Parent launches websites for schools
May 17, 2011
By Laura Geggel
Paperwork aside, getting a Parent-Teacher-Student Association up and running at a school can be tough work — work that just got a little easier thanks to Rajeev Goel.
Goel, the Cascade Ridge Elementary School PTA webmaster, has created a template for PTSA websites that can be individualized around the world. Using his company, Our School Pages, Goel plans to sell the websites for $120 per year, a fee that will cover the labor, server, storage and processing fees.
This is not the first school website created by Goel, a former Microsoft software developer. In 2009, he launched Our Science Fair, a site helping schools organize and launch science fairs. As of this spring, about 40 schools nationwide were using Our Science Fair to coordinate their events.
Goel launched the Cascade Ridge PTSA website in August, working out the kinks and adding new features throughout the year. After polishing his final product, he began selling the Our School Pages template website on April 29, allowing any school in the world a chance to purchase it and make it its own.
At the annual Washington PTA convention April 29 to May 1, 60 schools decided to try the website for a free, 30-day trial.
“It started out as just being a Cascade Ridge thing,” Goel said. “I was a little quicker this time in making sure it could be used for any school.”
Our School Pages facilitates a number of PTSA and school activities, including volunteer registration. Many PTSA leaders email volunteer requests and have to wait for potential volunteers to reply, although sometimes too many or too few sign up. With the new website, volunteers can register or un-register in real time.
“It makes it easier for the organizer, because then you don’t have to keep track of email,” Goel said.
The website’s other features — an interactive calendar, parent email blasts, PTSA or PTA membership signups and electronic news posts — have helped drive up the number of online users for Goel’s Cascade Ridge website from 60 visitors in any given week to 270 during the week of the spelling bee.
His website also allows for event registration, allowing students to sign up for spelling bees, art shows, walkathons and the like, in addition to posting supplementary materials, such as spelling bee word lists.
Discovery Elementary School PTA President Deborah Evdemon said her school had already bought Our School Pages because of “the convenience of it. It’s going to make life on our board much easier. It’s going to be able to put everything on a database. We’ll be able to read stuff, too,” she said, referring to people’s sometimes messy handwriting on forms.
Each school can customize its domain name and the art on its website. Our School Pages is not a securely encrypted page, so Goel sends all Web payments to PayPal, allowing the PTSA or school the opportunity to collect school fees, raise funds or sell school paraphernalia, like sweatshirts or T-shirts, through its website.
“I wanted to do away with a lot of the paperwork, ” Goel said. “It used to be kids came home with a packet this big full of forms. That first day is really painful. At Cascade Ridge, we were really excited everything was online. Parents love it because they don’t have to fill out their address 10 times.”
So far, Goel’s websites are only in English, and he acknowledges that since some families do not have access to the Internet, schools and PTSA volunteers will still have to print paper copies of forms.
“It is definitely a gradual process,” he said. “You don’t want to put your parents into shock.”
Overseeing his two website creations — Our School Pages and Our Science Fair — has become Goel’s new venture.
“This is definitely more than a full-time job,” he said. “If it gains traction, I’ll definitely need to hire people to help me out.”
On the Web
Learn more at www.ourschoolpages.com or call 1-866-616-3247 toll free.
Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.