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Jo Nell Mellody
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Submitted by Royse City ISD

When Royse City High School officials want to get important information to parents or students, they're not relying so much on sending emails, making telephone calls or even writing posts on Facebook.

They still use those forms of communication, along with the school's website and parent newsletters, but Twitter has emerged as the overwhelming preferred method of getting information to high school students and parents.

Dr. Brent Ringo, principal of Royse City High School, pointed out that Twitter is a short, simple, instant form of communication.

Those are some of the reasons Twitter is so popular among Royse City High School students, Ringo said. How the school uses Twitter, he added, also is a key to success locally.

"I believe we've been able to obtain so many followers -- not just our students, but parents, community members, even a lot of our local business people -- because of the way it is utilized," Ringo said. "We recognize our students and faculty on there and we get information out about what's happening on campus."

Twitter is a form of online social networking that enables users to send and read "tweets," -- short, 140-character text messages. Registered users can read and post tweets, but unregistered users can only read them.

Followers are people who have agreed to receive your tweets through Twitter. If you add someone else to the list of people you read, you "follow" them. Popularity on Twitter is often measured by the number of followers a person -- or in this case, a school -- has.

Ringo said the high school, which has a student population of 1,326, has about 1,400 followers on Twitter. Those followers, he said, can view or have access to the school's Twitter page. The school's Twitter page has 5,000 to 15,000 views per week, according to Ringo.

"And so that tells you how often people are going on there to look at the good news, but also to get information because it's a great communication tool both ways as far as parents asking questions or students asking questions," he said.

“I think with the way we’re able to use that one piece of social media, it has allowed us to obtain more followers or more people who are interested in what we’re doing at Royse City High School compared to other high schools,” Ringo added. “Our numbers are double or triple many of the surrounding schools as far as people who actually look at our information and see what’s happening at the high school.”

The principal started the program last fall after he attended a conference and heard how Twitter was being used as a communication tool for students, parents and community members. Before the program was initiated at Royse City High School, Ringo said, officials were communicating with students and parents by mass emails and on the school's web page.

"What Twitter allows us to do is get information to our entire student body instantly," he said. "They get information, but we also use it to celebrate what our students are doing. I think that's where our success came from on Twitter. We use it a lot for recognition, not just our students, but also for our faculty."

Students are allowed to use their phones between classes and during lunch.

Tweet examples include information about events, weather, special dress days, schedule changes, reminders, safety and clarification about a variety of topics.

Ringo said Twitter was used effectively recently when a storm rolled in about the time school was scheduled to be dismissed for the day.

"The decision was made not to release students at that time, but to hold them in the building during the storm," Ringo said. "An email was sent out, but not all parents got that. We had more response through our Twitter message about the weather than through any other form of communication."

Use of Twitter also reduces the number of calls to the school office when there are questions about the weather, release times or cancellations.

One of the biggest tweet and retweet days was when a school day was cancelled because of wintry weather. The school district's original message was retweeted about 100 times and there were about 100 "likes" posted.

Many pictures also are posted.

Pictures that have been posted recently were taken at the education foundation's Top Dog Spectacular and during student recognition at a school board meeting. At many school events, Superintendent Kevin Worthy takes pictures with his iPhone, then tweets them to the appropriate Twitter page.

According to Ringo, Royse City's other schools got Twitter accounts because of the high school's success. He said it has been a goal of the district to increase communication with all campuses.

Hashtags play a big part in Twitter.

A hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the number sign (#). Hashtags make it possible to group certain messages.

"The hashtag we use a lot is ‘BulldogPride’ (#BulldogPride)." Ringo said. "Any time we have a student success or campus success, we hashtag it 'BulldogPride.' And what that allows an individual to do is search that hashtag. Anything that's been hashtagged 'BulldogPride' that tweet will populate. So, they can find every success at Royse City High School on Twitter."

Anyone who wants to have a Twitter account can go to Twitter.com and follow the sign-up procedures. After a Twitter account has been established, the user can take the steps to follow @RoyseCityHS.

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