The computer did it: D-11 explains middle-of-the-night phone calls

Staff reports Updated: January 8, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: January 8, 2012

An automated phone-call system might make it easy to deliver bulk messages to parents in Colorado Springs School District 11, but the darned thing had better learn to tell time before it can get an A-plus.

The system was supposed to generate an automated phone call at noon Sunday; instead, it launched at midnight and continued sending out calls until about 4 a.m., jolting perhaps thousands of D-11 families out of a deep sleep with a message about an upcoming public meeting.

"I think the main message the district wants to send is, we are very sorry for the inconvenience," D-11 spokeswoman Devra Ashby said Sunday. "We are working very hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again."

Several families who have more than one child in D-11 received multiple calls, the result of having a phone number on file for each student.

"That's another thing we're looking into," Ashby said.

Ashby said D-11 officials have not determined how many calls went out, but it could have been in the thousands, because the district has about 29,000 students. School Board member Bob Null said he heard that about 11,000 numbers were dialed.

An employee who works with the vendor's system received one of the early-morning calls, and was able to put a stop to them around 4 a.m., Ashby said.

In comments about the calls on Facebook, most people said they appreciated the district's apology, but some were not so easily placated.

"I think we have the right to be upset about this," one person commented. "I don't want your apology - it means nothing - I want the two hours of sleep that it cost me last night."

The call was meant to serve as a reminder about a Community Engagement meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Holmes Middle School, where parents can informally talk to the school board about budgets and boundaries -- and, perhaps, automated phone systems.

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