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Your kid's teacher? Connect the dots
Bulk mail rates dictate vaguer class assignment packets.
By LETITIA STEIN, Times Staff Writer
Published August 14, 2007
TAMPA - The e-mail sent to parents at Citrus Park Elementary opened like this: "Because of postal regulations, we are no longer able to mail out your child's actual class assignment."
This year's back-to-school mailings promise to raise more than a few eyebrows. If parents across Hillsborough County haven't gotten them already, they can expect to receive similar messages from their children's principals.
Here's the official explanation:
For years, the district has informed families about classroom assignments through a code on the address label. Inside the packet, parents found directions to match that code to their child's assigned classroom teacher or homeroom.
According to the post office, that's a big no-no.
"We've been doing it wrong for 30 years," said Debi Veranth, the director of administration tasked with fixing this most unlikely back-to-school bungle.
Several weeks ago, Veranth learned that postal regulations prevented the district from sending such personalized information with its bulk mailing rates.
The policy is nothing new. In fact, she said someone in the school district's mail room recently discovered a notice to this effect. It's dated 1972.
"Nobody ever considered this personal information, so nobody ever caught it," Veranth said.
With principals already completing their back-to-school packets, the district worked out a hasty compromise with the Postal Service.
Schools can continue to print the coded information on the outside of the mailings. They can still list the associated teachers inside. But they have to leave out the directions explaining the system.
"It's really easy to figure out," said Citrus Park Elementary principal Joan Bookman. "It's just knowing what to do."
To help parents, she sent out an e-mail and a voice message through the district's phone alert system.
Still, she's bracing for a flood of calls when many families receive their packets this week.
Some schools decided they were too far along with their mailings to make changes for the 11-cent bulk rate, springing instead for first-class postage.
Sickles High had already mailed its packets when administrators learned of the change.
"We were lucky," said assistant principal Hilda Genco. But she's quick to note that change is coming. "When we have to change it, we will do whatever is legal and correct."
What to expect
Hillsborough parents still will see a code on the mailing label of their back-to-school packet with their child's classroom or homeroom assignment. Directions on how to use this information should come in a separate phone call and possibly an e-mail from the school.