Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
Robocalls not appreciated.

Robocalls not appreciated.

According to a robocall we received yesterday, our school system has just found out they can automate the process of calling a sizable chunk (if not all) of the schoolchildren’s parents in the county to alert us about “important news.” And the chirpy message from our county superintendent of schools notes that we can expect to hear from them repeatedly in the future. I was less than impressed.

Now, I for one am happy that our school system thinks it’s worth their time (and our money) to keep us informed about current events that impact our kids’ school experience. However, they already provide numerous ways for us to receive this news, including email, websites, RSS feeds, as well as the standard news organizations around town. We take advantage of a number of those already, and it’s very helpful.

For example, I love the fact that on a cold, wintry morning, my wife doesn’t have to tune into the radio and listen to 10 minutes of blather to find out whether schools are closed for icy roads. Since I work from home, I’m up anyway, and I can use my Web browser to consult the local news site or the school web page to find out closing information, and then let her know. (Or she can do the same with her smartphone, without getting out of bed.)

What I don’t want is a 5:00am phone call that wakes the whole house, just to tell us schools are running late or closed. Nor do I want to be interrupted at work or dinner to hear that the school board has a public meeting next week. I can find these things out through email, which I read on my schedule, not the school system’s.

You’d think our school system would have learned from this area brouhaha, which got some national media coverage too, if I recall correctly.

Worse, neither the phone call, nor the copy of the same message via email (I told you we use their services already!) had details on whom to contact to opt out. They did provide the general phone number for the entire school superintendent’s office, which in my experience means calling and then being put on hold for some indeterminate length of time while someone is found who can get us removed from their system. No thank you! In this day and age it should be neither difficult, nor unreasonable, to provide an opt-out system that I can reach by email, or a Web page, or (gasp!) via the phone call itself.

So this morning I sent the following inquiry to the administrative assistant for our superintendent, and copied the superintendent, his assistant, and our district’s school board member:

Dear ______,

We’re happy to receive email notices from SCPS, but find automated phone calls intrusive, especially when we already take advantage of other ways to get information from the schools. Since the message below does not give details, can you tell me whom specifically I need to contact to request we not receive automated phone calls?

Commercial services usually provide opt-in measures for these sorts of services. While SCPS may be instituting this service as part of a mandate, or to meet a regulatory requirement, it would still behoove the school system to provide an automated or email-based opt-out solution.

We continue to appreciate the efforts of SCPS staff to keep us informed about important events and news.


Hopefully that was cordial enough. We’re not tinfoil hat wearers in my house, we just like picking up the phone when it rings to find someone on the other end who’s (a) breathing, and (b) someone to whom we enjoy talking. What do you think? Am I being unreasonable?

One comment

  1. jjmcd

    The State here uses an automated system called Codespear for notification. When they want me to hustle on down to Lansing, they send a text message. If I don’t reply to the text message after a few minutes, they page me, if I don’t respond to the page, email, if I don’t respond to the email, a phone call. In principle, I think they can even call me on the radio.

    This system is totally automated, and the device list and order I can adjust through a web interface. Quite a number of counties use this system, too, so I don’t think it is horribly expensive.

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