Thousands of Turlockers were startled awake by an unexpected, 6 a.m. wake-up call Friday morning.
On the other end of the line was Turlock Unified School District Superintendent Sonny Da Marto announcing this Saturday's Festival in the Green, a daylong celebration of TUSD music programs.
The early-morning automated reminder call was unintentional, the district said.
“I apologize for the call so early in the morning,” Da Marto said in a statement posted to the district's Facebook page and website at roughly 9 a.m. “Evidently I set the time to be delivered on 'a.m.' instead of 'p.m.' for the message regarding the Festival on the Green. I am very sorry for this inconvenience, please forgive me.”
Many parents said the call was only a slight inconvenience, as they were awake anyway preparing for school. Others were worried at first that the call was to notify parents of an emergency; some called the district to make sure there was no crisis.
“In general, the people have been positive,” said Roberta Cheney, DaMarto's assistant, noting the district had received “some calls” in response to the robocall. “People just wanted to make sure everything was okay.”
Despite Friday's early call, the robocall system has helped to improve communication with parents in its years of operation, especially in times of emergency, Cheney said.
But other parents were concerned with what they see as an abuse of the district's automated calling system, which was originally intended for use in emergencies.
TUSD parent Sandi Cross Swilley termed the constant reminder calls “frustrating,” with endless messages about upcoming holidays, notifications that vacations are ending, and reminders of events. Many messages don't even apply to her children, Swilley said.
“I wish they'd go back to using it for emergencies only,” Swilley said. “Frankly, if they ever do call with a true emergency, I'm likely not to hear what they're saying because I rarely answer the phone when the number pops up, and I don't bother to listen to the message. Talk about crying wolf!”
Swilley said she would like to opt-out of non-emergency calls – a request Cheney said the district has never heard before. Cheney said the district would look in to the possibility of opting to receive only emergency calls.
For more information on the Festival in the Green, visit http://www.turlockcitynews.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=257:festival-on-the-green-this-saturday&Itemid=246
For more information on the Turlock Unified School District, visit http://turlockusd-ca.schoolloop.com/