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School Community Connects on Facebook

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Facebook, the online networking site, has become a popular pastime among members of the community and now parents, teachers, administrators and others can join a group to learn about Sag Harbor School and community events.
Benefits of the Facebook group, according to school board member and founder of the group, Mary Anne Miller, are that people can regularly stay informed of happenings in the area.
For example, this weekend, the Sag Harbor Elementary School is having its annual Multi-Cultural Feast, where students can bring a food of their choice that is representative of their family heritage. For those who belong to the Facebook group, Sag Harbor UFSD Parents Connect, their attendance can be confirmed online.
So far, according to Miller’s Facebook group, there are 10 confirmed guests attending Friday night.
For many in the district, events like the multi-cultural dinner have come and gone without parents even having knowledge of it until after it was finished, according to Miller.
“A lot of parents say they don’t know about a certain event until afterwards,” she said.
For that reason Miller thought of forming this group earlier in the school year to help keep the notification of events at the forefront of people’s attention.
“I started this group for anyone in the district to join, and it has an open enrollment so anyone can post any event they are aware of occurring in the district,” Miller said.
“In the last couple of years, there has always been a feeling of disconnect, especially as the children get older, and the parents have tried various ways to get involved,” she continued.
Ellen Heller, mother of two in the Sag Harbor School District, began a Yahoo group from a suggestion put forth by Pierson’s assistant principal, Gary Kalish. She said that group has 30 members, but just two days ago she recommended the members of the Yahoo group join the Facebook group instead.
Now, the Facebook group has 65 members and is still growing.
“Facebook was very easy,” said Miller because members of the online community can join a group, even if they are not “friends” with anyone else in that community.
The first event Miller posted was for Little League sign ups, now, she said the PTA and the PTSA use the group to post their events and regular school events are posted there by parents and teachers as well.
Miller said the Facebook idea is not the only technology-linking group designed to connect parents within the Sag Harbor School’s community.
The school district’s website has recently been going through some upgrades and changes, which technology coordinator Vincent Raicovi helped to implement. The new system, called Unity Messaging, is credited with allowing visitors to utilize various mediums. With the system, the school district can send a message to computers and telephones and they also support email and text messaging.
On the district’s website, it also states that Unity Messaging allows the school to “store multiple sets of contact information so we can be sure your message is delivered.”
Miller said that although this is a great tool, the Facebook group has been very successful because there’s no need to speak to anyone, people can just learn about events online. But she added, the Unity Messaging service is a good tool for keeping the school community informed in many other ways, for example snow days.
Any event that occurs in the Sag Harbor community can be added to the group by any member of the group, said Miller. She noted for example, Bay Street Theatre could use the tool to announce their family film series and said that any family oriented events can be listed here as well.
“We encourage people with young children who are not yet in the school system to join, and it really helps just to get everybody talking.”
Miller said that one of the first thoughts for the group was to create an equipment swap. This, she said, parents can use for trading things like ice skates, rackets or anything else children use for one season, but quickly out-grow. But she said that plan hasn’t really taken off, yet.
“One of my biggest mantras as a board member is trying to get people together,” said Miller. She also added that there has always been a “bit of a disconnect” among parents in the community. She also noted it would be a great tool for parents considering what nursery or kindergarten school to send their children to. This way, she notes, parents can get advice or recommendations from others.
“Facebook is a much larger animal and can include the outer groups like Little League events and happenings at SYS in Southampton,” said Miller.
Anyone can join Facebook at www.facebook.com and search for the “Sag Harbor UFSD Parents Connect” group to join.