His name is Aaron Titus, and last winter he was fed up with 4:30 a.m. robocalls from schools notifying parents of snow-related delays and closings.
So he got the home phone numbers of school board members and hired his own robo-calling company to call them with a message that their calls were unwanted.
Titus programmed those calls to happen at 4 a.m. And you bet that school board got the message. I’m thinking about doing the same thing.
Because while those annoying mechanical calls from telemarketers selling worthless car warranties are on the wane, the ones from public schools seem on the rise.
“Good evening Woodrow Wilson parents, faculty, students, and staff. This is Mr. . . .”
That call came Wednesday, and I hung up before listening to what it was about.
In Roanoke, Wednesday was the third day of the 2011-12 school year, and that call was the third we’ve received from the school this year.
They actually started the week before classes did, following a peaceful summer of no robocalls in the Casey household.
Last year, it called twice a day every day that my Patrick Henry High School senior was tardy. That was on her, of course. But the calls were on me. The best thing about her graduation was that they stopped.
To varying degrees all of the school systems in the Roanoke Valley, and some of them beyond, use these robocalls to communicate with parents for purposes ranging from tardiness to school emergencies.
School emergencies are understandable. But student tardiness? Notification of PTA meetings, or standardized testing? Come on.
Like Roanoke, Roanoke County has been doing it since 2007, to inform parents of emergencies, schedule changes, and school events. “We have found the process to be very effective for those purposes,” Deputy Superintendent Allen Journell wrote in an email.
“Some of our schools use the system to notify parents of PTA meetings and other school events, and some use it only for emergency situations,” he added.
In Salem, “we typically use it for school closings and emergency situations,” said Curtis Hicks, director of secondary instruction for that Salem schools. “We also encourage schools to let parents know what’s going on with special events.”
Journell and Hicks each told me that parents in both of those systems can “opt-out” of receiving nonemergency calls.
Unhappily, that’s not the case for parents of Roanoke City students. Its $23,000-per-year system doesn’t have that feature.
“We do not offer the option to opt out due to potential emergency situations which may occur unexpectedly,” said city schools spokeswoman Tiffany Woods.
But she added that a “coming attraction” would allow parents to choose how they want to receive such notification. Which means that at some point you may be able to get these via email or sent to your Facebook account.
Let’s hope they get that fast.
Then, I can create a Facebook account named “Dan Casey Loathes School Robocalls” and have all those annoying messages sent there.
In the meantime, I’ll be gathering some phone numbers, checking into hiring my own robocaller and devising the perfect message for it to deliver.
“Good evening, Roanoke City School Board members, faculty and staff. Isn’t this annoying? Don’t you hate interrupting dinner for this? More are coming!”
Or something along those lines.
If you can think of a better message, let me know.