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Online Hawaii School Guide Launched
After eighteen months of research, development, and plain hard work, local entrepreneur Evan Leong today launched the Hawaii School Guide. It's intended to be a comprehensive education resource, offering information on over 800 schools (extending far beyond the 300 schools covered by the Hawaii state Department of Education website).
The portal was inspired by the frustration Evan experienced when searching for school details for his own kids in late 2007. And what started as a self-directed, self-funded project quickly grew to one garnering the support of the Harold Castle Foundation and the military's Joint Venture Education Forum.
The Hawaii School Guide has two main parts: a rich, searchable database of local schools, and a Content Management System that schools can use to easily post up-to-date information online.
Even described the search features as a "Multiple-Listing Service (MLS) for schools."
"You can go on the Internet now and say you want a two-bedroom home, with one bathroom, in Kalihi, in this price range, and search and compare them side by side, but you can't do that with schools in Hawaii," Evan explained. "So that's basically what the front-end does: It allows people to come in, find what they need, compare them, and communicate with the schools directly."
As for what the Hawaii School Guide offers to schools, Evan noted that most struggle to keep their websites up to date. The Hawaii School Guide provides a "mini website," a simple interface to post and update information, as well as moderation functions (so a principal, for example, would approve all changes).
In building the Hawaii School Guide, Evan said he worked with a few pilot schools, the Departments of Education, the Department of Human Services, the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, PATCH, and other groups. He said one of their few concerns were negative comments or poor ratings -- neither of which are available on the site.
Of course, like any enterprise, Evan hopes the Hawaii School Guide will make money. Beyond the founding grants, he says he's looking for corporate sponsors, as well as offering premium services for schools, such as support, custom design work, and marketing.