Robo calls help improve parent communication — even if some find them unwelcome

Eyan Atad, Staff Writer

In an effort to increase communication with the Bear Creek Community, the school frequently uses automated calls — better known as ‘robo-calls’ — to inform parents of upcoming events and points of concern.
Some families are beginning to question just how necessary these calls are — especially when these unwelcome interruptions are a frequent occurrence with some parents receiving up to four calls daily — a fact that has led to questions about just how necessary these automated phone calls really are.
The Lodi Unified School District Public Information Officer Chelsea Vongehr sends a varying number of messages per month to parents, students and guardians. This number of calls is in addition to the calls parents receive when their child is absent or when there is a student emergency.
With the frequent amount of calls some parents find automated calls to be an annoyance. Others appreciate the information, saying it leads to a stronger relationship between the school and its community. Though the calls can be useful, parents and staff say that that they often let the calls go to voicemail.
“ It’s annoying when I’m eating dinner and I’ll hear my phone buzz while I’m just trying to enjoy being with my family,” parent Audra Glanville, who has three children in LUSD, said.
But parent Carien Nelson says she loves to be in the know about school events.
“ I love getting the senior calls,” Nelson said. “ I see where it can become a burden, but I’d rather receive the calls than to not know at all.”
When calls come in abundance, parents may disregard them — especially when school events, such as plays and fundraisers, are the main reasons parents receive phone calls.
To help reduce the number of unwanted calls, the district at the beginning of this year switched to a new automated system called Blackboard Connect. The new system allows a simple way for schools to communicate through texts, calls and emails but, he new system is not without complications, including sending out mass messages to all contacts instead of primaries that a parent provides on the emergency card.
This fluke with the system, along with calls advertising events, have aggravated some parents, while others like senior class treasurer Amanda Paulino see the use of the calls as a better way to reach out.
“I think that using all forms of communication is the best way for a message to get through to the families at BC; calls, emails, fliers, it’s best to hit the source repeatedly to get the message fully through,” Paulino said.
Paulino said that when she recently sent out a robo-call for a crab feed sponsored by student government, using all forms of communication was the best way to send out information to the masses.
The Blackboard Connect system allows parents to opt-out of emails, calls and texts; even with this option parents will still receive all emergency calls issued by the school or district. However, finding out how to opt-out requires Herculean effort. To unsubscribe to automated emails, a parent must opt-out to the messages through the original email that was sent. Texts can be stopped by texting STOP, while with phone calls one must visit the Blackboard Connect website and call the opt-out number.
However, parents are not informed that they can opt-out as this information is not listed within any of the paperwork within the first day packet students receive, the student handbook or online. If not informed, parents have no other option than to receive the advertising calls, text or emails from the school their child attends.
One reason BCHS has increased the number of robo-calls stems from an area of concern noted in the school’s last WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) visit. The WASC team recommended that the school needed to work on increasing communication with parents to raise their involvement on campus.
“The visiting team that was here wants us investigate methods to communicate success to all stakeholders,” WASC coordinator and foreign language teacher Justin Ehrenberg said. “These recommendations aren’t too difficult because with these we are already doing a great job…they allow us to take a step back and see how we can do better.” Ehrenberg says that BC has already shown this improvement with the application of Blackboard Connect and the LUSD app.