I received a survey request from the school district recently. The survey description was horribly worded, so I was not quite clear as to what I was being asked about.
It was about the school’s phone and voice mail systems.
Part of me was surprised it was a priority. The district is trying to magically find the funds to keep the school open for the entire year, and they are asking how people feel about the phone and voicemail systems. Replacing it would be a huge project that would take a couple years, at least. And, depending on which direction they would go, the cost could be huge for hardware, wiring, etc.
The other part of me wondered if the district’s IT director finally decided to address the antiquated phone system. We are talking a phone system that is half a step up from rotary phones. While yes, it is copper and therefore works without issues, it is also surprisingly lacking. I mean, the secretaries have enough to do without having to be switchboard operator and message taker for the whole school. Our school’s secretary has been nicknamed by our kids as the “other principal” because she is involved in so much of the day-to-day school stuff.
The questions floored me as well. Their focus is on educational value and parent-teacher communication – that was clear. Good goals. But, and there is a “but”, the questions asking about how quickly do teachers return phone calls to parents -or- how quickly does the office return calls……what does that have to do with the phone system? Yes, you could say that with a better phone system, this should be improved. But, there is the good ‘ole people aspect to this process. A message lands on their desk via paper, email or vmail, it is in their court to act on it appropriately and in a timely fashion. No system or delivery method is going to make that go quicker.
After these odd questions, they ask “do you have any other comments?”
Why yes, yes, I do.
Then I launched into the various options that would make things run more smoothly in the school from a telephone standpoint. There are free/open-source solutions out there that would give ever teacher their own voicemail box and give parents a way to direct their own calls. What a novel concept! I also took the opportunity to point out that the people element in this process will always be their breakdown point from complete and total efficiency. This is the downside of creating a “free form” text box. I did refrain from naming actual solutions they should consider given their cost. Maybe I’ll throw that out there if there is a follow-up survey.
In the meantime, if they have money to spend, can they get the middle schoolers at the school lockers? I know three middle school teachers who are sick of having destroyed rooms because their middle school students don’t have their own space for their stuff. You figure they would have those lying around somewhere.