Friday, September 18, 2009

Communication and Customer Service

As I prepared for the transition to the Commissioner of Education position in Kentucky, I called numerous stakeholders in the state. I asked about the key issues around education in Kentucky, and I specifically asked about issues with the Kentucky Department of Education.

Over the course of a few weeks, I was able to talk with more than 30 superintendents and another 25 key leaders of organizations that interact with KDE. While there were many positive comments about education initiatives in Kentucky, there were many challenges listed. While there were many positive comments about staff at KDE, there were also some concerns about communication and customer service.

For the first few months on the job, I have attempted to get to many parts of the Commonwealth. I have enjoyed meeting with superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, business leaders, legislators and students. I have utilized technology through Twitter, Facebook and this blog to communicate with stakeholders. I will continue this approach of visibility, communication and listening. I also will begin to utilize other technology to communicate with key stakeholders.

Over the next few weeks KDE staff will assist me in developing webinars that will target superintendents, principals and teachers. These webinars will focus on key strategies that are a part of Senate Bill 1 and the numerous federal initiatives that are funding education reform. We will look for two-way communication. We will present some information; however, we are more interested in gathering feedback from these key stakeholder groups. Through surveys and open-ended response questions, we will gain feedback on reform strategies from these key stakeholders.

I recently learned that the Commissioner’s Teacher Advisory Council was no longer meeting. I asked KDE staff to revitalize this important group. I have Superintendent, Parent, and Principal Advisory Councils; however, I need to hear from one of the most important groups -- classroom teachers. Another important group that we will be listening to is the students. At the recent Graduate Kentucky Summit, First Lady Jane Beshear conducted a focus group with students. What our students said that they needed from adults to ensure success was very revealing. KDE will be working to develop channels for student communication that will include focus groups, surveys and technology methods.

Finally, we will be launching an initiative to document customer service standards at KDE. Our standards are similar to what many organizations have. Customers should expect a response, within 24 hours, that is accurate and delivered in a professional manner. We will be surveying those “customers” who call, e-mail or write the department. We will then analyze the data by office to determine how well we are meeting customer service requirements. While KDE will always have a regulatory nature, we also must have a service standard for citizens, parents and schools who contact the department.

Public education is everyone’s business. Communication and suggestions are always welcome. Thank you for reading this blog and caring about the children of Kentucky.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Dr. Holiday,

    It is encouraging that the Kentucky Department of Education is a service-oriented state agency. I am not sure if this is the best way to voice my concern, but I need the help of your department. My name is Buxton L. Johnson, Sr. – my daughter and son and my oldest son currently attend Owensboro High School (O.H.S.) in Owensboro, Kentucky. Last year my daughter and son attended Morton Middle School and my oldest son attended Lafayette High School, both in Lexington, Kentucky. My wife and I were very pleased with the academic environment and programs at both schools. The classes were well organized, respectful, and conducive for learning. My oldest son was accepted into the SCAPA program at Lafayette. Unfortunately, however, my present position as a college professor required relocating to Owensboro and late last July we left Lexington. We are exceptionally grateful for the work Mrs. Hunter, our children’s guidance counselor at O.H.S., has done in accommodating our children’s transfer. She worked many hours with us to work out their class schedules. However, we have serious concerns about some of the classes at their present school as well as the overall academic environment. The balance of this comment will address those concerns. Early in the fall semester, I met with an Assistant Principle about my daughter and son’s CADD Drafting class. My daughter was very distracted, as was my son, during class by the vulgar RAP music played during class as well as the inappropriate images being viewed on the Internet by some of the other students in the class. The Assistant Principle assured me that this kind of class atmosphere was highly unusual and that she would look into the matter. She said she would “have a word of prayer with the teacher” if need be. Two days after meeting with the Assistant Principle, my daughter was removed from the CADD class and told it was because she was not sufficiently prepared for the class. My son, who is still in the CADD class, says the class has continued as usual with the RAP music and Internet surfing. Because of this incident, my children have been reluctant to let me say anything for fear of retaliation. However, in concern for my children and in light of problems in other classes, I am appealing to you. My daughter and son have been embarrassed by the offensive vulgarity, nudity, and sexual scenes in some of the films shown by their Spanish teacher and their English teacher. Their English teacher requires the students to keep their heads up during the entire duration of all films. There is no way for them to block out the profanity. My wife and I are especially concerned with some of the films they will be viewing in the future. There appears to be a general and widespread use of vulgarity and sexual innuendoes in many of the classes at Owensboro High School. In addition, many of the academic programs seem to be underfunded, or at least the funds have been allocated somewhere else besides academics. Some of the classes are poorly organized and undisciplined – disruptive students absorb way to much class time. A number of teachers play profane RAP and other disruptive music during class, making it very hard for my children to concentrate. The atmosphere and academics for our children at O.H.S. are markedly different from what they experienced at Morton and Lafayette. This should not be the case. I know the importance of a good academic environment, free from intimidation and distraction. In closing, I appeal to you for assistance in resolving these complaints. However, I do not want my children to be ostracized, publicly shamed, or have their academic work differentiated because I have made these complaints. My children are good students and have always taken school seriously. I want them to succeed in an academic environment free from intimidation and conducive to learning.


    Buxton L. Johnson, Sr.
    (270) 685-4215 home
    (270) 852-3168 work