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Critical Response Team Fields Opinions On DCPS

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 Sydney Moreau, Teresa Biagioni and Kari Brandt of the Critical Response Team.
Kavitha Cardoza
Sydney Moreau, Teresa Biagioni and Kari Brandt of the Critical Response Team.

Kari Brandt, Teresa Biagioni and Sydney Moreau answer between 30 and 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 "you would have gotten a never ending phone ring."

It seems as if everyone has something to say 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." The CRT was created in 2007 to be a one-stop shop, so if someone called, they would get a real person who can help.

People call with all kinds of questions about everything.

"The most common calls are about student enrollment or school culture... concerns about fighting or bullying," she says. "We also get a lot of calls for student records, transcripts, duplicate diplomas, medical records."

There's also the guy who needs reassurance that the email he sent decades ago wasn't the reason the school was closed down this year, and the woman who left a 20-minute voicemail about radioactive mice in her apartment. There's also the case of the Homecoming Queen.

"She's one of my favorites!" says Brandt. "She's an alumna of D.C. public schools. She was a nominee for homecoming queen in 1982. She was meant to be homecoming queen... she was nominated, and she got the votes, and then that night, the announcer said his sister's name instead. So she contacted us 30 years later to claim her trophy, but we don't have a 1982 homecoming queen trophy!"

Sometimes this team is able to resolve issues pretty quickly, like when Moreau helped a grandmother enroll her grandchild in school again.

"Getting her records, getting her enrolled and she's working toward her high school diploma," says Moreau. "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!"

It isn't always a happy resolution. Like anyone who works in customer service knows, the CRT team sometimes fields frustrated calls.

"I had a young woman told me I should work at McDonalds, that's my skill set!" says Biagioni.

But they keep their voices soft and polite and try to remember that parents are worried about their children — that's why they're yelling."

"We're all very zen here at critical response!"

All three say they are very proud of the length they go — literally — to help callers.

[Music: "Call Me" by Lea DeLaria from Double Standards]


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