Parent activists often complain that city school officials don't listen to them enough.
Indeed, among the first people officials talked to before assigning letter grades to schools were a former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, and the British education secretary, Alan Johnson.
But city records show that everyday New Yorkers were also a target. On what might be called a Laundromat listening tour, officials' destinations included a laundry shop in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn called Wash and Read; a Clean Rite Laundromat, also in Brooklyn; the E, F, G, V, and R trains; a dentist's office on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, and — after that — another Laundromat in the same building.
"We just brainstormed, where are people going to be?" one of the city officials who conducted the tour, Santiago Taveras, said. "People take the train. People go to Laundromats, barber shops, salons, those kinds of places."
The tour began in May, as officials tried to spread the word about upcoming changes, such as an expansion of regular tests for students, a new state-of-the-art data system for tracking student test scores, and new letter grades for schools. In particular, they wanted to promote a survey of parents, students, and teachers that accounts for part of a school's letter grade.
Mr. Taveras and his team of about 12 officials used fliers outlining the changes in at least eight languages to encourage parents to fill out surveys. Some officials passed out the fliers on foot, traveling to train stations and standing outside at exits and entrances inside.
Mr. Taveras traveled in his Ford Expedition. Stops included planned school fairs and PTA meetings, he said. Officials even went to a school dance recital after hearing about it from a top education official, James Leibman, whose daughter attends the school.
Mr. Taveras said he was driving through Flatbush one day in May when he passed Wash and Read, and the Laundromat idea struck him."They advertised reading, which I felt that was exactly where we needed to go: where people were going to actually sit and read about the changes," he said.
Mr. Taveras said most people on the tour welcomed the letter grades.
The owner and manager of the Wash and Read he visited first, Harriet Williams, said she was not at the store when he visited. But she said she would welcome an opportunity for school officials to come again.
A single mother of two, Ms. Williams said several of her questions about her daughters' education have not been answered over the years. She said she is still wondering why an application to transfer her daughter out of her middle school, which Ms. Williams said does not meet standards, was denied this year.
Officials will launch a second campaign to advertise the surveys soon, Mr. Taveras said.