Hartford School District Office To Help Parents Solve Problems
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB FRANK, Courant Staff Writer
October 11, 2007
The word "welcome" pops up all over the place in the Hartford school district's new welcome center for parents.
It's on the wall that greets visitors when they step off the elevator and even stands in large, block letters on the desk of the person who answers the telephones.
That phones will now be answered rather than sending parents into the lala land of voicemail is one of the centerpieces of the new center.
For years, parents complained that when they weren't able to resolve issues concerning their children at the school level, there was nowhere to turn for help. The welcome center is designed to solve that problem, said Jacquelyn Hardy, the district's ombudsman who oversees the center.
Aside from answering phones and dispatching trained troubleshooters to schools, the welcome center itself is organized as a warm space with offices, a television in a waiting area that shows movies for young children and a conference room.
The newly designed space replaces a forbidding array of dank rooms watched over by uniformed security guards. To gain admission to the district's main office suite under previous superintendents, visitors had to peer through a small window and tell a guard that they had an appointment. But parents often didn't have appointments and there wasn't any clear system for helping them.
"The removal of the wall was symbolic of the need to bring us all together for all children," Hardy told a group gathered to mark the official opening of the center Wednesday. As parents are increasingly offered more choices for their children to attend school, she said, the center's role will become increasingly important to help make Hartford's schools competitive.
Steven J. Adamowski, school superintendent, said parents deserve to be treated with respect when they take the effort to travel downtown to the district offices. And in the spring, he said, the district will conduct a survey to gauge parents' satisfaction in the school system.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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