No one should have to wait a week for an apology when something goes disastrously wrong.
Of course, no one should have to wait a week to find out about a serious problem in Decatur Public Schools.
Yet somehow, both of those have happened already, and school hasn't even been open two weeks.
The first day of classes, Aug. 14, was a day of shaking out bugs, which was to be expected. What was not to be expected was a week later, the bugs were still present.
Stephen Decatur Middle School was already in unfamiliar territory in becoming the city's sole middle school. Construction issues, complicated by water heater failing over the summer, was another factor.
At some point, the school district realized there were issues with new scheduling software. The district posted on its Facebook page that Stephen Decatur schedules would not be available that first day of school. Which is the beginning of a big part of the issue.
Students were going to Stephen Decatur Middle School day after day still without schedules. In some cases, problems were not fixed even after multiple in-person visits from parents.
Frustrated parents began telling their stories and sharing their miseries on social media. Calls were made and messages sent to local media. Yet the school remained in communication lockdown.
We continue to fully support the BOLD Facility Plan, the district's five-year project aims to decrease the number of facilities from 22 to 17, among other improvements. That plan is a good one.
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But a good plan is being marred by issues with execution.
When an institution is responsible for errors yet refuses to acknowledge those errors, that compounds problems. Frustration turns into anger, and anger turns into people accusing rather than people solving.
When notifying interested parties about unexpected issues, Facebook is a place to start, not a place to trust exclusivity of distribution of information.
With scheduling confusion reaching the weekend, it was time to raise the effort. Three days of confusion in scheduling – which was leading to student transportation issues (for which contractor Alltown owns some responsibility as well) along with unplaced students – should have been enough.
Let's also be clear that we in no way blame Stephen Decatur instructors for the issues. They are doing their best in challenging circumstances. We’re appreciative of their efforts to keep the kids calm and engaged while these issues are going on. None of this is their fault, but when something goes wrong at a highly visible institution, the visible individuals are often blamed because they're the ones who can be seen.
Parents and taxpayers had every reason to expect that students being delivered to the school could actually be placed in rooms. The middle schools' merger into one building was not a new issue, and if the scheduling software is as difficult to navigate as has been hinted, scheduling limited .
As confusion continued as the first full week of school began, district officials said nothing, and responses to requests for answers were maddeningly slow.
Apologies are fine. “I apologize to the parents, students and staff for not meeting their expectations and I thank them for their continued patience,” Superintendent Paul Fregeau said Tuesday. By midday Friday, there was a 9-minute podcast (“Here We Go Fregeau”) in which the superintendent answered questions. That's fantastic. We just wish it had come earlier in the week.
We can't help but suspect their patience might not have been stretched so thin if communication lines were more open. That shouldn't be as difficult as the school district has made it.