New system speeding up call process

By Mickey Winfield: PNT Staff Writer

If your child skips classes at a Portales school, you’ll hear about it pretty quickly.

Emergency notices and other important messages will also be able to be sent to large groups of phone numbers quickly. The Portales Municipal School District has a new school messaging system that will make that possible.

“It’s a computer-based program, and they can call all 3,000 students’ parents within 15 minutes,” Portales High School Principal Melvin Nusser said.

Mike Rackler, the Portales school district’s technology director, said the system has been operating for about a week and a half.

Personnel aren’t using it for attendance notices at all schools yet, but messages are going out daily. They have made test calls to the students and staff members, and are working to get phone numbers for every student, Rackler said.

The district recently purchased the messaging system for $8,745.

According to Rackler, under the school’s previous phone system, it took about 45 minutes to make attendance calls and even longer to get out other messages to parents. Under the new system it takes five minutes.

“We got the best system that we could possibly buy,” Rackler said.

Rackler also said all Portales schools will now conduct unified attendance calls to parents every night.

The system is called School Messenger, and Portales Superintendent Randy Fowler tasked Rackler with the job of finding a suitable system, not only for attendance and emergency calls, but also to find a more effective and streamlined way to conduct annual surveys.

“We normally send out our school survey once a year,” Rackler said. “We think our percentage of getting them back, using this system, will be much higher.”

Rackler said he has tested the software a few times and received good feedback from a very important group of people.

“The teachers — I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from them, saying that it will be a useful feature,” Rackler said.

“From a remote location, he can call the system, set up a message and have it call all of his parents,” Nusser said. “It’s some pretty cool stuff. Every time we talk about it, we think of something else it can be used for.”

Rackler also wants to conduct several more test calls in order to cleanse the system of wrong numbers.

“We want to make sure the community knows that we know there will be a need to clean up our numbers,” he said. “That’s why we’re doing these test calls, and we’ll be making some more test calls prior to Christmas to clean up all the numbers in the system.”

Rackler said finding the correct phone numbers for parents was his top priority before the system went live.

“We want to be able to get a hold of a parent of any kid in a given situation,” Rackler said. “So if the system is helping us get a number of a parent, then we’re tickled pink.”