Public School Help Hotline

This press release was sent from the Public Advocate's Office with a phone number for help with public school issues.
For help call 212-669-7250.

"MANHATTAN – Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum today released a survey which found that Family Advocates at Community School Districts offices (CSDs) are unresponsive to calls for help. Investigators at the Office of the Public Advocate made 96 calls to District Family Advocates two weeks prior to the start of school, and found that almost 70% of the time they could not connect with staff.

Public Advocate Gotbaum also announced the annual launch of her citywide education hotline - 212.669.7250 - to help public school parents receive the answers and support they need with school-related problems. The hotline will address issues such as registration, transportation, academic enrichment, after-school programs, school safety transfers, and the needs of English language learners and special education students.

Public Advocate Gotbaum said, "The start of the school year is exciting, but it can be a stressful time for parents and students. The bad news here is DOE has not figured out an effective and consistent way for the CSD’s to interact with parents and help answer their questions. The good news is that I am once again launching my education hotline to fill the void and provide parents with a helpful resource and assistance in resolving education-related problems:”

The Office of the Public Advocate made phone calls to all 32 CSD offices between August 12 and 15th, 2008, asking pre-determined questions. The Family Advocate at each district office was called three times; once during daytime hours, once during daytime hours in Spanish, and once between 5:00 and 6:00 for a total of 96 calls. If a message was left, the family advocate was given 5 business days (one week) to respond. If the calls were not returned within five days, the districts were marked as unresponsive.  

Findings:

Of 96 calls, 64 were placed during business hours and 32 were placed during weekdays between 5-6 pm.

  • Of the 64 calls made during the business hours, only 21 were answered.
  • Of the 32 calls made during evening hours, 3 were answered.

 

Of 96 calls, if a live person did not answer, investigators were able to leave voicemail messages for 49

  • Of the 49 messages left, only 6 were returned.

About 24% of the time, however, investigators were unable to leave messages because of non-existent, non-working or full voicemail boxes.


Investigators made one call to each of the 32 districts posing as a Spanish speaking parent with a question about the child’s education. The calls were made during business hours.

Of the 32 Spanish calls:

  • Twelve were answered by a live person

o Of the 12 Spanish phone calls answered by a live person, only 7 were actually able to help the caller in Spanish.

  • Fourteen messages were left

o Of the 14 Spanish language messages left for the family advocates, not one was returned.

  • Six were non-existent, non-working, or full voicemail boxes.
  • No contact was ever made with 12 of the 32 Districts in New York City, meaning, 37.5% of the districts never answered or called back for any of the three different calls.

Public Advocate Gotbaum added, “I’m especially concerned about the lack of support for Spanish speakers, as not one voicemail message left in Spanish got a call back. The DOE must do more to ensure equal access to information and support for non-English speakers.”

The position of the District Family Advocate was started last year when two District Family Advocates were hired for every district. Contact information is available for the District Family Advocates on the DOE’s website at http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/DOEOrganization/ComHSSuperintendents/DFAcontact.htm."