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AUSTIN EDITION - Web site Photos perk up school

By Tim Ruzek

truzek@postbulletin.com

Photos of students and staff grace the main page of Austin Public Schools' new Web site.

Although not featured before on the district's former home page, the pictures, which change every time you look at the Web site, now are part of a new look and format.

"This is very, very exciting," Superintendent Candace Raskin said during an event to unveil the site Wednesday at Austin High School.

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The district's new Webmaster, Andrey Alabin, took center stage in Christgau Hall in front of a large projection of the new site.

Alabin has created what he referred to as the "skeleton" of the site since he joined the district Jan. 3. Now, the muscles of the site need to be added, such as more content, he said.

He called the site, which has the theme "Connected for Excellence," a work in progress. Alabin added that he expects to get a lot of feedback once staff and others start using the site.

"It's all subject to change," Alabin said.

The new site, which has the same Web address as the previous one, has a different feel to it and is more user-friendly, Raskin said.

Austin schools launched a new-and-improved Web site in October 2003.

However, that site's setup didn't allow individuals in the district to directly post information online, Raskin said. They needed to send it to the Webmaster, which became time-consuming.

Now a principal can finish a newsletter and place it online right away, Raskin said. It'll help keep the site's information more current, she said.

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The site has three separate links from the home page for its main users: parents, students and staff.

Some of its features include a link to the ParentCONNECT program for parents to check on their child's attendance and grades as well as a section called "New to Austin?" that gives district and other relevant information. It also has a news section.

With the site's new format, about 75 percent of Alabin's time now can be freed to spend elsewhere, such as doing database projects, Raskin said.

School board member Larry Andersen attended the event and later said the site seems to have all kinds of possibilities. Any time you can better communicate with the public, he said, you want to be on top of it.

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