In both of his state-of-the-district addresses last week — one hosted by the Alliance for Education and an encore speech at Seattle Public Schools headquarters — interim Superintendent Larry Nyland mostly talked in general terms about the problems and progress in the city’s public schools.
But he mentioned one new, specific initiative – a 100-day plan for improving communication between the district and parents, as well as between central office employees and the teachers, principals and others staff who work in schools.
We caught up with Nyland a few days later to ask him what the 100-day plan will include.
What’s the goal at the end of 100 days?
That’s still under discussion, Nyland said, but he wants to see a boost in how parents and principals view the district’s responsiveness – two groups that now rate it low.
What happens too often now, he said, is that a call gets sent to someone who doesn’t have the answer, but doesn’t know who does, so just doesn’t call back.
How is the district going to change that?
It will start with some simple steps, Nyland said, such as identifying the most common questions that people ask of various departments, and making sure key employees have the answers ready, and that everyone knows who those employees are. The information also likely will be posted on the district’s website.
What’s his personal goal for the end of the 100 days?
He hopes that parents who call the district will reach someone who listens to their questions and concerns, and get them an answer — or at least refer them to the person who has the answer.
He also wants the district to better handle difficult issues from the outset.
“We need to be better at picking those up early, and having early conversations,” he said.
Why is the district’s communication so poor?
Nyland said there are many reasons, but one is that “we just don’t seem to have a very clear understanding … about who to call for what.”
Staff turnover is one contributor to that, he said. So is the size of the district.
He says even he has problems finding answers to his questions, often having to make a lot of calls to find the right department and, after that, the right person in the right department.
In 100 days, we’re betting he hopes that changes, too.