frustrationFormer college football coach and current ESPN football analyst, Lou Holtz once said, “never tell your problems to anyone….80% don’t care and the other 20% are glad you have them.”  With that in mind I don’t write about my frustrations about Worthington Schools on this blog.  I’m certain you have your own frustrations, both with your job, and with Worthington Schools, and thus, I choose to focus this blog on trying to highlight positive aspects of our school district.

Unfortunately, I’m going to deviate from that philosophy for this post.  A few weeks ago I wrote about our new online fee payment system which was to begin for families on August 1st (today.)  We have been working on making online fee payment and online emergency medical cards a reality for a full year.  Our goal was to make both processes more user friendly for our parent community.  Both new services were to roll-out in time for the 2013-2014 school year and specifically online fee payment was to roll-out today.

My first hint that something was wrong came in the form of an email from a Worthington Kilbourne High School parent.  She had set her calendar to remind her to input fees on August 1st and when she attempted to complete her task the system would not allow her to continue.  Her email to me was not a complaint, but was letting us know there was an issue so that we could correct it.  From there things went down hill.

There are several issues at play here that caused the system to be non-functional today and these issues will probably keep the system non-functional for at least the next ten days.  Thus this afternoon I sat down with our Communications  Director, Vicki Gnezda, to craft a communication to families so they knew not to waste their time trying to complete a task we had promoted and asked them to complete.  For a simple communication Vicki and I struggled mightily.  We were both so frustrated with our situation that we weren’t thinking straight and our originally crafted communication may or may not have included words not fit to print.  Eventually this is what we communicated:

Unfortunately, the online system for paying fees is not working yet. We apologize for the inconvenience and will communicate the date the system is ready. As in the past, you will be able to pay fees at high school or middle school schedule pick up or at other back-to-school events. Again, we apologize for the inconvenience.

We tried to communicate simply and clearly.  We purposely avoided an anticipated roll-out date so we wouldn’t create this problem again, and we tried not to make excuses for our failure.

But, in the end, we failed.  We planned for a new system to help families, we communicated when it would be ready, we knew the date far in advance, and we failed to execute when it mattered.  Seriously, it makes my head want to explode.

In the scheme of things online fee payment is minor.  In the world of public schools it is not that important.  How our teachers and staff treat students and families, how we deliver curriculum that is relevant and rigorous, and how we go the extra mile to make every child’s day, is way more important.  We know that, and we spend our time and energy on what matters most.  The experience for kids!

With that said, we know we need to modernize and better serve our customers.  We have worked hard to utilize online grade books, online report cards, online emergency information, and now, online fee payment, to simplify things for parents.  We’ll continue to strive to make things better and simpler for you.

If our problem is corrected on schedule the online fee payment system should still be functional before school starts.  This should help primarily at the elementary level but schedule pick-ups at the high schools will be touch and go with the new system.  As soon as we are functional and have tested the system like a trillion times, we will send out a communication to all families.

I’m disappointed we didn’t deliver on this timeline.  But, really, you don’t need to hear my problems….

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