When it comes to communication, our district really tries to cover all its bases. A snow day is a good case in point. We alert the media and we post messages to our website. Even with all that, we will always get complaints from a parent that didn’t get the message because we hadn’t used the particular medium THEY were expecting.
We now have a new parent notification system which can call each household with our message. It’s directed straight at the recipient, so there should now be no excuses that someone didn’t get the message. However, this can cause it’s own problems, as follows…
We have a traditional phone tree for district office employees, as do our various schools. One person calls the next on the list, who then calls the next one, and so on. I’ve also configured our notification system with all of the phone tree numbers so that an automated message can be sent out in lieu of the old phone tree. That way, everyone gets the message a no one has to call anyone else.
This morning at 5:00 am the phone rang, and it was the person before me on the list. The old phone tree was activated. Now I have a dilemma. It’s far too early to be calling someone, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why the tree was activated so early. Do I go ahead and call the next person and wake them up, or do I wait a bit? I decided to wait just a bit. I checked the media on the Internet, then logged onto our website to confirm that it had been updated with an appropriate message. About fifteen minutes later, I made the call. Even so, I woke up that person, just to tell them they could go back to sleep. I walked to the window to confirm that, yes, it was snowing and sleeting, and then went back to bed wondering why the new notification system had not been used, and how I could have gone back to bed so much sooner if it had.
I was just getting comfortable and dozing off when the phone rang again. This time it was the automated system. Oh great, now everyone is going to get TWO calls. Like me, the call probably arrived just in time to wake them up again.
As a district psuedo-important person, I have a Nextel radio. I left it sitting on my nightstand in case there were problems with the calling system and someone needed to get in touch. Now I was wide awake. The phone system was in use, and I knew other principals might be using it. Therefore, there was the potential that IT might start ringing, beeping, or whatever. My morning was shot anyway, so I grabbed the Nextel, put on some coffee, and started typing.
I know of at least one principal who was thinking about using the notification system to contact each student, and not just the teachers. If that were the case, then there was the potential for some of our district office workers to receive three phone calls this morning, all with the same message. First, the phone tree, then the automated message from the DO, then one more if they had a kid at a school that used the automate system. Heaven forbid if they had two kids at different schools, and each decided to call. The phone would have been ringing off the hook on a morning they could have slept in.
As with any new technology, there is a learning curve. After this sleepless morning, I think I’ll have a few new things to go over with our principals and staff.