School Safety Concerns Reinforce Columbine High School Alum’s Desire to Bring School Apps

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( — April 19, 2013) Grand Junction, CO — Nationwide, school funding at its lowest and school safety concerns are at the highest which reinforced one Columbine High School alum’s determination to bring her local communities together with school apps; a process already begun with the launch of her fledgling smart phone app business Smart Apps GJ. 

Upon hearing Chicago is considering closing 17 public schools and recently witnessing the emotional turmoil first hand created by a huge natural gas explosion in Grand Junction, CO, which caused the evacuation of a local high school, and two elementary schools, a Columbine High School alum and former teacher is taking action.

As anxious parents raced back to evacuated Grand Junction neighborhoods on March 21, 2013, overloaded cellular networks and huddled around kitchen tables across the County, piecing together what had happened from local news bulletins of a gas explosion and trying to locate their children, Dottie Sheader – Columbine High School alum, mom to two kids and a former teacher herself – turned her attention to more logistical issues: how were schools contacting parents, where would parents go to collect their children and when would people know it was appropriate to do so? 

Having originally started her own venture in 2011, with her sights fixed firmly on helping Grand Junction’s businesses take advantage of the digital revolution sweeping the States, Sheader soon realized that the powerful tools she was making available to commercial operations could prove invaluable to academic establishments and provide a much wider social benefit throughout the region.

Given her background, skills and the particular set of circumstances affecting education in the County – lowest funding levels in the State, high demand for teen counseling and tragic history of emergency campus lockdowns – it became apparent that Smart Apps GJ ( needed to be refocused and in spring 2012 the business was reborn with schools and colleges becoming its primary customers.

Already the move has proved a smart one. An initial app for Palisade High School was followed by the development of another for Fruita Monument High School. One more, for Central High School, is under construction while six further schools and colleges are in advanced discussions with Sheader about creating their own smart app. Lat month’s explosive events serve to underline the usefulness of greater communication between teachers and families but alerting parents, pupils and first responders to emergency situations is just one of the great features an app can deliver. Increased community engagement, additional revenue streams and environmental savings are all high on the list of benefits too.

Sheader explains: “Many schools and colleges have well developed websites but even the most advanced will be redundant pretty soon. At the end of last year there were around 1.4 billion internet users but there were 5.3 billion mobile subscribers. More than half of all mobile users in the US own an internet-enabled smart phone and around 52.4 million Americans now possess a tablet device. Tablets and smart phones are replacing computers. And interactive apps are replacing web sites.”

“The average adult with a smartphone in the United States already spends 94 minutes every day using mobile apps so having an engaging app, one that is tailored to provide the best customer experience, regardless of browsers or devices, will be increasingly vital for schools. Apps can bring staff, students, alumni, parents and local businesses together, placing the school at the center of the entire community.”

“They provide ways to attract more families to visit and enroll; they help disseminate information quickly and directly into the hands of people who are, more often than not, glued to their cellphones; and they help reduce paper usage. They can build loyalty to a cause; they can link into social media; and they can provide directions, instructions, calendars, reminders, deadlines, score updates, election results and circulate news on awards. They can be used to incentivize and reward performance, distribute electronic coupons to be redeemed in local stores, sell tickets to cultural or sporting events and, of course, they can be updated with emergency information and contact details in real time. The possibilities are endless.”

Sheader concludes: “Best of all, they don’t cost the earth. Schools can have their own smart app set up for under $1,600 with monthly fees for support and updates less than $40. Local businesses can be encouraged to support schools’ initiatives by covering the costs either out of some philanthropic desire or through nominal payments for advertising or sponsorship enabling them to push their promotional messages out directly to all app owners. Even the downloads, which are normally free, can have a small fee attached to them allowing schools to profit every time an app is purchased.”


Perhaps not so remarkably, for such a young operation, Smart Apps GJ hasn’t had to try too hard to chase business. As word of mouth about the potential of its apps has spread from Principal to Principal and from community to community, more and more educational institutions have made inquiries. After last month’s events, that trend is likely to continue for a product and service whose time has come.

Name: Smart Apps GJ 

Grand Junction, CO

Phone: 970.201.8790


Media Contact Name: Dottie Sheader (Owner)



For further editorial information, digital photography or to arrange interviews please contact DottieSheader via or on 1-970-201-8790.


Editors’ Notes:

  • Dottie Sheader, founder of Smart Apps GJ, lives in Grand Junction, CO and is a graduate of Columbine High School, Colorado Mesa University and Western Illinois University. Aside from being a parent and certified elementary teacher, she is a published author and small business owner.


  • Passionate about helping schools and the families and communities they serve, Sheader has been a member of NSDAR (National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution ( for 25 years – she held the position of chaplain for 10 years. She has also held various board positions, including that of president, with the MOMS Club (Moms Offering Moms Support and is currently secretary of Mesa County Womens Network ( and a lifetime member of CEO Space (, an international forum for entrepreneurs.