Parents’ Portal Revamped to Improve Accessibility

Choate students seldom have reason to ponder the parents’ portal, the online venue for all parent information on student life. However, this topic is very much on the mind of members of the Communications Department and Internet Technology Services (ITS). Thanks to collaboration between these two groups, recent improvements have made the parents’ portal clearer and more accessible than ever.

According to Ms. Alison Cady, Director of Communications, the Communications and ITS Departments began building the new parents’ portal early last year, with the changes introduced to parents in May 2017. The portal was moved from a framework called SharePoint into the Finalsite platform, which hosts the student and faculty portals. Ms. Cady said that this new platform provides for a “unified, consistent experience for all Choate constituents.” Parents have a graphically-enhanced view of student information, but the content is the same.

The intended impact of the change is for content to be shared more easily. Ms. Cady explained, “Things like calendars, announcements, etc. can be shared across constituencies, without duplicate input.” In addition, all Choate constituents — parents, students, and faculty — have similar experiences across the website and portals. Ms. Cady has received some feedback from parents and it seems parents “like the updated look and features.” However, Ms. Cady noted that the portal will continue to be refined and improved as more feedback comes in.

Ms. Cady feels the parents’ portal is important to the community because it is “an important information-sharing tool for parents whether they are around the corner, or across the globe.” The portal not only provides parents with updates about campus events but is also a resource for student information. Through the portal, parents pay tuition, manage their child’s Choate Card account, and view term grades and comments.

Mr. Andrew Speyer, Director of ITS, said, “One of the big goals was to have calendars, events, and announcements translate more easily to parents. We hoped by putting the parents in the same sandbox as students, faculty, staff and other campus residents, they would have a better communication plan. They know when practices are, they know when games are, and they know when events are happening. Overall, the goal was just have a more unified experience so that parents are not in a separate ballpark.”

Parent opinions on the new portal are mixed. Effuah Hagan, mother of Amy Hagan-Brown ’18, expressed that it was inconvenient getting onto the new portal after the user ID and password changes. However, she also noted that the portal is now easier to access and more informative. Philip Gibbs, father of Grayce Gibbs ’18, has one specific complaint about the portal: he cannot set up his own UserID, and he also thinks it is harder for him to see billing information. Overall, though, the portal plays a minor role in his experience as a Choate parent, and he said he has not “paid too much attention to it.”

Now that that the parents’ portal has been changed, it is simpler for parents to access information, an especially important aspect of any boarding school. As Mr. Speyer said, “Parents are important to the community; they’re the audience we cater to the most besides students, especially parents of boarders who may be more than an hour or two away from campus and can’t get here. We want to be able to bring as much of the experience of campus to everybody who is not physically able to be here.”

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