WordPress is incredibly versatile. It is inexpensive, easy to learn, and safe. That makes it the perfect option for organizations that have a lot of time or money to dedicate to building and maintaining a site like nonprofits or schools. Back in July, we looked at how WordPress powers the Newark, New Jersey Public School District.
That post centered around an interview with WebDevStudios and gave an excellent picture of just how much switching to WordPress changed the way the school district used the web. This weekend at WordCamp US in Philly, Cameron Barrett dug into the process of migrating and managing those 75 sites in the district.
Barrett’s talk titled, “WordPress for Schools,” looked at the difference switching to WordPress made for the educators he works with. Coming from a family of teachers, Barrett always had an interest in education but didn’t want to become a teacher himself. Instead, he realized many school websites are in desperate need of help.
“I care about our schools but I’m not a teacher, I’m a technologist,” he said.
Many districts go with a vendor using closed source. According to Barrett, these sites have confusing interfaces so teachers and administrators don’t try to update them regularly. It ends up being too difficult to take the time to learn about the site. Even CTO’s he’s talked to admit they know how to fix the problems in the site but can’t access the code. This leaves schools with unresponsive sites that don’t work on mobile. Parents can’t figure out how to use them and teachers won’t try to update them.
Educators are forced to make the best out of a bad situation and often pay way too much for a uneven product. This is where Barrett found his stride. He took the entire public school district in Newark and migrated the sites of 75 schools to WordPress over one summer.
“When migrating from one vendor to WordPress, you will still lose some data but will keep more than going vendor to vendor,” Barrett said.
The sites got a modern, responsive look and anyone on staff could quickly make changes without a lot of training. Schools could finally update the content and make the site an informational source for parents and teachers.
Not only was the process streamlined, Barrett was able to save the district more than $150,000 over five years. The vendor the district was using was charging $59,000 a year to host the site. In the first year with WordPress, Barrett and his team charged $30,000 for the migration, then $64,000 to set up the sites. The second year, that fee was brought down to $14,000 and the third year only ran the district $7,200.
That is incredible savings not only for the schools themselves but for the tax payer. That’s over $50,000 a year the district can put toward books, uniforms, and more. All done by moving to WordPress. The migration process was simple, the upkeep is minimal, and the savings is undeniable.
Stories like these really show the power of WordPress. Open source gives schools and educators the freedom to make sites that fit their needs and maintain them.
At the end of his talk, Barrett encouraged the people in the room to go to their local schools and offer their services. “These are your schools and your kids and you can make a difference, ” he said.
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