In my travels across the vast plains of the internet, I sometimes come across wonderful discoveries. The New Auburn, Wisconsin school district page counts as a wonder indeed. Like the proverbial train wreck, I could not take my eyes off the site, and I just had to present it to the rest of the world as an example of what could be done with Microsoft Frontpage and a dream back in 2001. However, in 2014 it represents the wrong way to cut costs in a district, so I am presenting New Auburn the Passive Ninja Worst Website Award in the category of Schools for 2014.
I assume the school district, teachers, students, and parents kind of have fun with how bad the website is, so I’m not offending anyone when I poke fun at it. In fact, the person who designed it has likely long-since retired. Actually, some of the elements of the site have been around so long that they might come back into style, like the scrolling highlighted text. However, the willy-nilly text's font, color, and sizing in the “Links” menu will more than likely never be in vogue again, even if En Vogue used to have a website like New Auburn’s back in the day. Really, it’s kind of like someone just closes his or her eyes and picks the text, which makes you wonder how the district chooses staff members.
I enjoyed the main page slideshow, as well, though it might change once in a while. As of late fall 2014, it was half sports teams and half one single camping out event, which leads someone like me, who has never been to New Auburn, to believe that the most important academic subject at school is gym. In second place is also gym. In fact, the only non-sports team or camping photo is of...the gym, which looks newer than the website. The sports theme continues along the header, with a clipart image of a Trojan soldier and a bold mission statement of “Home of the Trojans” where most school districts would say something about educating children. Right after gym class, maybe.
The center section looks a little like an education-sponsored race car, littered with the logos for all of the technologically-significant tools being used by the district. The logos are all different sizes, but the general impression is that once gym class is over, it’s time to get some learnin done by clickin on them there links. I kind of imagine classroom teachers navigating to the district homepage each day, clicking each of the colorful links a few times, and then mentioning the sports schedule before the bell rings. Mission accomplished.
The next section of the website uses four columns to create more menus in a very utilitarian way, almost as if created as a Word document. Only, a Word document would generally use uniform fonts, colors, and sizes for text. More random clipart and a weather module from a Windows 95 desktop make this section a happening place to be. Of course, the sporting events are probably a bit more happening, and usually also divided into four quarters, though those quarters are evenly spaced, unlike the columns on the district webpage.
The next framed-in section of the webpage houses what is purported to be the mission statement. Though it does not mention sports, the cliche mission statement, double title, and lack of hyphen in "community-based" all demonstrate that those responsible for creating the mission statement and adding it to the website were probably more concerned about getting to the game on time rather than saying anything too overtly academic. Besides, the “success” mentioned can certainly be achieved by winning a state title.
The contact information is another table seemingly created using Bank Street Writer on an Apple IIe, but if one actually reads the contact info, it all makes a little more sense: Jamie Plummer is the ESEA Coordinator/Homeless Liaison/IT Coordinator/Athletic Director. So that means that this one person needs to arrange all of the sporting events, but also mess around with whatever acronym ESEA is, take care of the homeless, AND probably build the website on weekends using a thrift-store-bought Gateway megatower. This computer was also likely used to create the 26-page technology plan. You heard that right--a district with a webpage that’s more broken down than an 88 Ford Taurus has a 26-page plan on technology. Granted, I read most of the plan, and it says nothing of the website specifically, so maybe the idea is that a public-facing site built with a Commodore 64 is fine as long as kids learn how to use Moodle or present PowerPoint presentations to classmates.
I guess I wonder what taxpayers think the $200,000 technology budget is doing if they can’t see some real result, including a broken image in the "Powered by" section at the bottom. Of course, Passive Ninja would make those residents say “whoa” like Keanu Reeves if the district would send a check for just a few thousand dollars, but they probably have a process and committees and endless debate to consider before making a good decision. Besides, the New Auburn website has the chance to hold the distinction of seeing two Clintons in the White House and outlasting most Korean-made cars.