Help us to cement the sustainable foundation of the Las Cruces Academy:
Are you in a position to merge into our publicity engine, especially into our website operations?
Do you know other volunteers? Do you know reliable contractors who might eventually be engaged?
The sustainable LCA
How we’ve done to date: We’ve been running a school appreciate and often treasured by students and their families since classes began in August, 2009. We’ve grown in enrollment. We grown in programs we offer, both academic and social. Our finances are in excellent shape, even supporting plans to buy the fine Preston building we rent, so that we’ll have a guaranteed permanent home. Our faculty is, as we can say without qualification, the finest in the region.
The key need in the next 3-5 years: The academic and financial sides of the Academy are two of the three legs of its stability and sustainability for the long term. The third leg is that of administration and operations. Our founder, Dr. Lou Ellen Kay, our Board Chair and financial officer, Dr. Vince Gutschick, are the current mainstay of our operations, with excellent help from Deputy Head of School Elizabeth Brasher, our faculty, the LCA families, and friends of the school. Lou Ellen and Vince continue to operate the school as volunteers, knowing that the future of the school is with competent, reliable administrators who are paid appropriately. The need is then for people to assume over the next few years the tasks that Lou Ellen and vince carry out now – daily work with students and faculty, planning both academic and financial, recruiting students and faculty, keeping student and faculty records, keeping full financial records, complying with all regulations and taxation requirements, and more.
The outline for sustainability is built stepwise. A first important focus: sustaining the website, Facebook page, and media stories. This is where we find new students and teachers. This is where we reward students and their families with stories of their success. This is also where there are clearly defined tasks where new people can start working themselves in. Creating teams: Volunteers can help; new employees will be the core in the medium term; outside contractors can assume some diverse pieces of operations with economic efficiency, with Web work being possible niche. The mix of volunteers, new employees, and contractors is flexible, with each group having unique contributions and timing of engagement. Volunteers, of course, find personal rewards, though they might work temporarily. Newly hired employees such as a new Head of School, or a part-time Head and part-time teacher, come with a big commitment by the LCA that needs careful assessment.
A promising place to start: New faces for webmaster work and other publicity venues
Vince and David Gutschick developed our fine website, lascrucesacademy.org, starting in 2007. We’ve expanded its content and reach and we’ve gone through various Web engines. Vince has been the webmaster for a number of years, with help from David at some key times. Now, Vince and his wife and school founder, Lou Ellen Kay, are working on the transition from being volunteer administrators and teachers to passing the first task, administration, to others over the next several years in timely fashion. So, here at the Las Cruces Academy we envision the help of volunteers and paid employees; here, we’d like to outline what the tasks are for these new people. This write-up describes what is involved in running the website so that interested people can volunteer, suggest others, suggest outside companies as contractors, or any combination of these.
Critically, what’s the content? What goes up on the site, and how do we find it or create it?
— Our page tally is currently 106, though some are testbeds. Only a few pages need attention on, say, a weekly review basis. There are also 379 posts, though only the most recent 25 or so are relevant, and these are static; a new post arises about weekly.
— We have content that’s largely static, reflecting our long-term ways of operating. Those are our pages on mission and vision, admissions, curriculum, and such. These get revisions at times, though not in our news cycle. Any updates to these pages are created according to the need of the administration. Practically in our current operations, Vince has overseen these updates, using his own judgment and decisions made by the Board of Trustees (of which he’s Chair currently) and Lou Ellen as Head of School. These avenues – feeds from the Board and Head of School, will continue. The demand on the webmaster and any helpers will be intermittent and quite modest.
We’ll make a printout of all pages, highlighting the static pages
— We have dynamic pages, especially the homepage that announces items such as student or teacher accomplishments, events such as visits by interesting people, and scheduled events. The other very dynamic page is News and Events, which has several functions: (1) presenting our scrollable school calendar (updated annually,; (2) providing a contact-us form (no need to update is foreseen); and (3) presenting a series of posts of our events, automatically loaded chronologically, most recent first. So, the focus is then writing the posts.
What’s needed for news such as posts? There’s text and there are pictures. Currently Vince writes the text and often provides the pictures, though teachers and parents offer some pictures.
🡪 We’ll need to assure that good images are taken, edited (for composition, size, color balance), loaded onto the website, and incorporated into posts and some homepage items. The Head of School and teachers will become the main conduits for images and ideas for texts. Videos are a separate case. We don’t want to run a server nor store large video files on our hosting platform, so Vince has been posting videos on his YouTube channel (we can start a new channel solely for the LCA), after editing them with Movavi video editor, including creating interposed slides, usually with PowerPoint converted to JPG.
🡪 We’ll need good writing of the text for each post. The webmaster or helpers can take ideas from the source – the Head, teachers, etc., and create the text. The future webmaster and helpers might not be closely associated with the school to know the right tenor of posts, so they should run them by the Head before posting the results
Most images will be new, though there are thousands in the Media Library on our platform. Vince has put them into about 200 galleries, also, though galleries are almost never reused. The skill of creating galleries (carousels, collages) is important; the webmaster or a helper needs to know how to do these.
Practicalities: hosting, managing domains, updating; themes, menus
We’ve used a variety of Web engines, having settled for the past, say, 6 years, on WordPress. The new webmaster will need to know how to use WordPress – its editing, its management of pages, posts, media (images, PDFs…), menus, backup (Updraft Plus), plug-ins (anti-spam, editing add-ins, Gravity Forms, Stripe plug-in for payments…), and themes (we’ve used Zeal Pro for years but need to switch soon).
Our pages are hosted on dreamhost.com. The webmaster will need to use the CPanel at intervals, such as updating the version of PHP or sorting out some very infrequent problems. Renewal of hosting is on autopay.
Our domains come from name.com, also on autopay. We have lascrucesacademy.org, our home, as well as lascrucesacademy.com, which is a simple redirect to .org in case people think they’ll reach us on .com. Vince also maintains lcaoutreach.org for outreach activities – a site about world travel and a site about habitability of planets. The LCA webmaster need not be concerned with this domain; Vince will continue to manage it and its content. The same goes for several other sites he maintains.
Other public venues we use for publicity and recruiting
Facebook is our second significant online presence. Vince uses it in a simple fashion, creating posts, occasionally boosting a post, at times updating the page image when we start a new school year with some new students. He has a number of folders of images to use with posts, which he can aggregate into a master folder.
We have a good relationship with the Las Cruces Bulletin, occasionally getting stories in the paper. Our contacts are the publisher Richard Coltharp, advertising consultant Claire Frohs, and managing editor Dave Burge. The Board and the Head of School may propose content and provide images for assembly by a volunteer.
Where might we start, with volunteers looking at operations and seeing where they might jump in to help.
This can all be piecemeal, given that not everyone has experience in all the details of website management or in content creation. We can start with any task or set of tasks, working together with Vince on a mutually agreeable schedule. Vince will retain the login credentials, sharing them when a volunteer is both confident and trusted to do tasks well.
Any volunteer is welcome to contact Vince at firstname.lastname@example.org or (575)571-2269 to talk and then meet, in person or via Google Meet.
We appreciate all help offered toward a smooth transition in the public operation of the LCA.