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.
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