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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Monday, February 11, 2013

What Would You Do?

 "Let Us Be Willing To Share With All Others, 
That Which We Now Know."

If you know do you get involved? How far do you go?

Monday I received a robo call in error from the Renton School District about a child whose meal card was overdrawn. The teacher mumbled the child's name on the recording. As often as I listened, I couldn't get it. But I returned the call (from the number on my phone) and left my name and number, and told them they had the wrong number. 

I heard back on Wednesday with another robo call with the same message. Shortly thereafter, around 5 p.m. I received a call that the child did not show up to school. I called back, and this time left the message "there's an emergency, you called and my child did not show up to school, and she's not home, please call me." I thought that would get them to call. But nothing.

When I awoke Thursday I called the number and connected with the Renton Central District office, not the school. A nice woman took the information, and wanted to know what school because they have 15,000 kids in the system.  I said, "I don't know." She asked the child's name. "I couldn't understand." She asked, "What number do you have?" I gave her the number. She said, "But that's our number." 

If there is a centralized data base calling, of course that would be the number on my phone. She said she would attempt to find the child and I had a lot of great ideas and she said the Community Relations Manager would love to hear them.  My only idea was on the robo call, name the school and leave a number so the parent (or the wrong number recipient) could call and talk to a real person.

I was transferred to the "Community Relations Manager" and told him what happened, and my concerns. 

There is a child out there, and he or she may not be eating, they did not show up to school and we don't know if the parents know because I'm getting the calls. Is this a grade school child? A high school student? (Meal card, I'm thinking younger.) Are we losing our children in the computer world? As long as teachers plug in names into the system they've done their job. My concern is about the child. Who is this child? Where is she? If I had the school name, and number on the message, I could have called the school directly, four days earlier, and solved the issue.

He assured me that this child was eating, that he was safe, and they did take the time to go to the homes and knock on the doors to make sure they are fine. 

I asked, "How can you say that? You don't know who this child is. What grade. What school. If they came to school today, or not. Or if the parent is getting messages... maybe their phone is out." At this point, I lit his fuse. 

Had he been across the street, I could have heard him. I actually had to take my headset out of my ear.

When I asked him to please lower his voice and there was no need to yell, he more or less said that he had spent too much time on the phone with me, and he couldn't get it into my head that there wasn't a problem. That was a paraphrase, because for the life of me I cannot remember his exact words.... far worse than this... but I hit that point were reality and disbelief connected and my brain shorted a circuited for a moment.

The problem I have with this situation is this man is the "Community Relations" manager, and I am just someone who had been called by accident, and took the time to follow through because I care about a children. Something is wrong here.

I told him he should get a different job, or go to school and learn how to speak to people.

The great news is, Elizabeth, the woman I first spoke to, called me and said she found the children, siblings, and she contacted their mother. This situation made me wonder... if we know something, do we take the time to get involved? 

What would you have done if you received this call in error? 
Do you get involved, or turn the other way?
When attacked for making an effort.. how do you respond?
Would you get involved next time if treated this way? 

Is this the sad truth of our public school system? It makes me believe that we need more schools like the school in the movie Won't Back Down. A great and must see movie.

Enjoy the journey... and take the time to make a difference.
XO Karlene


  1. In today's world not a lot of people go out of the way to help with a mistake or try and fix a problem that doesn't involve them personally, but every once and a while you get someone who goes above and beyond. For a school district that has 15,000 students “In The System” I would hope there is a better way of managing this. There are a lot of problems with this, First and foremost, why is it a Robot voice calling about the child not at school? Second, when she said this was an emergency why wasn’t she contacted from the school right away? To fix the one problem of her not being able to understand the teacher and hear the name, why don’t they give a number with it so when someone does call back the number leads to a case file with more information on the situation, preventing a problem with not understanding the callers voice. The “Community Relations” Manager Should either be fired or retrained. If I was a parent I would be very concerned with his attitude towards the situation, considering it's dealing with a child. Elizabeth should receive a letter of commendation at least and if not a raise or promotion to the “CR” position; she was nice enough to give the caller an update on the situation. Remember it takes 30 years to build a reputation and one second to destroy it!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I agree... something should be done. We all make mistakes, systems fail, but when we're unable to see we have a problem, and that's our job to work with the community... there is a bigger problem, than the problem. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment.

  2. I believe the first two questions I cannot answer as I still don't have this responsibility. But the last two questions:
    1- I would probably say something similar as yours;
    2- Well, I guess it depends on the circumstance and the reason. Sometimes you must raise your voice, sometimes it's not worth at all! With "education" as a reason, I would still get involved because it's very important to warn others. School education... You just don't learn subjects, but you learn to be yourself, you learn actions that defines your character and you learn how to behave in society. Well, I think everyone knows what I just said, but what I'm trying to show is the importance of raising your voice when an "accident" happens or when you find an opportunity to suggest something. That's how many people in history, made history! Because they raised their voices when no one had the courage or the idea to do such action... And someone heard them and resulted in something major. I totally agree in your statement when you said that our kids are spending too much time on "Facebook" or other social network... It's very unsafe. Internet teaches bad habits, specially in social networks. You commonly find a child using an iPhone while having a meal with his/her parents, which he/she prefers to do so rather than respecting their own parents and respect the precious family moment. But we cannot blame the children... It's the parents fault. There's a limit for everything in this world. A children MUST play in the garden and get dirty, fall, get hurt, cry, scream, yell, breath fresh air, jump, ride bicycles... You know... BE a child, and not be in their room with their doors shut using the computer because he or she is so addicted to it. We use to give value to smaller things and to love our parents more. Plus, some parents aren't present at home and the child becomes completely "automated". Internet affects your health and psychological. I know many people who are depressed mainly because of this digital world... And I'm not saying that whole thing is depressive, but these people that I know are addicted users to social networks. Like Mum and Dad never taught them when to stop, to respect others and themselves. Nowadays we can spend an entire day chatting with friends and watch videos here rather than meeting them personally and go for a blast on the street or whatever he or she plans to do. People are forgetting to live life and find happiness. Nowadays is much easier to criticize and see the bad side of things rather than seeing them as something that could positively add to your character. I blame internet and parental education... And you make a change if you want to, also. It's complex. Some may disagree with me, because I think, for now, this still depends on location and in what community you live in.

    1. Alex, you should become a parent! You are right on with all of this. And how do we control and monitor the computer world of our kids when we are monitoring them with a computer world that doesn't really work. We've lost the human touch all the way around. There are studies that show kids brains are forming differently with technology, verses those that played outside and read more. It's fascinating and scary stuff. But... if we want fewer problems, we need to maintain the human touch all the way around. Thank you so much for your comment!

  3. Thank you for writing about this. Had I received the automated messages you did, I certainly would have done what you did - contact the school leaving the messages. I understand that numbers can be entered into a system in error, and I suppose that happened here. But what happened to the message you left in which you informed the school district that you were being called mistakenly? Maybe they couldn't easily track down the student since you weren't able to make out the name of this student. But you were called again and even called them back, stating that this was an emergency. Apparently you had to do something to secure their attention. At any rate, it seems your messages disappeared into a vacuum somewhere, and this is disconcerting. It's excellent that Elizabeth took the time to listen, it's excellent that she did the right thing, and it's certainly excellent that you followed through. After all, it seems there was a child lost in the system of computerized calling systems out there - seemingly a young child who perhaps was missing meals and maybe had unexplained absences. The real humdinger in this story is the reaction of the community relations person. We now know that the reporting and messaging system wasn't working as intended. But to dismiss these concerns without having done any investigative work is negligent. And to speak to a concerned citizen that way wasn't appropriate or reassuring. People in public and community relations sometimes have to deal with adversity or unhappy, even unreasonable people. But we know your concern was just that - a concern and a desire to inform the district of a needed improvement. To think this sort of response was elicited just from a call from a concerned person in the community makes one wonder what is going on in the organization. Perhaps the community relations manager felt the need to defend the district, but it sounds like you were being dismissed and that the issue was being brushed under the rug. This could have turned out much, much better had he thanked you for your concern and efforts, and for saying he understood the need to look into this right away. Nothing would have been wrong with saying something went awry somewhere. I think you'd be feeling better about this had that been the case - and you mostly likely would have considered your job done. But now we're all left lingering with doubt and the bitterness of an unpleasant experience - and still concerned for the kids.

    1. I agree with you on everything. I know problems happen, numbers entered wrong, mistakes made incorrectly. They had the technology to match my number in their data base and find the students. But they would not have done that, had I not made that third call. The real issue is the attitude and dismissal of the Community Relations person. If he had any other title, I would have just rolled my eyes and thought another great employee tearing down an important system. But his job.. and his reaction is the issue. I hope that he can find a way to work through his communication issues. Thank you so much for the comment!

  4. Karlene,
    Thank you for looking out for that kid. 99% of the population would have ignored the second call and gone about their day. I believe that people care, but we are not inclined to get involved. We are inclined to believe that someone else will take care of it. We are inclined to think that it is someone else’s problem. As a society, it is time that we started looking out for each other. It is time that we started to protect those who can’t protect themselves and it is time we stop looking the other way.

    In the last year, I have dialed 911 about ten times. When I see someone walking on the side of the road on a bitterly cold night. I have called several times driving past a car wreck or disabled car on the interstate. I called once because a sicko was driving around and taking pictures of people at a shopping mall. (That isn’t against the law by the way) and I called a couple of times after seeing a drunk driver. I have eyes, I have a mind that can see trouble and I have a phone to call someone who should investigate a problem.

    The jerk at the community relations department is a typical government worker who does not like when a civilian has the audacity to disagree with how he conducts their business. It wouldn’t matter if you got the Governor involved, it takes an act of Congress to fire a government employee. It is best to forget about it. He isn’t worth the time and effort it would take to get this person fired. Yes I am speaking as a former government employee. I know how it goes.

    1. Rob, I call 911 too! Now they say, "Hi Karlene"... ha ha. Seriously, I do believe we're all in this together. And I hope not to get someone fired, what I really hope is they can train and educate him on how to deal with people. I suspect he is still hearing my words that he should get a new job. Maybe he's thinking about that right now. I am sure he has many good qualities, or they wouldn't put him there. But the big picture is essential. He's lost that. When we lose that big picture flying... we should hang up the keys to our planes too. Hopefully he'll think and react differently next time someone calls.

  5. Love this story. Good for Karlene. I would've done exactly the same thing, no question. Although when the CR lost his temper, I probably would have lost mine.

    When Karlene received information that raised concern about the well being of a child she acted as any respectable human being should, with compassion and persistence. Someday my own son will be going off to school and I dearly hope that there are lots of Karlenes out there. The world is a cruel place, but it doesn't have to be. Karlene demonstrated that.


    1. Oh... Thank you so much for this beautiful comment! And this is the reminder for everyone... when someone doesn't respond appropriately when we do get involved... the real goal is for all the children out there. We can't lose them!

      Thank you!!!!

  6. You are to be commended for sticking with this, Karlene. Only thing I would have done different is that I would have asked to speak to this man's supervisor. Might even have gone to the board of education if I couldn't get satisfaction from the administrators.

    1. Thanks for the comment! David, Yes.. and maybe his supervisor will read this. He just needs some CRM skills.

  7. Knowing myself as good as I do, I would've called back and gotten to the bottom of it. Especially when children are involved, we as adults need to stand up for them. It is better to ask one time too much then not ask at all, right?

    THat being said, that guy on the phone should get a 1-2-3 course in communication (and being polite while communicating)

    I'm glad the world still has people like you Karlene, around to make an effort to help. Despite being criticized.

    It's hard to know how to respond when you're just trying to help and the other person doesn't see it. It makes you doubt if you did the right thing. But in this case you did the right thing.

    1. Cecilie, I agree... it is better to ask one to many times then not at all. And I will always stand up for the children. They need advocates and far too often...they don't have anyone.

      He should receive some communication skills... especially with the job. I'm sure he gets beat up on daily with that job.. NO EXCUSE.

      I think of this often when I watch incredible Flight Attendants doing a great job. I know they get verbally beat up. And when they can keep the great attitude ... despite the challenges of the job... I commend them. When they allow the job to take them down... time to get a new job.

      I'm thinking either he doesn't know... means training. Or allowed the job to take over... needs to get a new job. Or change his attitude! Thank you so much for your comment.

      I know you are the type of person to take action. We need a generation of you in our world!


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