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Posted November 22, 2012 | comments 6 Comments

Warren County schools want local proposals for website redesign

By Kim Walter

Members of the Warren County School Board have decided to put out a request for proposals to the public, hoping to find a local company that can take on the task of redesigning websites for all nine schools, the school board office and seven school logos.

Melody Sheppard, the division's director of technology, has been working with instructional technology resource teachers since January to decide what should be included on the websites and in a contract between the school system and the website designer.

While she suggested approving a contract with a Winchester-based company at the board meeting on Nov. 8, board members said they felt that more time was needed to discuss options.

At the school board's meeting on Tuesday night, Sheppard presented members with the various methods that surrounding counties use for website design and upkeep.

Out of 13 school districts, she found that only Harrisonburg hired a designer, while a majority of the others either hired a template producer, or purchased software to develop their own template. Sheppard also pointed out that a number of the school systems have a technology specialist who is more familiar with Web design.

Shenandoah County uses SharpSchool, which makes websites consistent for each school in the district. Sheppard said it's pretty simple, but costs $13,500 a year.

In comparison, the school received three proposals from two Winchester companies and one design company from Front Royal.

The cheapest proposal cost came from Zooma, located in Winchester, for $27,370.

"The reason I recommended them was solely based on cost," Sheppard said. The company has already worked with the district in designing Skyline High School's website.

Sheppard said she's received feedback from parents and administrators alike who would like to see consistency between all of the schools' websites.

Shotton Design, of Front Royal, proposed services for $27,560 and Winchester-based Web Strategies gave a proposal cost of $33,329.

All the companies provided a list of references and samples of their work, and Sheppard said they "were all comparable."

She had approached a couple other local web designers, but they had decided the project was too large for their companies to take on.

Sheppard said the work needed to research the design, come up with a template, construct and launch the sites, as well as design logos for seven schools will take about five to six months.

"If we're going to spend this much on hiring someone, I'd rather see the money go locally," said board member Kimberly Athey. "I know of at least one person in town who would like to at least submit a proposal."

The board asked Sheppard to put together an RFP that would be up for approval at their December meeting.

Although an RFP is not required for this particular project, the board felt it was the best way to let as many local designers know as possible. Those companies that already submitted proposals will have a second chance with the RFP.

Sheppard hopes to have all proposals by January or February so that the new websites could be ready for launch by the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com

6 Comments |

    While I am pleased to see the School Board's acknowledgement of their system's inept web presence, design is really a secondary issue. Until the school system focuses on communication, the web redesign will be a failure. Clear, consistent communication with proper grammar to the community and parents is key. Often times elementary schools target their audience from the angle of speaking to children and not to the target audience. I hope the school system focuses on the basics of communication and does not get carried away with expensive bells and whistles offered by designers. As a designer and communications specialist I will be watching this closely.

    I would figure they would want to go with an in-county designer such as Shotton Design, try to keep it as local as possible. But I'm not an expert on the bidding process.

    Maybe even let technology students help out also. Sharpschool seems more economical.

    You have GOT to be kidding me. So they ask a number of companies for bids, then decide to do an RFP AFTER revealing the amounts bid by three companies. All because Athey "knows" somebody who wants to bid. Rephrase that into Athey has somebody in town she wants to get the job because she owes them for something. That somebody now knows how much to bid to beat at least three of his/her competitors. This is the most blatant case of "I'm in charge and I do what I want" that I have seen in a long time. I hope one of the three companies that had their bid revealed prior to the RFP sues the board for all they are worth.

    The sentence towards the end of the article should read "Although an RFP is not required for this particular project, the board felt it was the best way to give the job to who Athey wanted since they had already completed a process to get bids."

    "So they ask a number of companies for bids, then decide to do an RFP AFTER revealing the amounts bid by three companies."

    You took the words out of my mouth... what a sham.

    To always amused, I believe you have nailed it. The Board once again does what they want, and how they want. They already have one law suit against them and maybe this will be law suit #2. When it is time for reelection, I hope our citizens remember what these eople have done.

    I agree completely with the first commentator. No matter how nice a template/design you create, lack of current content will still be an issue. Why don't we have a technology specialist familiar with web content management? Or for that matter a class that manages the website. I know my kids would be thrilled to be able to participate in the management of the WCHS website. It isn't any more difficult than editing and publishing a yearbook or newspaper, in which high school kids have traditionally participated (in fact, its easier since you can easily fix mistakes even after they are published).


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