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School Ombudsman's Office Closes

The District's office of the Ombudsman for Public Education is officially kaput, a victim of the recent budget cutbacks. It winked out of existence Wednesday, the last day of Fiscal Year 2009.

Established as part of the mayoral takeover of the public school system, it was envisioned an an independent and impartial venue for families with questions, complaints or concerns. But it never really achieved any traction. Tonya Vidal Kinlow, the first-and-last official ombud, left her post in December after a little more than a year on the job, amid grumbling that monthly reports on the office's work were never filed on a timely basis. Jeff Ross, a former member of Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's "critical response team," filled the job as an interim but had to deal with questions about his independence.

In an e-mail Wednesday to the "District Education Community," Ross called the office's closure "disappointing." He said since opening in December 2007 it has dealt with 1,100 "complaints, concerns, and information inquiries from residents involving the District of Columbia Public Schools, District public charter schools, and the University of the District of Columbia. The issues received have run the gamut of education-related concerns, from parent complaints regarding enrollment procedures, discipline situations, or student safety to complaints to employees who have been terminated, are owed compensation or benefits, or have concerns with their supervisor."

Ross said the office "facilitated resolution" of 92 percent of the issues received, although it's not clear what that actually means.

Oddly, he ends the letter by listing the agencies where parents can still go for help, and starts with the ombudsman's office.

Parents can also call Rhee's office at 202-442-5885.

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  October 1, 2009; 12:12 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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Yes, well an Ombudsman might hint at some sort of oversight of DCPS (no matter how meager). And obviously with this administration, we shall have none of that. Thanks for writing this piece as otherwise no one would ever know this happened....

Posted by: scinerd1 | October 1, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

"it was envisioned an an independent and impartial venue "

So of course it had to go, along with the parent and teacher evaluation of Rhee that's never been reported and the independent evaluation of Rhee that we can't find the money for. Also, I think that this year, the system is doing its own erasure analysis of the DC-CAS tests.

And don't forget errant results of the Capital Gains scientific experiment on paying kids to go to school.

Posted by: efavorite | October 1, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

The mayor created that office and it did absolutely nothing. It just existed.

Posted by: candycane1 | October 1, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

It was toothless and did nothing. They need a real office.

Posted by: 411Tibby | October 1, 2009 10:55 PM | Report abuse

The Ombudsman's office was one of the last locations that District residents could go for an opportunity to discuss complaints and concerns with DC's public education. It is a great loss for parents, students, and others in need of assistance. Additionally, the Mayor held up the entire city budget to make sure that there were no changes to the five year plan for reform efforts. However, the Ombudsman was one of the reform partners. Apparently the Mayor wasn't actually that concerned with there being no changes but more concerned with denying the State Board any autonomy. Defend Rhee at all costs and allow no one the opportunity to speak out. Rhenty wishes to see no objections to their steamroller approach.

Posted by: smontanogreene | October 2, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

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