Friends and fellow entrepreneurs Rob O’Leary and Grant Wright started in the edtech space almost a decade ago. Today, their company is moving districts forward with a content management system helping to effectively keep parents, students, staff and the greater community in touch enabling greater transparency and open dialogue. Here, Rob and Grant open up dialogue on what makes it work, the value of a great teacher, and what they see in the year ahead for education.
Victor: Why did you create eSchoolView?
Rob: Grant and I ultimately created eSchoolView through a partnership operating a different company. We started our journey together nearly 10 years ago working with school districts and after moving full circle found a way to build a new company that works almost solely with school systems. We are passionate about communication and technology and have dedicated our careers to helping educational organizations become active participants in their communities through meaningful and measurable tools.
Grant: We wanted our name to be meaningful and expressive. At eSchoolView, we build ways for school systems to effectively communicate with parents, students, staff and the greater community… we provide a “view” that enables transparency and open dialogue.
Grant: Rob and I are friends and fellow entrepreneurs. We started our journey together in 2002 when we created another company that provided Web design for educational institutions. Rob, who graduated with a degree in Digital Communication from Franklin University, and I, a graduate of The Ohio State University’s business program, combined our creativity, drive, and technical expertise to create eSchoolView’s content management system tailored for educational settings.
After five years together and a merger with another company, we left the company in 2007 to start Infinite Cohesion, which we built to help businesses with their Web communication. We worked with clients such as Kroger, Limited Brands, and various townships and cities. In 2009, eSchoolView, a division of Infinite Cohesion, was born, and we began working with school districts and educational support organizations again.
Victor: What does it do and what are some of the benefits?
Grant: eSchoolView knows how important school communications are, so we designed a user-friendly Content Management System (CMS) that allows our clients to improve their Web presence and increase their Web site capabilities. Our CMS is a Web-based system, so district personnel can access and upload content from any computer. It is also very easy to use, so anyone with basic computer skills can use it efficiently and contribute to the maintenance of a current and accurate Web site. The training we provide takes about an hour and a half or less. Of course, we will spend more time, or revisit particular areas when needed, but it is very easy to use. The CMS offers a number of specially designed components that meet the communication needs for educational institutions and support organizations, such as customizable calendars, photo galleries, and survey tools.
We are continually creating new components and updating our CMS to ensure our clients have the tools they need, so they can make their Web site the hub of their communications efforts. Our CMS can keep track of newsletters, announcements, and other school communications. It can send targeted messages to various groups in your community and send automated weekly updates. eSchoolView understands how important positive school communications and regular community interaction is to an organization, so our CMS is designed to help our clients maximize ability to keep communities engaged and informed.
Rob: We also feature tools that enable facilities management, a parent portal, event registration, school stores and a mobile view that works on Apple’s iOS (iPad/iPhone), Blackberry and Android devices.
Rob: A core value at eSchoolView is customer satisfaction. In order to ensure each client is satisfied with their Web site, we continually update and enhance our CMS software. In fact, enhancements appear every 60 to 90 days. We have a constantly growing list of ideas, and we rank them based on our customer feedback. If a customer needs something, we make it a priority to build the component or revise our current system to make sure the CMS is meeting their communication needs.
Grant and I have also worked hard to establish key partnerships to make our product affordable and accessible to all districts that understand that a Web presence is essential in any school district’s communication plan. By endorsing the quality and reliability of eSchoolView’s CMS system, these partners save their members the time, money and stress shopping for a Web design company.
The company also invests time and resources into customer service and support. eSchoolView offers a variety of pathways to immediate attention and support. Each client has the ability to email, phone, access a complete training manual and videos directly from the site, or click on the support button while working on the site. eSchoolView support responds quickly and efficiently, making the maintenance of the site easy and trouble-free. Rob and Grant ensure that each client has the training and customer service support it needs to get the most out of its investment.
Grant: The first educational client was North Ridgeville City Schools in 2009. Before long, other districts learned firsthand the quality of their product and customer service, and in less than two years, eSchoolView has grown to serve over 150 customers in four states. In order to maintain the superior quality of our product and services, eSchoolView has grown to a staff of 15. Rob and I have also worked hard to establish key partnerships to make their product affordable and accessible to all districts.
Victor: Where did it originate? Where can you get it now?
Rob: We have worked to secure partnerships with educational support organizations throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, including many of Ohio’s 23 Information Technology Centers, which provide technology support and cooperative purchasing power to school districts.
Victor: How much does it cost and what are the options?
Grant: eSchoolView continues to work hard to provide top quality CMS (Content Management System) and Web hosting services to all schools. We will work cooperatively with a school district to determine a fair an equitable pricing structure. Our eligibility in the E-Rate program, a program through the US Government’s Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, offers our clients potentially significant discounts on eSchoolView’s Web hosting services.
E-Rate is a program that allows schools (and libraries) to have affordable information services available to them through a discount program. Eligible schools (and libraries) can receive discounts for telecommunication services, Internet access, and internal connections. Ultimately the program supports funding for activities directly and indirectly related to providing Internet access and services to participants. Eligibility for the E-Rate program translates into significant savings for a school, and discount amounts are determined based upon a school’s location (rural / urban) and the percentage of students participating in the free and reduced lunch program.
eSchoolView participates in this program and we are a 75 percent Priority One E-Rate eligible company. Our USAC SPIN number is 143033559. More information about the program is located on our website.
Victor: Got examples of it in action?
Rob: We work with large urban districts and small rural school systems. Some of our favorite sites are:
Rocky River City Schools – www.rrcs.org
Bethel Park Schools – www.bpsd.org
Dublin City Schools – www.dublinschools.net
Anderson County Schools – http://anderson.kyschools.us/
PMSA – www.pmsaweb.org
Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for?
Grant: Our product is primarily focused on education organizations.
Victor: Your thoughts on education these days?
Rob: SchoolView’s leadership and creative teams value education and the work school personnel do to prepare students for the future. To help support students in that learning, we are kicking off our inaugural scholarship contest, Investing in Our Future. This scholarship program offers students an opportunity to use professional grade software in a relevant and meaningful way and professionals in the field will evaluate them. This is an invaluable experience we are offering to students to connect what they learn in the classroom with a real life application. We feel this will better prepare them to choose a career path that fits their interests.
Victor: What sort of formative experiences in your own education helped to inform your approach to creating eSchoolView?
Rob: I had some great teachers who taught me how to press the boundaries and look for different answers. eSchoolView allows me to do that everyday and I really think my entrepreneurial spirit was born through discovery while I was in school. My work allows me to give back to that community in a very global way.
Victor: How does eSchoolView address some of your concerns about education?
Rob: Positive communication between school districts and their communities is vital to developing trust, fiscal support and satisfaction. We believe eSchoolView is the CMS web solution for school districts. We offer the options and flexibility a district needs to create and grow a its web site. Every site is completely customized: from design and navigation, to dynamic interfaces such as news, calendars, directories and databases. We work with all of our clients to ensure a district’s communication needs and goals are met.
Victor: What is your outlook on the future of education?
Exploration through technology is so significant to a strong education. We’ve created a scholarship that supports just that and are excited about partnering with school districts to support the creative development of young minds that will help shape the future of technology.
Victor: Any quirky anecdotes or something interesting to share?
Our team is what you might call uber connected—we all have the latest gadgets and love sharing them. We have fun seeing whose mobile device connects to a 4G network faster than the other, whose pulled down the latest and greatest app and who can Google something the fastest. Ten years ago, most folks wouldn’t understand that kind of excitement, now it’s hard not to see people energized by the power of technology.
Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of EdTech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: [email protected]