Almost 300 people visited the Prince William County Public Schools ombudsman’s office during the last school year, a 54% increase in cases from the year before, the Virginia school system said.
Ombudsman Monique Bookstein gave her annual report to the school board earlier this month and said that of the 298 visitors in the 2022-23 school year, 233 were school system employees, 55 were parents or guardians and 10 were community members.
Over 100 of those people visited the office during the third quarter of the school year, which Bookstein said could be the result of people contemplating a visit during the winter break.
Bookstein described her role as working to be a resource for students, parents, and school workers who want to voluntarily get help in working through school-related challenges. She told the school board that her job is to listen and provide a confidential path for someone to express a concern, but that she can’t mandate change.
“I can’t change what’s already occurred,” Bookstein said. “But what I can do is help them. Sometimes, I may have to point them in the right direction. I may talk to an associate superintendent or a principal about an issue. Again, I try to empower the individual to do that, but sometimes I do have to engage with maybe whoever they have conflict with.”
Of the 233 school system workers who visited the office, Bookstein said the most popular topic was about the dynamic between workers and their bosses, “which is considered the supervisor and employee relationship. The most often-expressed subcategories were communication, which is the quantity and/or quality of communication, and supervisory effectiveness, which is the management of the department or classroom, and/or failure to address issues.”
The top category for parent or guardians, Bookstein said, was services or administrative issues, “which is regarding the services provided by the organization. The most often expressed subcategories were administrative decisions, and interpretation or application of rules, which denotes decisions made on matters, and the behavior of the service provider, which is how the parent was dealt with by the school division.”
The most common category for community members was also services or administrative issues, Bookstein said.
She said there are a lot of misconceptions about what her role is.
“I do want to see people succeed, but it is also to help them and help the organization,” Bookstein said. “I do point out that what I do for the organization is provide that systemic feedback that I see and the trends that I see.”