By Diana Whittle
When you’ve got an issue with your child’s school or teacher, whom should you call? In the Kyrene School District, it’s the district’s newly anointed ombudsman, a full-time, staff resource for parents or community members who need a question answered, issue researched or problem solved.
As part of developing priorities for the first 90 days of her tenure, Dr. Jan Vesely, the district’s new superintendent, determined that the position could offer a boost in customer service.
The role of ombudsman, or perhaps more correctly in this case ombuds-person, has been successfully offered in other school districts across the country and in government offices as well.
“The Governing Board and I felt it was important to provide our parents and community members with a dedicated resource for addressing their concerns,” said Vesely.
“We want to make sure that this very important stakeholder group has a voice in how we run the district and has a fair opportunity to resolve any problems they may be experiencing.”
Vesely realizes that the holder of the new position may not always be able respond with the preferred solution, but within the district, she wants to make sure questions are answered and voices are heard.
Vesely designated Rosalie Hirano, a district employee from the Community Relations group, to fill the new role.
“(In her position), Rosalie will be responsible for recording each contact and following up to make sure the issue is resolved or information provided,” said Vesely.
Hirano will be responsible for tracking areas that generate frequent concerns and then report back to the superintendent for final resolution.
In addition to being the primary contact for individuals who contact the superintendent’s office to voice a concern or complaint, Hirano will be working with Kyrene’s Parent and Superintendent Council, which is made up of parent representatives from each of the district’s 25 schools.
She also will serve as a conduit between the district and diverse organizations outside the district.
“I will serve as a liaison to local community groups, such as the Tempe/Kyrene Business Advisory Council; the chambers of commerce in Tempe, Ahwatukee and Chandler; the mayors and city council members of each of the cities/towns; Native American communities; and with our legislative delegation in District 18.”
Although she is new to this role in Kyrene, Hirano says she is prepared with a specific procedure she plans to follow.
“The first step is to speak or meet with the parent or community member to gather as much information about their concern and determine what action they’ve already taken to resolve the issue.
“From there, I will then go back to the appropriate source for clarification and identify possible solutions,” explained Hirano.
“If they have a problem related to their children, I will always emphasize the importance of trying to resolve the issue with the teacher or principal,” said Hirano.”
“It is so important for parents to establish a good rapport and open communication with their kids’ teachers and principal because that’s the best way to ensure a good educational experience for their child. For problems that concern district policies or administration, I will work with the appropriate department to see if there is any way to address them and consult with Dr. Vesely as appropriate.”
Hirano believes that people mostly want to be heard or to find a resolution to their issue. She comes by her empathy naturally, as she is a parent of two former Kyrene students herself. Her children are now enrolled at Corona del Sol High School, but both kids attended Cielo Elementary and Aprende Middle School in Kyrene.
“If a parent is frustrated, I try to remember that their passion is motivated by their concern for their child,” said Hirano.
Probably the most efficient way for people to contact her is by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
She can also be reached by telephone through the Kyrene District Office at 480-541-1000.
“Be sure to provide me with as much information about the situation as possible—caller’s name, student’s name and school, a phone number and brief explanation of the concern, what action has been taken, and with whom they’ve spoken, and what outcome they seek.
“That way I can either do some research before contacting them or at least know a little bit about the situation before returning their call.”