Parents of middle and high-school students in the Petaluma City Schools District now have a window that allows them an instant look at their students' academic standing.
The district this fall unveiled its new parent portal, an online program that allows parents instant access to their child's assignments, progress and grades. Already, more than 2,000 families, 43 percent of all district secondary school families, have registered for the new program, called Aeires. Parents may access the portal through the school district website at http://www.petalumacityschools.org. On the site there is also an instructional video and letter explaining how the system works and how to register online. Parents must register with their name and their student's name to insure privacy.
Jane Escobedo, assistant superintendent of educational services for the Petaluma City schools District, said not all teachers are using the new system, but the plan is to have everyone on board by the start of the second semester in January.
This year, only secondary schools offer the parent portal, although ultimately it will be used in elementary schools as well. "We're inching toward that," Escobedo said, "but we still have some tweaking to do."
Also coming is a student website where students can log on for homework assignments and to see how they are doing in the classrooms.
Escobedo said that for this year and the foreseeable future, students will continue to receive paper report cards, although parents will be able to log on to check their grades on a continuing basis.
She said so far the system has been well received by parents.
"I've heard nothing but positive feedback from parents," she said. "They are thrilled to be able to look in and see how their kids are doing with their grades and attendance."
Lyn Romstad, a parent of two boys, one a senior and the other a freshman at Petaluma High School, agrees.
"I love it," she said. "I wish I had thought of it. It is a huge tool. There are no surprises now."
However, some teachers have taken issue with the program. The parent portal was listed by the Petaluma Federation of Teachers as one of the issues in their current contract dispute with the school district, a dispute that has reached an impasse and resulted in the appointment of a state mediator to help the two sides reach an agreement. According to the PFT, teachers are concerned about a lack of training for the new program, and say there are glitches in the program itself.
Escobedo said teachers are adjusting to Aeires and that some are "pretty enthusiastic" about the portal.
"We are providing all the support we can," she said. "We've held training sessions, there is training and help at the school sites and there is good help on the web."
(Contact John Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.)