Monday, July 11, 2005

Communication Problems

As a rule, I don't use this space to complain about the Cleveland Schools, unless I have a solution to offer.

That rule is going to be broken...TODAY.

I received two letters today from the district. One in my mailbox at home, and the other, certified, which I needed to sign for at the post office. The first one was to remind me I had not returned my signed 2005-06 contract and needed to do so before July 8th. (Notice, today is July 11th) The second letter which I had to retrieve from the post office informed me that my contract would be terminated if they didn't hear from me immediately.

Before I continue, I will let you know, my contract was signed and mailed to the East 6th street office weeks ago.
We've all had things get lost in the mail, and when an item's destination is an address where hundreds of people work, I am not totally surprised to hear my contract is still out there somewhere, in the land of errant envelopes.

My frustration is with the Board of Education's phone system.

I spent over forty minutes just trying to get connected to the person I needed to speak with for only 2 minutes. My call was transferred from one office to another no less than 10 times. Twice I had to redial the receptionist because I was connected to dead-end, filled-up, voice-mail boxes. I was finally connected to the right person and instructed to fax my contract to her office.

Sadly, confusion and consternation is very typical of the experience anyone has who needs to contact the Cleveland Board of Education. If this is the way I --a district employee -- feels, how much worse it must be for people who are not familiar with the system's snafus.

The area of public relations is one place educators should look to business as a model. The district fails miserably when it comes to ease of communications and accessibility of information.

Today the Plain Dealer ran an article about an automated calling system that many districts are using to keep teachers, administrators, and parents connected. According to the article, Cleveland has been using automated calling since 2000.
I was surprised. Why is it hardly ever used? Why don't individual schools use it?
I received several calls this year from the Cleveland Heights-University Heights District, where my son attends school, notifying our family of school closings, the deaths of student several students, and the details of an emergency situation. Some schools use the system to notify parents about school events. Selected groups can get even get calls to inform them of class activities. The system can also be used to inform parents when students are absent from school.
The school where I teach still uses the old round-robin calling system for the staff when there is any emergency, including school closing. This is very ineffective. If we have automated calling -- if we are paying for the service -- why isn't the district using it on a regular basis like they do in Cleveland Heights?
The only automated messages I get from the Cleveland School District have been about the school levy.
If the district understood the importance of communication and connecting with people about the things that are important to us on a more personal level, rather than only reaching out to the families and school community when they want more money, like a mooching relative that you try to avoid, perhaps people would be more inclined to support a levy.


Linda said...

Most of the administrative staff is techno-phobic. I had a principal who couldn't access the email system, so he had his secretary do so, and print a hard-copy of EVERYTHING.

In every school, there are a few souls who love the tech, and lead the way. Most learn 1 or 2 things, then lean on using them for any computer activity.

A small core, maybe 10%, are proudly tech-illiterate.

The training offered by the schools is useless to change that, since there's no test of competency at the end, and teachers get paid for the workshop whether or not they learned anything. As a result, the already tech-savvy add to their knowledge, and most of the rest don't.

Anonymous said...

Oh honey to get anything done Downtown you must go there in person and stand there until they do what you need done.