Getting To The Principal Of The Matter

| MD, USA | Learning | July 13, 2017

(I work in a call center for a well-known virtual charter school. We are state-funded and thus have to abide by all state regulations. Many parents think that our company does homeschooling.)

Caller: “Hi, I’m trying to enroll my kids in homeschool.”

(We are trained to make sure parents know the difference, but casually.)

Me: “You would like to enroll your children into our virtual charter school? Certainly. Have you started your application online?”

Caller: “Virtual what? Is this homeschool?”

(I explain the difference, and like with 99% of all parents, she understands and we continue the call. I start to hear squealing and crying in the background, which is common for this job.)

Caller: “My name is [First Name], [Last Name].”

Me: “Okay, I see you started an application with us and you’ve already started filling out the online forms.”

Caller: “Yeah, but it wouldn’t let me put my kids in.”

(I notice there are seven children listed. Our default application maxed at eight people and a message would appear that you had to call if you needed to add more people, which is what she did. She is the only adult listed.)

Me: “I see you have seven students listed. Did you need to add another student to your account?”

Caller: “Yeah, I need to add [Kid #2], [Kid #8], and, uh… [Kid #9].”

Me: *scanning the kids’ names* “I see that [Kid #2] is listed here already, but I’ll add [Kid #8] and [Kid #9] for you now.”

(I add the two other kids, bringing the total up to nine children. I have a flag I see on the account that there aren’t enough adults to allow the application to process. This means I have to go through a list of questions with her to see if she even qualifies for our school.)

Me: “Our program requires your children to have learning coaches who are available to help with things like organization and homework. Who will be the primary learning coach?”

Caller: “That will be me.”

Me: “Do you have someone else you’d like to add as well?”

Caller: “No.”

Me: “Do you have someone who might be willing to help you with this? Our program requires no more than four students per learning coach.”

Caller: “What? Why?”

Me: “Well, it can become very hectic with four children, keeping track of their class schedules, homework, and teacher communication. We want our students to succeed while they’re with us, which is why we want to make sure learning coaches have manageable schedules with their students.”

Caller: “Oh, okay. In that case, you can add [Name].”

(I go ahead and add that person.)

Me: “Okay, just have that person call us when they’re available to finish setting up their account.”

Caller: “What? She can’t call you people.”

Me: “Why is that?”

Caller: “She’s eight.”

Me: “…what?”

Caller: “She’s my daughter. She’s the smartest though. She’s good at that stuff.”

Me: *I am trying so hard* “I’m very sorry, ma’am, but the learning coach must be at least 18 years old. Your daughter will not be able to be a learning coach for your other students.”

Caller: “Well, you put her on there, right? I have two more kids I need to add.”

Me: “Okay, we can do that, but I am letting you know that with 12 children, you will need two more learning coaches in order for us to process your application.”

Caller: “What? No. There ain’t no other learning coaches. How many times do I have to tell you? It’s me. I’m it.”

Me: *at her insistence, I put her other kids on her application* “Well, we can put your other kids on and maybe you can speak with relatives or friends who might be willing to help out. What are your other children’s names?”

Caller: *pauses* “Uh… which ones do I got on there?”

Me: *lists names of children*

Caller: *pauses* “Do you have [Kid #5]?”

Me: “Yes.”

Caller: “What about [Kid #11]?”

Me: “No, let me add him. Okay, he’s in. Who else?”

Caller: “How about [Totally Different Name]. No wait. That’s not her name. Uh…” *to the crying children in the background* “You. Your name. Tell mommy your name.” *to me* “Do you have [Kid #7]?”

Me: “Yes, she’s on there.”

Caller: “D*** it. I don’t know which kid I’m missing.”

Me: *half-joking* “You could try a roll call?”

Caller: “That’s a good idea. List them off again.” *to her kids* “Raise your hand when the lady says your name.”

Me: *I list the names of the children*

Caller: *to her kids* “Your name wasn’t called?” *pause* “Tell mommy your name.” *pauses, to me* “Add [Kid #12].”

Me: “Okay, he’s on there.”

Caller: “So when do we get our computers?”

(Some states provide a computer to households or students, but it varies. Not all states do this and it is 100% funded by the state. The computers have to be returned when the kid is no longer enrolled in our school. This caller’s state pays for one desktop computer per household. In rare cases, the principal might get approval to get a second computer, but never more than that.)

Me: “After you complete the enrollment process, the computer would be shipped to your house for your children to use to attend classes and complete their homework.”

Caller: “They each get one, right?”

Me: “No, ma’am. Your state pays for one computer per household.”

Caller: “How are 12 kids supposed to all share one computer?!”

Me: “Well, most states don’t even provide a computer to any families. This would help you out, but you would be responsible for making sure your students have what they need.”

Caller: *fuming* “I ain’t got the money for that!”

Me: “If you qualify for the program, there is a chance that the principal MIGHT be able to get your household a second computer, but even that is a stretch. If you aren’t able to provide another computer for them to use, this might not be the best program for you.”

Caller: “What?! What else am I supposed to do with this many kids!”

Me: “You do have the option of sending them to your local brick and mortar school as you have been doing up until now.”

Caller: “They ain’t been to no school! They been homeschooled their whole life!”

Me: *feeling so incredibly sorry for these unfortunate kids* “Well, ma’am, given how many there are and how much time they will need to be successful in classes, maybe sending them to a brick and mortar school is the best option.”

Caller: “Why do you care what I do with my kids?! This is a HOMESCHOOL! What I do is my business!”

Me: *shaking my head* “Ma’am, this is a state-funded school. We want all students to be successful with us and we have program rules that all parents are expected to abide by if they want their children to be enrolled with us. Keeping up with 12 different curriculums and 12 different schedules is just not possible for one person. That is why we have a cap of four students per learning coach. The curriculum is going to be a little more rigorous than in your typical public school. There is just no way the principal will allow a household enroll that does not meet those requirements.”

Caller: “OH, REALLY? I want to talk to this principal.”

(She puts emphasis on “principal” like we don’t have a real principal. We do. Each individual school has its own principal located in a real office with a real address that any parent can go to or call.)

Me: “Okay, ma’am, here is the principal’s number. He can explain anything you need in more detail.”

Caller: *smugly* “Yeah, we’ll see about that. You’ll see.”

(The principal explained what I did and told the caller that she would not be permitted to enroll in the school. His notes described her as “frightful” and “generally confused.” He certainly saved me a LOT of pointless work with this lady.)

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