Dear Extra Credit Readers:

Here is an interesting e-mail exchange sent in by Fairfax County parent Rick Jacobi as part of our occasional look at communication in the schools. I welcome comments on Fairfax schools' methods of informing parents and Jacobi's reaction to this message.

E-mail sent to Rick Jacobi of McLean, a McLean High School and Longfellow Middle School parent, through the county schools' e-mail system, Keep in Touch:

The Safe Community Coalition proudly presents Barbara Coloroso, who is an internationally recognized authority in areas of parenting, teaching and conflict resolution. She is the author of the bestsellers: "Kids Are Worth It! Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline," "Parenting Through Crisis: Helping Kids in Time of Loss, Grief and Change," and "The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander." Please join us on Mon. Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the McLean High School auditorium. Tickets are $10 per adult at the door. . . .

E-mail from Jacobi to the Office of Community Relations:

Why am I receiving e-mails for a for-profit speech ($10) by somebody who is clearly trying to sell her book? This is not an appropriate use of our public schools resources and government e-mail. I added my name to the Fairfax County e-mail system for official announcements, not to be spammed by private enterprises. This is disturbing and needs to be stopped.

E-mail to Jacobi from Jan Auerbach, president of the Safe Community Coalition:

[School Board member] Janie Strauss forwarded your e-mail to me regarding your concern about the use of Keep in Touch to notify you of an upcoming speaker program. I understand your perspective but hope this email provides a bit more information regarding the program.

The Safe Community Coalition is a non-profit organization formed ten years ago in the McLean/Langley communities. Our goal is to provide a safe, alcohol- and drug-free environment for our youth. We do that by sponsoring character education programs in the schools, funding parenting classes taught by teachers and guidance counselors, holding speaker programs for parents and sponsoring community dialogues such as our annual Teen Summit.

We are funded through private donations and government grants. One of our grants is the Safe and Drug Free Youth grant whose funds flow through the Safe and Drug Free Youth Office of Fairfax County Public Schools. Because of our relationship with that office, we are entitled to announce our programs through the Keep In Touch network.

I heard Barbara Coloroso speak at Oakton High School five years ago. She is a gifted speaker with a practical and important message for parents. Our federal grant helps pay her fee but doesn't cover all of it; hence, the need to charge a small fee at the door. I listed her books in the announcement as a way of establishing her credentials in the short space provided. There will be no book signing or book purchases available that evening.

We have requested and been granted permission to use Keep in Touch to notify parents of four or five of our programs each year. We used it for the first time this past spring to alert rising seventh grade parents to a panel discussion by Cooper and Longfellow guidance counselors on what changes they can expect to see in their children as they enter middle school. We believe the Keep in Touch announcement tripled the attendance we would have seen otherwise. We are trying not to be burdensome but recognize that Keep in Touch is probably the most effective means we have (besides flyers going home in backpacks or PTSA newsletters and calendar postings in local newspapers) of reaching our intended audience.

I hope this explanation provides you some comfort that the announcement is not a for-profit venture.

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