August 30 – When a school district is closed at the end of August, just a few days into a new school year, because of technology issues, shouldn’t parents and residents get some kind of explanation about what’s going on?
Especially if the district is closed for three days in a row?
The Chambersburg Area School District is in that exact situation, with apparently no end in sight and no communication as to what’s going on, which is allowing speculation to run amok.
The district did ask students and employees to not log into their school accounts.
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said it’s “some bad optics. Mommies, Daddies, Mimies and Poppies are scrambling. What do we do next? When is the end? Where’s the light in this tunnel? Still little to no communication. They’ve got a marketing and communications guy in there and no call back. Called his cell phone. No email back – don’t expect an email with their problems on cyber happening right now and top it all off with the one of the dumbest moves that I’ve seen in quite some time.”
In the midst of this, the district was able to put out a press release – not about the computer issue in the schools – but announcing the new superintendent, Christopher Bigger.
Ryan said, “This wasn’t necessarily terrible optics, number one, but it wasn’t very fair to Chris Bigger, either.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “He’s I think a great pick and they should have waited to celebrate this. After the missteps that were made in getting a new superintendent, this should have been a real plus for the board, for the administration, for getting this very knowledgeable person who already is familiar with the district with the position he’s held here before, his years of experience in Littlestown, now being a superintendent, much praised by that school district as well. This was a real feather in their cap and they should have waited to celebrate that, to give Chris that celebration as well and the community more knowledge about this. Instead they do it in the middle of this weird crisis where maybe they even can’t share a lot about that and it’s just an odd time to choose to do that.”
“Agreed,” attorney Clint Barkdoll said. “On that superintendent issue, I think this is a good choice. I like it that he has a background with Chambersburg School District. He used to teach in Fairfield. He’s apparently done a great job in Littlestown. I think the district learned its lesson. You don’t bring a superintendent in here from Philadelphia that doesn’t fit culturally with how this district operates. So I think this guy is going to do great. I’m rooting for him. But I do feel badly for Mr. Bigger that they rolled this out in the middle of this computer crisis. I think the district has done a very poor job on the PR piece of this. Remember the old PR mantra, say it early, say it all and say it yourself. They’re not doing any of that. What’s happening is I’m talking to school district people just like you are and everyone else, because the district is not saying anything, everyone else has taken over the narrative. You’re hearing the same rumors that I am. This stuff is now running rampant. Because the district is not coming out with more definitive statements, it’s allowing the rumor mill just to keep ginning up. It’s getting parents scared. It’s getting employees worried. Even if they can’t say anything, it would go a long way if the statement would simply be we’re sorry, but this situation is such we are not allowed to disclose any details, but rest assured, we’re going to give you the full report as soon as we’re able to. I think that would go a long way.”
Yesterday’s announcement from the district said an outside forensic investigator has been brought in, but there was no guidance as to when schools may open again.
Barkdoll said, “I would not be surprised if law enforcement is involved in an investigation here, but it just leaves everyone in the community continuing to wonder and speculate about what’s happening.”
Ryan said, “Really bad optics and no phone calls back, a computer crisis and let this set the tone in the new superintendent and his administration to have a very good look back. When you get seated, take a good look at what’s happening in communication and marketing and let’s just have a good review on what’s happening here. I don’t care if you have to stand on the steps and read something to the press or something like that. Hiding, all right, let’s say that, hiding behind we can’t communicate with you because the systems are down. There’s plenty of other ways. I’ve said all along here, come on down to the radio station. Or I don’t care, go to a TV station. I don’t care where you go, but do something other than hiding.”
Jansen suggested, “Thankfully maybe Chris Bigger will change some of this atmosphere when he comes in. He’s actually been praised for his communications with the community as superintendent of Littlestown. So let’s look forward to hopefully maybe a little improvement on that.”