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Who knew?

Original post made by Mother of a PAUSD student, Old Palo Alto, on Mar 18, 2008

I sent a written concern regarding a PAUSD employee to the school. I was not responded to other than a phone call back with a message for me to call them. After not getting a written reply for almost a month I sent another request noting school policy regarding written concerns. I was told that they did not know I wanted something in writing but just thought I was "venting". I find this very insulting. And very scary. Is it a thing of if I don't reply in writing then there is no paper trail. And another incident of "who knew what" in our schools. Please let me know if anyone has sent a written correspondence and only received a phone call back.

Comments (10)

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Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Escondido School
on Mar 18, 2008 at 2:46 pm

I haven't experienced exactly this, but I'd like to suggest using email as either the primary or backup communication. Email is very easy to forward to a higher level personnel, if the first recipient is not responsive. Keep a copy in your own records, of course, and forward it as needed, cc'ing the original recipient. Add a line or two on the top which documents that you did not receive a response. Basically, you're creating your own paper trail, in the absence of them creating it for you.

In this particular instance, you might copy the body of your letter into an email and precede it with an explanation that the letter didn't result in any response so you assume that email is preferred. Send it to the original recipient, and cc it to the supervisor.

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Posted by sue mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2008 at 2:52 pm

There are a lot of difficult parents in the

Many of them are helicopter parents who are overprotective of their children and are sometimes frankly abusive toward teachers.

I have found the PAUSD staff to be very competent, if they thought you were venting you must have sounded like you were venting

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 18, 2008 at 3:05 pm

I don't find anything wrong with replying to a written concern with a phone call. Frankly that seems more responsive than writing a letter or sending off some kind of form reply. What kind of response were you expecting? Did your return their phone message? Were you more interested in solving the (possible) problem or creating the paper trail?

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2008 at 3:23 pm

In response to the original poster, since I have no idea of the concerns of your letter or to whom you wrote, I would make a few comments.

Did the original letter ask for a written response?

Did the original letter go to the employees immediate supervisor, or did you go higher? Sometimes, depending on the seriousness of the complaint, it is more correct to go to a higher official on the chain of command, but usually this should go to just the immediate supervisor and if warranted, you could then take this matter higher.

Emails are too easy to send and often sound like venting. It is much better to write a letter and leave it 24 hours before mailing as then you may have cooled off, the situation may have changed slightly, or you may understand things better. Then, in that case as you reread your original letter, you can make changes if you feel that you come across to hasty.

PAUSD do get many complaints from parents who do not have a legitimate complaint, just wanting to bring a matter to their attention. Unless you feel your letter actually warranted more than a phone call, they may be dealing with this matter internally and did not feel that anything more than a phone call was needed. In my experience, a phone call letting you know that they were looking into it is just that, they are looking into it and did not feel that letting you know any more was within your expectations. Remember, they are dealing with their employee and if there is a serious violation of practices, they have to respect their employees confidentiality.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 18, 2008 at 4:48 pm

I am astonished how most of you are blaming the parent who contacted the school. Most parents here are not bad people.

True, there is a bulky district procedure that one must 1)contact the teacher in question, then the 2)teacher's supervisor, 3)then the principal and so on up the chain of command. It can take time. Hard to say when one should expect the courtesty of a response. (I think ONE WEEK should be the time frame.) This system is poor and ineffective and perhaps parents give up when they have concerns since there is no timely way to get action when warranted. I think you are supposed to allow 2 weeks, etc...get the teacher advisor involved (high school level)then wait for their response...most parents will give up at this point, even if the matter is important.

I am unaware of "bothersome" helicopter parents (this seems like an urban legend to me) and have had limited communication/contact with my childrens' teachers, respecting their autonomy and that they are the professional teachers (my students handle most of their own affairs at school) so I assure you I have not "bothered" them. I am an active volunteer like many parents, at the request of our schools.

There ARE times when parents need to express a concern to the school or get written acknowledgment of something from a teacher. I have written very few emails to teachers during my time in PAUSD, they were not complaints but rather situations where action/acknowledgement/planning of some sort was needed. I will cc myself in future.

Some teachers give out their cell #s (their choice) at back to school night, and I would certainly be reluctant to call a teacher on their cell. One would need to know their schedule. It isn't the best way.

There needs to be the courtesy of an acknowledgement/response from the school.

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Posted by clarification?
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 18, 2008 at 9:28 pm

the original post did not say "teacher" - it said "employee"

that might make a difference in how we jump to conclusions about the parent and the employee but seems to me that the key is ask for the response you want, like "please call me" or "I'd appreciate a reply by email" -etc.

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Posted by funny ha ha
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2008 at 9:52 pm

"Urban legend" about Helicopter parents in this district....! Ha! That is a very funny statement. They are everywhere.

I do not think that the school was remiss AT ALL in calling you back. It showed that they wanted to get back to you as quick as possible. It just sounds like you are being difficult.

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Posted by Teacher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2008 at 10:47 pm

Honestly, if you sent an e-mail and got a prompt phone call response, be happy. Why suspect they don't want a paper trail? Perhaps they just wanted to respond to you promptly. I've found that e-mail is a great communication tool, but sometimes talking things out is preferable and more appropriate. Why is this an issue? If they left you a message, call them back. If you want something in writing, just take notes and send them an e-mail after the phone chat to "confirm the conversation". This is normal procedure.

As for helicopter parents... not only do they exist, but they're everywhere. I'd say it's about a quarter of my classroom parents right now.

Only in Palo Alto.............

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 19, 2008 at 10:11 am

I can only assume that you are new to the community since you do not have a good grasp of how the proper procedure really works. You did the right thing by sending a letter so long as it went to the employee's supervisor. If the employee is a teacher, you must send it to the I.S. for the department at issue. Copy it to the Principal and Superintendent. Wait the specified time period and then write directly to the Principal, copying the Superintendent. At the same time schedule a meeting with the Principal and take notes throughout that meeting. If there is no resolution, set a meeting up, in writing, with the Superintendent. Last stop if the Board of Education. Good Luck.

I personally have found that the new principal is good at sorting things out and settling the matter in her office.

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Posted by Another POV
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 21, 2008 at 11:01 am

There are actual protocols set forth for complaints. It's somewhere in that huge packet we get at the beginning of the year - that one we sign and say we've read. Once it's signed, I think the expectation is that we'll follow all the rules, guidelines, policies etc and if we don't, the blame for inaction rests solely on our own shoulders.
Also, imagine the number of e-mails PAUSD admins get each day. Not only the legit ones, but SPAM, ads etc. I think it's pretty amazing you got a phone call!
Give them the benefit of the doubt and call them back - leave a message about the best time to reach you and a number you'll be at. I don't think you sound like a helicopter parent, just a frustrated one - good luck.

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