up-to-date to the minute, it’s live as soon as you input it and that’s even better. I thought it was really easy to learn and I like the look of it. It looks clean, professional and a PTSA mom can make the calendar look pretty cool. I like how I can choose the different views because when I’m doing our electronic bulletin, I can just choose the list, I can copy and paste that and Tandem looks much more polished than some of the others and to me that’s important because from a standpoint that this is important information, it looks important, I know as a parent I’m really feeling the benefit of having this great tool.
Tandem is a comprehensive event calendar that many different groups or departments across a large organization can use and share and it was tested with a small group of people that gave lots of feedback. So, you are already equipped with the tool that you need to answer the need for schools. The features are for what exactly what we need, a place for parents to be able to subscribe, staff members also, a place for them to interact with their own personal calendars. Those were two of the requirements that were really high for us. We didn’t want to just have an online calendar and not have people be able to interact with it. We needed people to interact with it because that’s the expectation in today’s world. Now on our school sites, we have a space reserved on our homepage for an RSS feed that comes from the Tandem calendar. The district events were on this calendar and so whether the school participated in the use of the Tandem calendar or not, they still had some events that were populating that space on their homepage and those were the district events. Upon seeing that and knowing how easy it was for people to refer people to that space and/or to keep up on what’s actually happening in their building, we started to see more and more schools coming on board. We built a relationship with the company upon implementation partially because they are in our hometown but also because we feel we have a lot of needs in our school district that are universal and might improve the product. So we felt very comfortable giving suggestions to the development team at Tandem, on improvements that we thought might be good for all of their customers. The response was overwhelming. The company is responsive, they are interested in knowing the needs of their customers, they are willing to make changes that everyone can benefit from and we really appreciate that.