Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Contact SPS Staff by Name

I noticed a welcome change to the SPS website today. You can now find any Seattle Public Schools staff person by name, along with the associated contact information. As many of you know, it has been extremely frustrating to try to find contact information for district staffers when the only contact information listed was for departments.

Also, when looking by department, you can now look for a school name (at least for high schools and middle schools), and get the associated name and contact information for the Middle or High School Director responsible for that school.

New and revised contact pages include:

Contact us by person

Contact us

It also looks like some org charts have been updated.

Learning & Teaching

Operations Division


I think we have the new Communicators Director, Bridget Chandler, to thank for this change. The topic came up at one of the Community Conversations in February and she said she would work to make it happen.

Perhaps this is a sign of organizational culture change. Can we expect a more responsive and more accessible SPS district staff in the future?

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just received a survey in the mail from SPS - I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I skimmed the letter from Raj, and it seems to be wanting to get family input on all kinds of topics including student assignment and communication preferences for families w/SPS. I'm not sure how much impact survey results will have, but I was happy to see the survey and was happy with the results from the online survey with make-up snow days.

amy said...

I had a mixed reaction to the survey. While I am a firm believer in collecting feedback from "customers/stakeholders" it is only effective if it is actually read, understood, and is used to enact change (or to continue what's working well).

In the letter "Raj" writes (I'm sure he didn't actually write it): "We strive to create meaningful partnerships and are committed to continued dialog with families to ensure student success.... The information you provide is very important to us as we work to improve our services for and communication with families."

Oh how I wish this were true and genuine. I haven't had the level of involvement with the District that so many other bloggers here have, but I can honestly say I don't know of too many instances of true dialog between the district and the community/families. And for all the data gathering that happens, I still feel cynical about how much input is actually considered and appreciated and how much is overlooked or actively disregarded. We dont' have to look too far for examples of the latter.

All that said, this is a step in the right direction. I would have liked it if the letter spelled out next steps (will we see the results? will our schools get the results? what is the plan for action and follow-up? what is the timeline -there was no due-date listed?). Also, some of the questions seemed out of context and unrelated to the other questions in the set (how often does your family check out books from the public library).

I'm willing to be open to see what happens next, I just wish these things were more clearly thought through before being unleashed and getting people's hopes up, only to crash & burn in the end, or result in unintended consequences (usually of the negative kind).

amy said...

I just finished reading Charlie's "Discouraged" post and now I'm feeling worse about this dumb survey!

It's true, unless there is a clear plan for what is going to happen with the data, who is going to OWN the responsibility for analyzing it, sharing it, and using it then it's just another (big) waste of time and money and another insult to the community.

Ugh.

classof75 said...

This is taken from a post- I wrote for another education board
in response to parents who were feeling like they were having to teach their kids the things they weren't getting during the day


in our district- which will be in the news in a few weeks (after the Supreme court announces its decision regarding assignment to schools by race)

it is very uneven-

Ironically our experience has been that at a "small family oriented school", many of the teachers never set up their voice mail, let alone return email, and even when I was in the school everyday & placed pleas in their boxes myself- I rarely heard back.

IMO- the administration either has communication as a priority or they don't, and when they don't insist on it-much falls through the cracks.
Contrast that with her comprehensive inner city school where she has had teachers give her their home phone or even cell number, so they can be contacted for questions.
When I email the principal- or most anyone- I am contacted within a week, at her other school, sometimes I never heard back after multiple attempts.

At her first school, we had to pay for tutoring ( that we couldn't afford), even though she had an IEP and legally they were required to measure her progress ( I had gone as far as state office, but not to the point of hiring an attorney).

Her 2nd school- same district, the teachers meet with her after school for tutoring regularly- no charge to me.

Huge difference- plus the teachers then know, if she is getting what is covered in class.

But such a disparity.
If parents are able, to tutor their own kids, or if parents have a priority of educational success and are motivated and able to find outside help for their kids, then the students do much better than the children of families who are perhaps immigrants without much english, or too busy and exhausted to realize that the kids aren't learning what they need to during the school day, or even if they do- don't know what they can do to teach them.


I don't blame them- its pretty overwhelming and frustrating sometimes.

classof75 said...

I would love to see the district gather information re: outside help.

How much time each child receives outside the school day, whether from a teacher, a parent, a paid tutor, to assist with schoolwork.

From listening and observing for the 25 years I have been a parent, I would predict that schools where outside help is being utilized, is what is making the difference in academic achievement.

Not how shiny the brochures are at open house, not how glossy the paint on the walls,not even how much money the PTA is able to raise.

Anonymous said...

This from the district news:


Dear Seattle Public Schools Employees,

We have heard from many of you, as well as from community members, that we need a way to more easily locate contact information for those of us who are frequently called or emailed by parents, vendors, or other community members. As part of our automated systems upgrading efforts, we, like other public organizations, will soon have all employees' work contact information available in an on-line directory accessed through our public website.

In the meantime, we have brought back an updated version of a former directory by last name of frequently contacted staff. You can access it at: http://www.seattleschools.org/area/m_aboutus/contactsbyperson.xml

Please email Amy at almarkishtum@seattleschools.org with suggestions for any corrections to the information in the list.

This is also a chance to review the district's protocols for returning calls and emails.

* Return phone calls within 48 hours.

* Clear voice mails daily.

* During the school day central office phones should always be answered.

* Provide your immediate supervisor with the number of your direct line and cell phone.

* Turn off computers and cell phones during meetings.

* Check e-mail daily in the morning and afternoon.

As you know, I appreciate how the work that you do each day contributes to the success of our students. I invite you to remember how even a seemingly small thing, like a phone call or email returned promptly and respectfully, can be an opportunity to make someone's day.

Thank you for all you do on behalf of our students.

Sincerely,

Raj Manhas

Beth Bakeman said...

I hope as many people as possible complete and return the survey.

Amy, I completely understand your feelings. But the way I see it there are two options.

1) The survey is meaningless because no one will analyze the data and/or make changes as a result.

-or -

2) The survey is a sign of real organizational/culture change. The district actually wants more input from families and will analyze and use the data collected.

If you fill out the survey and #1 is true, you haven't wasted much more time than you do reading this and other blogs.

If #2 is true, maybe what you say will make a difference.

Anonymous said...

The survey, from how I read it, specifically requests information about your child's school.

I wish it also had a section for feedback about the district. While I'm happy with my son's school, I've felt discouraged by my interactions with district staff as a parent. I also work a little with the district in a professional capacity, and my working relationships seem to be much stronger - perhaps because I'm at the table as a peer.

I really like classof75's suggestion that they should gather data on how much outside help students receive, too - when I was a kid, tutoring was only for the kids at the bottom of the class. Now it seems to be much more the norm for all kids.

-DG

amy said...

Beth - I agree with your two options and that is why I opted for #2, because I am always willing to try to make something work. I just wish it had been positioned more effectively with some clear outline of what, why, and how they are going to use the info. I am an optimist so I'll fill out the survey in good faith and keep on top of what happens with it and help where I can. I concur with DG that the survey seems largely directed toward the individual school, and with the instruction to just think of one school if you have children in more than one was kind of limited. I would have liked to complete the survey on both kids' schools. I hunted around the website to see if the survey was available online but it doesn't appear so.

Here's hoping....

And by the way, I don't consider reading this blog a "waste of time" by any means!! :)

Melissa Westbrook said...

The accompanying letter to the survey says you can attach a letter with comments.

jpr said...

very inspiring talk, by Sir Ken Robinson, Do Schools Kill Creativity.
its about 19.29 minutes long but well worth the watch. he mixes laughter with his thoughts on School.
http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/66

Anonymous said...

Have all SPS families received the survey? I don't remember seeing it. I guess they could just be doing a sample, or are they concentrating on particular schools? As Amy says, it doesn't appear to be on the website (not that the search function there actually works...).

Maureen

Anonymous said...

The search function is worse than useless. It's never really worked at all. They have been asked politely and otherwise, people have pleaded and begged them, for at least six years that I know of, to make it possible to search their information better. But they just don't care. They don't have to.

Ask your ninth grader to show their arrogant clueless Ed.D's how to use Google to search their site. If you don't have a ninth grader, ask your sixth grader. That's how bad it is at the JSCEE.

Charlie Mas said...

The only part of the survey that bothered me was the cover letter from Mr. Manhas in which he lied outrageously about wanting dialog with the community and welcoming family involvement.

I wrote a strongly worded response and will follow up with the public affairs office.

Anonymous said...

I HAPPENED across this description(re the survey) on the SPS website (after SEARCHING for it for a long time):

"Family Involvement Surveys
One of the benchmarks in the School Board approved Five-Year Plan is to increase family involvement in student learning by 5% each year.

"During the month of April, Seattle Public Schools will be surveying a randomly-selected sample of approximately 19,000 families to establish a baseline measure of family involvement across all schools in the district and parents’ level of satisfaction with schools. Families will receive this voluntary and anonymous questionnaire the week of April 17.

"Approximately 50% of families of each Seattle school will receive a questionnaire in the mail. The questionnaire includes 32 questions that cover the following topics: demographic information, family involvement in their child's learning, school communication, and school climate. Surveys were translated into 10 languages and the return deadline is May 3rd –a self-stamped envelope has been included. Respondents will have the opportunity to participate in the raffle of two desktop computers."

I sent an email to the Family Involvement Office asking them to tell the SPS tech people that family involvement is suffering because their search engine is so awful!

Maureen

Beth Bakeman said...

If they are using the raffle for two desktop computers as an incentive to complete the survey, they should have mentioned that in the letter to survey recipients.

I'm almost positive that my letter mentioned nothing of the sort.

Anonymous said...

The survey got to me about May 1, but luckily the return-by date the previous poster quotes from the website is also wrong -- the survey itself says May 18. And no, there's nothing about a raffle for two desktop computers.

Anonymous said...

Great that most people got SPS staff listed in a directory. No special education staff is listed, (no, I don't count Coleen Stump) and no way to find them when you need them, which is often.

--Screwed Again

Beth Bakeman said...

Not all staff are listed yet, but they will be soon. The web page says:

"We are currently updating our automated systems, and an on-line directory of all SPS employees will soon be available. In the meantime, we are providing the emails, phone numbers, and mailing addresses of many frequently contacted staff. Our on-line contact directory also allows you to search by department or service. If you need help identifying whom to contact, please call our Reception Desk at 206.252.0000."

And I know they are really working on making it happen.

Anonymous said...

In case anyone is still following this thread... It turns out that the computer raffle reference was left on the web site from LAST YEAR's survey. Linda Slater didn't know it was there and is in the process of having it removed.

Maureen