I have heard comments from many different people, none good, about trying to complain to the schools on just about anything — be it how something is done or a complaint directed at an employee.
I was on the school board, in particular on the Policy Committee, and participated in the review, revision and the readoption of the Public Complaint Policy. I may have some insight that will help the public understand what is, or is not, going on.
While reviewing the policy three-plus years ago, the superintendent said something I found a little startling, but apparently very much to the point from his perspective.
“We need to teach the public on how to complain to us,” he said.
This was in response to me asking why would we want to require someone to follow a formal or restrictive complaint path that may not be appropriate to the person filing.
Note: Committee meetings are not recorded.
While this may sound good if you are among the group that thinks, “Can’t we all just get along?” life and people are rarely that accommodating. The policy seems common to school districts, but the desire to make it more restrictive was not adopted at that point.
What I did notice, however, is there was no guidance as to how to log or track complaints. Any organization I have ever been involved with, government or private, there was always a record of complaints — even if they were confidential in some cases.
So, I inquired as to how the complaints filed at the school were recorded or tracked.
The superintendent’s response was, “there are so many complaints we couldn’t possibly record or track them all. What should I do, (walk) around with a spreadsheet to log all the complaints?”
It’s not like they would be used in a personnel evaluation or anything.
The superintendent went on to explain that they do care about complaints, but he didn’t need to know about every complaint, nor did he want to. If a complaint is dealt with at a lower level, he considered it a learning experience for everyone and felt he didn’t need to know.
As a result, most complaints are never heard of or followed-up on. It is just too frustrating for most to weather.
People can and should complain to the school board, but there are a few catches with that as well.
Unfortunately, the board refuses to have emails sent directly and confidentially to them. A district employee instead receives the emails and relays them to the board. And until a year or so ago, the superintendent received emails sent to the board, and then relayed those emails to the board at his discretion.
People also need to understand that the board has been repeatedly advised by Oregon School Board Association that they must and need to be accessible to the public as they are elected public officials. But alas, the board doesn’t want to deal with it.
So as you can see, as per my discussion with the superintendent, there is no tracking of complaints, and no desire on the board’s part to be available to receive a complaint or correspondence in confidence.
So how then is the public or even staff to know of incidents and problems around them?
In any case, I would suggest emailing complaints to the school board to show that it was noted. They may not respond or they may defer it to the superintendent, but at least it is recorded, if it’s ever needed in the future.
Remember that any meeting by anyone or any group at the district office or with district personnel is not recorded in any way and so no one will ever know what transpired, thus leaving the next person, parent or group to go through that same thing as if it never happened before. Be wary of the “DEAL.”
Whyat Ocumpaugh served on the Creswell School Board from 2015 until his resignation in April 2017.