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September 2012
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How Can the Schools Contact Me, Let Me Count the Ways

I appreciate that my kids’ schools try to keep me informed. I really do. When Kiki was starting school a decade ago events and deadlines got missed because notes didn’t make it home or were never handed over to me. I remember being frustrated about the lack of communication. Now things have swung the other way and I feel like the schools are like a child on the playground shouting “look at me!” every five seconds.

Any time the elementary school has an announcement, they send a note home with the kids. Both of the kids, so I end up with two copies of every note. Then I also get a phone call telling me all of the information that is contained in the note. At the same moment that the automated system is calling me, it also sends me an email to tell me the exact same information. One announcement and I’m notified four times.

The junior high school both calls and emails for every announcement. Except that in addition to the automated announcement system, sometimes one of the junior high secretaries will also write an email to tell me the same information.

The High School also uses an automated phone and email system. It has the added fun aspect that most of the time the emails are not actually emails, but links to an audio file of the phone call. Also the principal’s messages are always attachments, never in the body of the email.

If all the schools have announcements on the same day, I’ll get three phone calls and four emails.

This is not all. The attendance system is separate. If any of my kids have an unexcused absence (If I didn’t call early enough to prevent them being marked unexcused, or if the teacher just fails to mark them there) then I get a phone call about that. There is a super extra special phone call and email combo that automatically contacts me if a child ever is absent from the high school flex class that they’re supposed to attend. That phone call will be a recording of the principal’s voice speaking very sternly about my student’s bad choices. Except the only time I’ve ever heard it was when my student was off doing school business and the teacher who was supposed to excuse her forgot to do so.

I did not sign up for any of the school PTAs this year because last year they averaged 1-3 emails per week per PTA.

So I feel a little bombarded, particularly this week when all three schools are very focused on their upcoming Parent Teacher Conferences and school fundraisers. I am over-contacted. Yet I am sure that every day the school secretaries get phone calls asking questions about exactly the information that they’ve handed out multiple times in multiple ways. They bombard me because it saves time answering parent questions over the phone and like spam, sending multiple messages is as easy as sending one.

Today I got a phone call from the school that I was very happy to receive. It was one of the teachers calling me directly to talk over concerns about one of my kids. We talked and problem solved for about 20 minutes and agreed that a conference with additional staff members might be beneficial. This is the heart of why I put up with the noise, the candy sales, the demands, the emails, the phone calls, because, in the end, all of those things begin with adults who care passionately about helping kids have the opportunities that they need. Some of the programs which are noise to me are vital for some other child. Because of this, I will exercise my patience. And submit a suggestion that maybe it would be possible to allow parents to opt out of the automated announcement phone calls.

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