High school's website reaches new milestone

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Tue., Nov. 20, 2012
Redline's new aesthetic, with content submitted by members of the Manchester High School community, makes it one-of-a-kind in the area. Image used with permission by James Farrell, Manchester High School. - Contributed Photo

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an organization's website should speak volumes. Gone are the days when the website as virtual brochure sufficed; businesses and organizations now use their sites to present their identity while informing, engaging and offering guests a reason to return. High school websites are evolving as well, and Manchester High School is at the forefront of the trend.

MHS's site, MHSRedline.com, recently celebrated a benchmark of 10,000 visitors. While Assistant Principal James Farrell is quick to point out that the number is inflated because Redline has just become the default home page on school computers, the number of visits the site receives is still impressive. “The metrics of visits are solidly in the 5,000 to 6,000 visitors a week, and the page views are 18,000 to 20,000,” Farrell said. Page views once were as high as 27,000 in a week.

The updated site began when important content from the school's original, more traditional website was “cannibalized” and migrated to the more aesthetically pleasing Redline, Farrell said. But it's more than a sleek new look that makes Redline different from its precursor.

“I think what makes the site different is that it is essentially produced by our constituents and stakeholders,” said Farrell. “Staff contribute things, students contribute things, alumni contribute things. Parents, through the Parent-Teacher-Student Association, contribute things. And that's not true of most high school websites.”

Farrell describes the average high school website as a “repository of information,” which remains static and unchanged. Other schools may have a separate, student-run site. Redline, he said, is both. “It's a hybrid of student news and daily goings-on, and it also has all of the boilerplate that you would probably want to find in a traditional school site, like calendars, staff lists and policies,” he said.

MHS is also making good use of social media. At the beginning of the school year, Principal Matthew Geary revealed to the student body that Redline now has a Twitter account. “Before that day was over, we had 195 students following MHSRedline's Twitter account,” said Farrell. “Since then, it's been growing steadily, and it's up to 420 followers now.” After the Twitter account was established, Facebook and Instagram accounts soon followed.

These social networks are a great way for administrators to connect with the MHS community. “We regularly disseminate information or news and run contests on the social networks,” Farrell said. When tickets were not selling for a dance held by MHS, Redline staff decided to advertise via Twitter that tickets would be available at the door. “We got about 50 kids who showed up, and almost all of them said that they were on Twitter or were contacted by someone on Twitter [who saw the tweet],” said Farrell.

“We can reach a pretty good percentage of our kids directly through our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages,” said Farrell. “We are very well positioned because we have this solid core of kids who are all connected to their school and are extremely invested and proud of the school.”

Redline and its social networks have also brought alumni closer to their alma mater. “We've had some alumni submit very poignant videos that they show at their reunions, which show the faces of classmates who have died,” said Farrell. “Quite a number of visitors to the site have watched those videos. I think it's very instructive for students to see who went to Manchester High School 40 to 50 years ago.”

Farrell is also pleased that the site gives alumni a window into MHS. “I think it's exciting for folks who were in those graduating classes to revisit their old school virtually and see their legacy, and see what it looks like today,” he said.

Redline is also an excellent ambassador to the Manchester residents who are not part of the high school. According to Farrell, the high school is sometimes defined by “a few people occasionally doing bad things.” That's not the reality of the situation, Farrell said. “Most of the time, it's a lot of people doing good things.” When those good things happen, you'll read it first on Redline.

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