At Mississippi First, we often get calls or requests from students doing research, interested members of the public, and other advocates seeking to learn more about pre-K-12 public education in Mississippi by interviewing us in person or on the phone about what we do, what we believe, or what we think about an idea the caller may have. We’re not talking about requests from the media or questions from our partners, but more general requests that fall into the category of “I want to pick your brain about…” Over time, these requests have grown, but, unfortunately, our staff’s ability to follow-up on such requests only continues to shrink as our work intensifies. This post is inspired by Jessica Eastman Stewart, an education advocate from Oakland, CA, who was feeling the same pressures on her time but still wanted to be helpful. Below, you’ll find some tips about how to streamline the process of making a request for our time.

BEFORE You Email or Call

We strongly encourage you to spend time on our website looking at our work and what we do before you reach out to us. We just updated our website in an effort to make it easier for users to navigate our collection of papers and issue briefs. They are now organized by issue area and each publication has its own content page. For example, check out our recent charter school report. Sometimes, everything you want to know is already on our website in a report or blog post. At other times, you may realize that we aren’t the right organization for what you’re seeking. Either way, your questions will be a lot more informed if you’ve done some research, making it a win-win for all.

Email is Better

You’ll get a faster response via email. We are an organization that runs on email. We are often meeting with stakeholders, working on a deadline, nose-deep in education data, or at the Capitol. It may be tough scheduling a timely call in one of our busy times, but e-mail we can usually do. Shoot us an email with your request, and we will do our best to respond in a timely fashion.

Have a Specific Request

When you reach out, whether through email or via phone, know what you’d like to talk about and clearly communicate that, including how much time you might need. It’s also helpful if you’re clear about who you are–whether you work for another organization, are a college student, etc. If we’re not sure what it is you’re seeking or why, it may take longer for us to schedule something with you, as we’re likely to ask follow-up questions. The more specific you can be, the easier it will be for us to help you.

Be Sensitive to Deadlines

Our calendar is busy every month of the year. Sometimes, it may take several weeks to schedule a meeting simply because we’re on deadline. If you have a tight turnaround, please understand that we may not be able to accommodate your request in your time frame because our staff is small. In cases where turnaround is tight, we’re more likely to accommodate a request if you make it really easy for us. For example, if it is an interview for a student research paper or internship project, send us the questions in advance.

We May Refer You to a Better Source

We are a policy and advocacy organization with a specific agenda in pre-K-12 education. If you want to talk about something outside of our scope of work, we may refer you to another organization. For example, although we find issues relating to the foster care system to be important, they are not in our realm of work and expertise. 

In the past, we’ve received phone calls from parents about personal situations. We advise these parents to escalate the issue to the superintendent or school board–or if that has already been tried, the Mississippi Department of Education–because they are typically in a better position to immediately resolve the problem. Please note: we have no authority over the state’s charter schools, so we give the same advice to parents calling about personal issues concerning a charter school: call the individual charter school’s board or the state Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board

Remember, We Don’t Provide Direct Services

We don’t provide direct services, such as tutoring, rent support, grants to individuals, etc. (Please note: We are not Mission First nor are we affiliated with them.) We try to refer people seeking such services to more appropriate organizations when we can, but we may not immediately know the best organization to contact. If direct services are what you’re seeking, try your local United Way for a referral.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy

What We Are Reading This Month

We are deep into our high-quality curriculum research as we get ready to launch a campaign for Mississippi teachers. We have been spending a lot of time learning about how teachers access materials and use them to supplement the materials provided by their district. The Fordham Institute released an interesting analysis of ELA materials found on the internet.

Teacher pipeline and quality is another big project we have been super focused on this quarter. We found this report super interesting because of our current research project on Mississippi’s teacher prep programs.

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