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Computer 'Super Centers' for Parents Launched in Houston

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Access to technology is often touted as essential for students to succeed in a definitively digital world. But what about their parents? Not all families are "wired"—or wireless—with computer access at home.

In the Houston Independent School District (HISD), five new Parent Super Centers are opening, each with a dozen desktop computers to plug parents into the technology that most school students know so well.

Microsoft is partnering with HISD to open the centers in five geographically dispersed schools in the district. It's part of an effort to promote parent engagement on campus, according to a release from HISD. The first center was unveiled recently at the Sam Houston Math, Science and Technology Center.

Each new HISD Parent Super Center will promote parents' computer literacy with fully loaded computers that run the latest version of Microsoft Office, have internet access, and are equipped with other software. Laser printers also will be available.

Parents can use the centers before and after school, during summer school and on Saturdays during tutorials. They will receive training to master basic computer skills and become increasingly computer savvy.

Clusters of computers "will allow us to provide training to parents three to four times per day several times during the week," according to Kelly Cline, senior manager of parent engagement for HISD. "Through these centers, we will be reaching and supporting more parents than ever before."

The district hopes parents will use the centers as a resource in their children's academic growth and in their own interaction with teachers and principals. Computer access also could be useful in workforce development activities, Cline said.

Once parents become familiar with basic computer skills, Cline plans to offer training on how to use the HISD website as a resource, and how to get the most out of Parent Student Connect, an online service that gives parents and students access to students' grades, class assignments and school calendars. "Users can also choose to have an e-mail or text message sent if a child's grades drop below a selected average, or is absent or tardy to class," Cline explained.

Additional training will be provided on Internet safety and using the Naviance Succeed Program to provide a personal, online graduation plan for all secondary level HSID students.

"It is our goal to provide our parents with every resource within our budgetary constraints to assist their student's academic growth. That's why we are so excited about these new centers. Private support is so important in this day and age. The private/public partnership, through the help of the HISD Foundation, helped us stretch our dollars even more," Cline said.

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