NEW YORK (AP) -- If you have a question for the head of the nation's largest school system, you might consider sending him an e-mail. The address isn't hard to find.
Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City schools, speaks to an 11th grade American history class.
New York City schools Chancellor Joel Klein frequently gives out his e-mail address to the public and answers the messages himself, something other city leaders say is unusual for an official in charge of a school system with 1.1 million students.
Klein's approach is also quirky considering the New York school system is not known for being the most open of the city's bureaucracies.
Throughout the day, whether in the car (he has a driver) or in the middle of meetings, Klein checks his e-mail on his BlackBerry, handling messages with subject lines such as "Why? Why? Why?" and "report cards and parent teacher conferences."
Even his critics have to admit he's accessible.
"Chancellor Klein is the most responsive person in government I've ever dealt with," said former city council member Eva Moskowitz, one of Klein's harshest critics. "Within minutes he responds, at all hours in the night and early in the morning or late at night."
Klein, a former assistant attorney general who led the federal government's successful antitrust suit against Microsoft, said what people navigating any bureaucracy hate most is getting the run-around. He encourages staffers to follow his example.
"What I tell people is 'make the decision,"' Klein said. "Just give people an answer -- it doesn't have to be the answer they want. It is the thing that drives people nuts -- the non-responsiveness."
Anecdotally, it appears more school system leaders across the country are using technology to increase their accessibility, said Barbara Michelman, a spokeswoman for the American Association of School Administrators. The methods vary greatly, however, and many rely on staff to handle much of their e-mail.
In some recent e-mail exchanges, writers criticized, praised and questioned Klein on matters ranging from construction noise to problems with a math teacher.
The parent of a disabled student asked Klein to intervene after the boy had problems with his bus matron and the transportation office hadn't managed to change his route two weeks later. Klein got involved, and the department found the child a new escort within a couple of school days.
Department staff members say Klein gets thousands of e-mails a month, and that the volume spikes after he publicizes the address in interviews, public meetings and other forums. (That address, by the way, is JKlein"at"nycboe.net.)
Many of Klein's e-mailers are parents, some of whom have felt their role in the school system has been marginalized since it came under mayoral control in 2002. Many are pleasantly shocked when they send an e-mail to their target of scorn and get a response, said Tim Johnson, chairman of the chancellor's Parent Advisory Council.
During one exchange, Klein asked a student for a suggestion on improving the schools. The student said it would be a good idea to extend the lunch period, to which Klein answered, "don't think we'll do that."