D.C. Public Schools' Critical Response Team exists to field questions and complaints about, well, everything.
Everyone has an opinion about D.C. public schools. All those opinions—along with lots of questions and critiques—make their way to the school system's Critical Response Team, also known as the CRT or even "DCPS Google."
CRT members Kari Brandt, Teresa Biagioni and Sydney Moreau answer up to 300 calls a day. That’s different from just a few years ago, when Brandt says if you had a question about the school system, well, no one would have been there to answer it.
"You would have gotten a never ending phone ring," she says.
The CRT was created in 2007 to be a one-stop shop. If someone calls 202-478-5738, they'll get a real person who can help. Brandt says that calls can cover just about anything. "I just had a baby and I want them to enrollment in Pre-K in four years to concerns about fighting, bullying," she says of calls the team has fielded.
Sometimes they’re able to resolve issues pretty quickly, like when Moreau helped a grandmother enroll her grandchild in school again. "The grandma calls me every now and then to let me know how she’s doing. She’s invited me to her house multiple times," she says.
Sometimes, though, the team can’t do much. For example, Brandt says they got a call from a woman who says she should have been homecoming queen in 1982. "And she got the votes and then that night the announcer said her sister’s name instead. So she contacted us but we don’t have a 1982 homecoming queen trophy!", says Brandt.
And like anyone who works in customer service knows, the callers can sometimes be frustrated, to put it mildly. "I had a young woman told me I should work at McDonalds, that’s not something anyone wants to hear, but I'm not going to show that to her," she says.
They try to remember that parents are worried about their children, that’s why they’re yelling. "Repeating to them what you’re hearing from them," says Brandt about how they handle angry callers. "We’re all very zen here at critical response!"
Being zen helps, because when you're dealing with up to 300 calls each day, there's not much time to get angry.