Ever come home from school with a note pinned to your sweater? Well, teachers in the new millennium have other options.

Educators and parents seem to agree that a key element in a student’s success in school is good parent-teacher communication. And yet, as children progress from elementary to secondary schools, this communication diminishes significantly.

As Lake Highlands Junior High Principal Bob Devoll explains: “When students move from elementary school to junior high, they leave behind traditional methods of parent-teacher communication like homework folders.”

As a result, messages for parents often are delayed or lost altogether.

To address this issue, LHJH implemented a new telecommunications system designed specifically for use in schools. “The Parent Connection” is a proprietary software package that utilizes an automatic dialer and student data to deliver messages from the school to parents by phone.

Dave Groark is the Texas area representative for “The Parent Connection.” He says he became interested in the program after seeing a story on a national news program nearly 10 years ago.

“I was so impressed with what I saw that I decided to get into the business of implementing this into schools,” Groark says.

The automated voice response system allows teachers to record messages to be sent to parents. Parents may also call into a teacher’s message box 24 hours a day to receive current class information. The program allows a teacher to select certain students to receive a message based on an indicator in the data file.

For example, the choir teacher can send a message to all students who have an indicator that designates them as choir students. The program also combines multiple messages to be delivered in one phone call. This means that if both the band director and algebra teacher send a message to a particular student, the phone at that house will only ring once.

Devoll says the program has been enormously successful. Lake Highlands Junior High is the first RISD school to use “The Parent Connection.”

“This program is extremely user-friendly,” Devoll says. “It’s simple for teachers to enter information and easy for parents to call in and get information.”

The system also tracks and delivers information about student tardies and absences.

“This is our first year to use the system,” Devoll says, “and although there were a few bugs to work out in the beginning, it has really turned out to be even better than we anticipated.”