Navigating a school system is not always easy, especially, parents claim, when it comes to voicing a complaint. Following Washington, DC and the state of Washington, about a dozen Texas school districts have hired ombudsmen to assist parents with their grievances —often a source of tension for teachers and principals. Greg Gibson, the superintendent of Crowley, Texas, notes that since hiring an ombudsman in December, the number of formal grievances filed with the district have “significantly declined.” Even with the $75,000 annual price tag, Gibson is convinced he’s on to something, “I had a light bulb go off in my head. It’s a whole new way of doing business that we were not addressing.”
Beverly Reeves, the ombudsman for Austin schools, believes this paradigm shift can go a long way towards building trust with parents, “We have to change our mindset to know that these are our customers. They pay our salaries.” Other districts aren’t so convinced. Tim Carroll, a spokesman for the Allen, Texas schools, said the addition of a costly position that merely placates parents is no guarantee. “A lot of times, people want something, but they’re not going to get it. We can ombuds that to death, but eventually somebody’s not going to get what he wants.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.