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School concerns? Talk to our new ombudsman

November 18, 2011
PPS Ombudsman Mary Krogh
PPS Ombudsman Mary Krogh helps families resolve problems.

Families with school-related questions or concerns now have a resource at the district level.

Mary Krogh is the new PPS ombudsman, basically the district's chief problem-solver.

When families email or call Krogh (503-916-5876), she works with principals or other administrators to address the concerns of parents and guardians — making sure that PPS hears families, and that families know how PPS is responding.

(Parents with concerns, please note: It’s best to start by talking with your teacher or principal.)

Sometimes, Krogh says, families simply want a person to translate “school-speak” for them so they understand what principals or teachers are asking.

Featured in PPS Pulse Krogh was trained as a school social worker and until it closed, manager of the Northside Family Support Center. Her goal in her new position: minimum drama, maximum satisfaction.

“I help solve problems at the lowest level in a way that is respectful to everybody,” she says.

What is an ombudsman?

Also known as an ombuds or ombudsperson, an ombudsman helps resolve problems within organizations.

The word comes from Scandinavia.

New parent complaint process

Krogh’s position — and a new parent complaint process that is being finalized — will provide for a more equitable response to families. “There wasn’t a well-mapped process before,” says Krogh.

The parent complaint process, set to take effect in 2012, is a step-by-step guide to how issues get addressed. Multilingual staff will provide support in languages other than English.

At any point in the process, families may contact Krogh.

Since taking her position in September, Krogh has helped parents with concerns about Individual Education Plans, accompanied them to meetings with principals and assisted with communication between principals and families.

Larry Dashiell, regional administrator for the Wilson and Cleveland clusters of schools, says Krogh's perspective is valuable.

“If a parent needs to share a concern, Mary is able to assist them. Mary also views and listens from a different vantage point than the supervising administrator," he says.

Krogh records all complaints — maintaining confidentiality — and compiles them to help Superintendent Carole Smith and the Portland School Board address “hotspots.”

She takes a positive approach to her work: “Every complaint is a chance for us to do something better.”

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