South East High School

Dear LAUSD: communication with our parents is key

Phones buzz umpteen times a day, loudspeakers blare announcements weekly, papers are sent home monthly or before district events, yet little is effectively conveyed to parents or students due to this overload of so-called important information.

When every fact, every bulletin, every message is important, how are parents to know which truly merit their attention?

LAUSD’s lack of synchronized communication between the district, faculty, students and parents creates this problem. Parent input on school calendars, food and even the selection of the new superintendent is minuscule because they’re being overwhelmed with innumerable calls home which leads them to disregard all of them.

When the same phone call is sent out multiple times within the span of a few hours, who can blame them?

Measures that could improve communication include the launch of a pilot program with the online company ​Schoology​. This would provide a learning management system and an online grade book connected to MiSiS which would open district-parent discussion on grades and attendance.

Creating this open dialogue and permitting easy access to it is a first step towards essentially revolutionizing the structure of decision making for LAUSD. Although, this is true only if the forum for discussion would be as ideal as is hoped and the program could eventually be adapted to facilitate discussion on broader, less child-specific,

If this were accomplished it would bring the perspective of those directly affected by district decisions to the board room and foster innovative and effective solutions to the problems L.A. schools face.

These efforts in changing methods of information distribution are a long-term solution, but to improve communication in the short-term LAUSD must also refine its current system. Rather than send out blanket messages multiple times to each parent, some for topics irrelevant to them, LAUSD should update its automated calls system to limit the number of calls per household a day and the language in which they are sent. For instance, a parent registered as bilingual need not receive the same message in both languages.

The threat to LAUSD student security has shown that effective and efficient communication is most definitely a necessity. When student and faculty lives could be jeopardized if a message is not sent out fast enough or is ignored by parents unaware of its true importance that shows communication and an effective system for conveying it are key to ensuring safety and preparation. Therefore a system of communication should be a priority in efforts to improve the district.

Solving the present issues need not require an update or replacement of the entire automated call system, but LAUSD must at least put forth restrictions as to how many messages a school may send to its parents any given day, regulate when said calls are made, and make such rules applicable per household and not per student; a parent of two or more need receive the message no more than any parent with one child.

In addition to these commonplace regulations, those set forth in case of emergency should be refined to guarantee that every parent be informed quickly and thoroughly of any impending threat to their child or their school. A phone tree or mass emergency call plan could work in this regard; in the threatening shadow of recent terrorist threats and ruthless attacks these types of plans are essential.

We need an overhaul of the ineffective methods of communication. This inept system of over supplying information, once replaced or refined can encourage active participation in school decisions and can make everyone part of the solution. The same would also ensure greater levels of safety for students and faculty alike in case of emergencies, such as the threat posed to LAUSD.

This story is among the winners of the High School Insider Speak Out Challenge. We asked students to share what they thought the new Los Angeles Unified Superintendent, Michelle King, should know about their schools. From dozens of winners we selected 10 entries. Read the whole collection at Dear LAUSD, and stay tuned for an event later this spring.