Orange County (Fla.) Public Schools: www.ocps.net.
The design and layout of this site is polished and very impressive. The home page has a wealth of content that is extremely well-organized and well-compartmentalized. Among its highlights are a rotating slide show with color photographs featuring the latest OCPS news, a clickable district calendar, and sections for "Important Information," "Quick Links," "Videos on Demand" and "Upcoming Events." Not all of the individual schools have a Web site (although the majority of them appear to). Each school site has its own look and feel and content selection. The district logo, which appears at the top left of all main district site pages, provides a link back to the home page, along with a consistent "Home" link.
The top navigation bar on the home page (with links to sections for students, parents, community and employees) shrinks down and becomes part of the consistent left-hand navigation panel on all subsequent site pages. This left navigation panel offers links related to the specific content in a given section (for example, in the "Community" area, the left-hand links include "Community Involvement," "Facilities," "Legislative Information," "OCPS Newsroom" and more. Contributing to smooth travels throughout the site is a handy breadcrumb trail (clickable links that list the path taken to a particular page) atop all of the site's pages.
The search box is optimally placed at the far right of the top navigation bar. A large choice of options for very specific advanced searches (for example, to include only exact phrases or to find content by date, type and many other helpful criteria) is offered once an initial search term is entered. Overall, the search function provided sensible and extensive results. There was, however, a quirk or two. A simple search for "student safety" did not, for some reason, deliver a link to the landing page in the "Students" section labeled "Student Safety" in the left-hand navigation panel there. Also, some of the page and section descriptions were vague or missing completely.
There is a site map, offering another mode of browsing assistance; however, the only apparent way to find it was to do a search for it.
There is abundant and detailed information provided about the school district, the school board and the myriad departments within OCPS. The convenient directory of departments is an alphabetical listing that includes phone numbers as well as links to department site pages. The
individual school sites offer a similarly large array of applicable content, but with differing levels of detail.
This site is not optimized for access by disabled users.
Parents will find it easy to access information tailored to them on this site. The "Parents" section offers content related to enrollment, assessment, testing, volunteering, PTA participation and much more. On the section's main page, featured links are provided for frequently called phone numbers, the school lunch program, school calendars and afterschool care. There is also a list of targeted publications and messages.
The "Parent Portal" provides 24/7 access to classroom information and student progress reports. The "School Directory" can be filtered and browsed by school level (e.g., elementary, middle) and alphabetically. There is a "Contact Us" link embedded in the site's top navigation bar, a direct-submit e-mail form is offered for general inquires, and there are links for contacting an employee or department directly.
Oddly, a link to the "OCPS Employee Directory" is absent from the "Parents" section. It would be an excellent tool to provide parents quick access to, as it is searchable by title, name and work location, includes all categories of district employees, and includes phone numbers and e-mail addresses. The mailing address for the main OCPS office appears at the bottom of all site pages.
Use of Online Technology
The site has a clickable "District Calendar" (upon selecting a month and day, any applicable events are listed beneath the calendar itself, with a link for further details).
The "Videos on Demand" section has a healthy selection of QuickTime videos in the areas of news briefs, construction updates, school board meetings and messages. Site visitors can sign up for an e-mail newsletter on the home page, and partake of the OCPS Poll.
E-mail access via a virtual private network (VPN) is provided for district and school staff.
There is a robust "Employment Services" section, with online access to job openings, salary guidelines and employment applications.
The information on this site appears up-to-date and is very well kept. The featured news items and calendars are all current.
Laura R. Bona is a freelance contributor to DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION. To nominate your district for a site review, contact Judy Hartnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.