Updated 2010-10-27 11:00 with follow-up from Mrs. Stang.
Last week when Sadie Stang received her son Niko’s evaluation report from the Mt. Lebanon school district, she couldn’t believe how many mistakes it contained. In one paragraph alone, her family found no fewer than six spelling errors. More troubling, portions of the report were hard to understand, in places almost incomprehensible.
“These evaluations are done every three years by the school district. They should be of the utmost importance. If this report was put together so carelessly, how can I trust that it is an accurate assessment of my child?” she said.
Mrs. Stang said that her family has received other reports from the school district that also contained obvious errors. But this report was riddled with them.
“I have never seen anything quite like this one,” she said.
Rather than address her concerns to the school district, Mrs. Stang decided to do something else. She went public.
On Thursday, 21 October, 2010, she wrote about the report on her blog, “PJ’s and clay and autism... oh my.
” In a post called Say it ain’t so
, she presented her readers with a single page of Niko’s re-evaluation report. Her 18-year-old daughter, Alexandra, a recent graduate of the Mt. Lebanon school district, had proofread the page, circling the errors
. The page was littered with circles.
Shortly after the post appeared on Mrs. Stang’s blog, word began to spread, soon reaching the school district. Within hours, the school superintendent himself, Dr. Timothy Steinhauer, emailed Mrs. Stang about the report, echoing her dissatisfaction and promising a corrected version shortly.
The email, however, did not have the intended effect. Its opening words were “Dear Ms. Stand
.” Mrs. Stang’s name had been misspelled. It was an innocent mistake, but hard to ignore, given the circumstances.
“It put salt in the wound, to say the least,” she said.
Dr. Steinhauer quickly followed up with an apology, but the first impression had taken hold, with Mrs. Stang forwarding his email to the entire school board and posting a copy on her blog
The school district, citing confidentially requirements for personnel and student matters, declined to comment on the specifics of this story. A spokesperson, explaining the evaluations in general, said that evaluation reports are presented to parents in draft form and then finalized during meetings that include parents, teachers, and relevant administrators.
Mrs. Stang said that the report she received was not marked as a draft.
And that’s where things stand at present: one family, angry and frustrated; one school district, not looking its best; and one community, watching to see what will happen.
If there’s a lesson to be drawn from all this, it’s that email and blogging have altered the balance between schools and parents. In the past, aggrieved parents had little choice but to follow the arcane policies of schools and governments to have their complaints heard. Now parents have a new option: go straight to the public.
In this case, exercising that option drew a speedy response from the school district’s superintendent – effectively the CEO of a $100-million company. That’s more than most parents with similar problems could have hoped for ten years ago.
Will that response be enough? As of this writing, Mrs. Stang is still waiting for that corrected report from the school district to arrive. When she gets it, what will it say?
My guess is Mrs. Stang won’t hesitate to let us know. Just watch her blog.
Update (Wednesday, 27 October, 2010)
In the comments for this story
, Mrs. Stang has written to Blog-Lebo with an update about the whereabouts of the revised report she was promised
. She says that she learned this morning that the report was emailed on Friday – but not to her.
“You’re never going to believe this one. This important document was emailed to the wrong email address,” she writes.
She’s now concerned that her son’s evaluation report, supposedly confidential, may have been sent to a complete stranger.
Labels: community blogging, dr. timothy steinhauer, mt. lebanon school district, sadie stang