News Track: Iowa City schools’ ombuds helping to solve conflict

Janet Abejo-Parker is the ombuds for the Iowa City Community School District (Photo provided by the Iowa City Community School District)

IOWA CITY — Janet Abejo-Parker is constructing belief with college students, employees and households as she helps them navigate battle and determination in yr three of her position because the Iowa Metropolis Group College District’s ombuds.

Background

An ombuds is an official who investigates complaints and makes an attempt to resolve the battle or considerations raised although mediation and by making suggestions.

Including an ombuds workplace to the varsity district was accepted by the Iowa Metropolis college board in 2021 to lift consciousness of considerations, promote a civil, equitable and inclusive group and enhance organizational tradition, in response to the district’s web site.

The district employed Abejo-Parker, who beforehand labored on the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Fee as a senior investigator and served as interim govt director.

The state of Iowa has an Workplace of Ombudsman for residents to file a criticism with a state or native authorities company. Each the College of Iowa and Iowa State College have ombuds to deal with questions from employees, college and college students about work issues, conflicts over grades or different educational points and pupil employment, amongst different issues. However having an ombuds in Ok-12 faculties is just not frequent.

The Iowa Metropolis faculties’ ombuds workplace is confidential, neutral and works independently of different college district departments.

What’s occurred since

Abejo-Parker connects guests with district contacts and assets, neighborhood assets, acquires clarification and data on the district’s insurance policies and processes, conducts casual meditations, offers suggestions to district management and shares battle decision finest practices.

The position of ombuds is “a tough place to pronounce, to know and to provoke in any group,” Abejo-Parker stated. “I’ve heard many a cautionary story of different ombuds who didn’t really feel the assist beginning the position that I’ve felt right here. I’m grateful to have the ability to serve on this distinctive position at a really particular district.”

In the course of the 2022-23 college yr, Abejo-Parker labored with 127 individuals who introduced their considerations to the ombuds workplace. This is a rise of 27 from the yr earlier than, in response to knowledge Abejo-Parker shared final month throughout a college board assembly final month.

Abejo-Parker has three strategic objectives for this yr:

  • Present top quality ombuds providers,
  • Promote consciousness of ombuds workplace providers,
  • And offering suggestions to district management that leads to steady enchancment.

The priority dropped at Abejo-Parker probably the most final yr was constituent relationships. This included considerations relating to voluntary college switch requests and disciplinary selections, course of and coverage.

Different considerations dropped at the Iowa Metropolis faculties’ ombuds workplace included bullying and harassment, compensation and advantages, peer and colleague relationships, profession development and growth and security, well being and bodily surroundings.

In a survey to individuals who used the ombuds providers, greater than 90 % responded they felt they have been handled in an expert method and would use the workplace once more and refer others to the workplace. About 19 % — or 21 folks — responded to the survey.

Abejo-Parker additionally shared “testimonials” in her presentation to the varsity board from individuals who used the workplace final yr.

“I believe it was so necessary as a brand-new district useful resource to supply alternatives for suggestions on experiences after they did attain out to the ombuds workplace,” Abejo-Parker stated. “I really admire optimistic suggestions in addition to the constructive suggestions I get.”

One testimonial talked about what a “welcome addition” the ombuds workplace is to the varsity district and the way “attentive, empathetic {and professional}” Abejo-Parker is. “It’s an awesome feeling to know she is there when wanted,” the testimonial learn.

“This can be very precious to have a confidential, impartial social gathering to assist discover options to issues, and Janet was a extremely nice useful resource who made me really feel heard and helped me determine choices,” one of many confidential testimonials learn.

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