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LISD has robust parent notification process

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The Lion Way of Parent Communications Infographic 1

By Emily Banks Wooten and Brian Besch
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“Everything that we were supposed to do, happened. But at the end of the day, we’ve had an unspeakable tragedy due to the evils in our society,” Livingston ISD Superintendent Dr. Brent E. Hawkins said, referring to the recent abduction and death of 11-year-old Audrii Cunningham, a fifth-grader at LISD’s Creekside Elementary School.

“Being a superintendent for 16 years, the one thing that you know is that you are going to get notifications for kids missing. I have had hundreds upon hundreds, if not thousands of them, in my 16 years. I can tell you that 99% of the time, the root of that is communications,” Hawkins said. “This call hit me a little bit different. I got notified somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 p.m. on the 15th. Part of it was probably my gut, but the other part was that this kid never made it to school.”

Hawkins was initially notified by Donna Soto, LISD’s transportation coordinator. Soto received a telephone call from Audrii’s father at 5:50 p.m. on Feb. 15. “He asked, ‘Where is my daughter? She didn’t get off the bus and she’s normally home by this time.’”

Knowing there were some afterschool activities on Audrii’s campus that afternoon, Soto said she kept him on the line and called Audrii’s principal who reported that Audrii was not on campus. Soto said she then called Audrii’s bus driver and asked him when he dropped her off. “He said she did not ride the bus home, nor did she get on the bus for school (that morning),” Soto said.

Audrii’s principal then called Soto back to inform her that Audrii was not at school that day and that the school had sent two attendance alerts via text and email through the district’s ParentSquare app at 1:30 p.m.

“All LISD school buses take digital video interior and exterior. Multiple school buses drive by Audrii’s home. The FBI searched video of many different school routes, even some that did not drive by her house,” Hawkins said.

Because LISD is a technology-rich school district, the district’s team has the ability to remotely access Audrii’s school-issued Chromebook to look at her search history as well as to ascertain when she last used her Chromebook. The last time she used it was Wednesday, Feb. 14 prior to leaving school. “That is alarming, because those kids are on those Chromebooks,” Hawkins said.

The district has multiple systems in place to send notifications to parents but that is based on the district having current contact information for parents, information which is gleaned during the registration process. The parent selects how they want to be notified. The district starts in May trying to get children registered and goes all the way until September.

“It’s all a part of our safety protocols that start with registration. Our goal is to keep kids safe. We want parents not mad at us because we register their kids. We want them to understand that the registration process is just as important as protecting kids from intruders,” Hawkins said. “Now look where we are at. Now you can see the purpose of why we need them registered. We need to make sure that if there is an emergency, we can get a hold of you.

“If that parent wanted to know if his kid stepped on the bus, we offer that, we just can’t force them to do that. It is all a part of our safety protocol that starts with registration, I can’t stress that enough. I know that is a challenge every year and we spend an inordinate amount of staff time, above and beyond, trying to get our kiddos registered so that we can start school and safely know who the contact information is. Then, that whole thing feeds all of our notifications on bus apps, as well as parent notification systems. It is crucial that process takes place,” Hawkins said.

He said the Texas Education Agency allows you to select which period you take attendance. He said he doesn’t know of a school that takes it during the first period because the first and last period are the most missed in the school day. He said that LISD has chosen 10 a.m. to take attendance to get “a better, cleaner piece of data.”

Hawkins said the district’s software allows for three updates during the day at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and after school. He said the ParentSquare notifications go out at 1:30 p.m.

The Lion Way of Parent Notification


It all starts with the registration process. Each year, parents register students online through the Ascender Parent Portal. This ensures the district has the most up-to-date contact information for calls, texts and emails. Parent notification is a foundational piece of our safety protocols.

Parents have complete control over updating phone numbers or email addresses at any time by logging into the Ascender Parent Portal.


The district uses ParentSquare for mass notifications from the district, campus and classroom levels. The contact data in ParentSquare is pulled from information provided in the Ascender Parent Portal.

By downloading the ParentSquare app, parents have even more options on how they receive school notifications. A choice can be made between receiving instant messages or “digest messages.”

Ascender Options:

Parents have the option on how they want to receive information. In Ascender, there is an option to receive attendance alerts immediately. Elementary campuses take daily attendance in the morning. An option in Ascender will allow parents to receive a text message immediately after attendance is submitted.

LJH and LHS attendance is taken each class period. An option to be notified by text of an absence for each class period of the school day may be selected.

The default attendance notification that will always be sent as a text message, email and phone call at 1:30 p.m. will be sent to the primary contact information provided in the Ascender Parent Portal.

School Bus Riders:

The “Here Comes the Bus” app allows parents of bus riders to set notifications when their student swipes in or out when entering and exiting the bus.

Another option is to set notifications when the bus enters a one-mile, three-mile or five-mile radius of your bus stop. The app will show the real-time location of the bus as it moves on the map.










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