Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Schools Here

Many who know us know that we have always been unhappy with the school situation in our county.  Always.  It has been nothing but confrontations for the most part during our IEP meetings.  Not all, but most.  Took us a year to get Nik an interpreter.  Took a year before they believed Irina needed help.  Most of the time in this county, unless you have an advocate or hire an attorney, you are stuck.  Put it this way, this county does not even recognize dyslexia as a learning disability.  This is 100% true folks.  Was told in a meeting and have a friend fighting for her son right now on the exact same issue.  The whole county in regards to special needs children is a mess.  Many, many here are taking their kids out to homeschool them.  We did this too and may be doing it again.  Alyona sat in what was basically a glorified daycare the year before last.  Her 2nd grade year was a literal waste.  In fact, an outside advocate came in for another child and found that the children's actual academic learning time during the course of a day was...get this.... 28 minutes!  Yep, no wonder she wasn't learning a thing.  So, as you can see but just these short,short examples, we are disappointed, angry, unhappy, and concerned about this county's school system when it comes to our children.

This year is no exception.  We(special ed parents) were somewhat, imo, not thought of whatsoever.  The JCPS didn't care what we thought or how we'd react to changes.  Didn't tell us it may be coming.  None of that.  We were sent out teacher assignments instead.  We'll start with Nik.  NO mention whatsoever of his interpreter being in the classroom.  Nothing.  This scared us b/c we thought, oh no, what happened to her.  Emailed the teacher and called.  She wrote me back saying she wrote the letter before she was given the class list & knew who would be in her class.  I can accept that.  And glad she wrote me back.  Wished in the general letter though that she wouldn't have assumed all 1st graders are 6yo.  But, that is just my pet peeve.  No big deal.  Remember, Nik will be 8yo in October.  Just makes it sound like my son wasn't included & probably a bunch of other 7yo's in the class.  Again though, not a big deal just a stupid pet peeve of mine.  She was nice about getting back to me and that I appreciate greatly.  Told a new letter will be given out at orientation introducing the interpreter.

Next is Alex.  Alex is repeating 3rd grade.  I get a welcome letter that he is having 5 teachers.  What?!  Call and leave a message.  Teacher calls this morning to try to calm me, I was rather, umm, worked up about it and she is great and bringing me back down.  Anyhow, she assured me he doesn't have 5 teachers as the paper says he does, just 3.  Okay.  Tries to explain that he's having inclusion again which she knows I hate w/ a passion.  Also explains that he'll be being pulled out for some other things.  The whole thing is frankly confusing and really, we don't need this many teachers.  I went to school, had one teacher, they taught, I learned, moved on.  Not here.  It's just getting carried away I think.  Too much time trying to figure out what will work best and miss the point of what they can learn.  Too much focus on an end of year test. 

Now we come to Alyona.  Alyona is in a self-contained classroom.  Was doing well.  They have decided to split up the class and NOT tell the parents.  Yes, I know they are not obligated to but common respect would have been nice.  I don't even know what grades will be in her room yet.  These are not big classes so at some point I thought the teacher may have called to tell us about such a change but that did not happen.  I have had her teacher for years for a variety of my kids & they have excelled under her instruction.  They have now taken that away and I have no idea why or what happened.  Apparently she is teaching more of a life skills type class now but no one knows b/c no parents have been told.  I found out this summer that there was a possibility of splitting the classes but found that out from another parent, not the teachers.  Never finished this earlier but yes, her old teacher is now indeed a lifeskills teacher.  So that is why Alyona would not be in there.  And that is fine just wished parents would have been told earlier. 

We have Bojan who is out of special ed.  However, he now has a "team" approach as do the other classes in this school.  I'm not happy about it as how can you then hold any teacher accountable for their job as they are now sharing the job of teaching your child?  It makes no sense to me.  I think this is a bad idea.  I really do.  Bojan was doing just fine the other way.  Kids were learning in that school.  Now, we have a "team" approach to teaching.  Really?!  Teachers have been reassuring me all morning but I'm not buying it.

What else I found out today about the new rules is that if your child is labeled special ed, they do NOT have to take social studies or science.  What?!  They want to pull Alex out during those times and give him extra reading help.  Umm, NO.  I will set up an IEP once school starts and Warren and I will have a nice chat regarding this whole mess.  And sorry, but it is a mess.  You don't eliminate science & social studies from a child's curriculum to teach them to read more.  Now, his resource teacher says she is going to try to include some science and social studies in there but not sure about that. I'd rather have it learned the normal way w/ the other students if they're so big on this inclusion idea.  URGHH.  Don't know if the rule they told me about was a federal or local deal.  Just know it came from a teacher's mouth.

I don't even know what mess we're getting into w/ Max.  Find that one out tonight.  I'm sure he'll be assigned teachers and not a one will have a clue that he has an IEP.  Not speculating but this has happened before on several occasions.  Again, waiting to find out tonight.

Then we have Yana who is out of self-contained.  We'll see how she does this year.  I'm actually not worried about her academics.  Just her social life and the whole boy issue we have going on.  that is not the school's responsibility however, it is ours and we're working on that one.

Finally, we have Irina.  She is labeled as OCS.  It's an occupational track versus an academic track.  The high school teaching academics to these kids is a big joke.  Not kidding.  I was appalled last year as my daughter was doing literally basic addition like 3 + 5.  Not kidding folks.  Yet, in middle school she was doing basic algebra.  School said, well, we have to review and then we'll get into the other stuff later in the semester.  REally, you only have till December.  URGHH.  IRina learned NOTHING new last year.  Nothing.  Well, I take that back.  She did learn to fill out an application for a job.  Anyhow, they are doing total inclusion at the high school level.  As if these kids w/ disabilities don't have enough to worry about, now they have to worry about others laughing at the way they learn.  Don't say it won't happen b/c it happened to Irina last year.  The teachers say they'll go around the room to every student but have to focus on the ones that are "their" students.  Yeh, that won't single them out a bit.  They are stuck at the old high school though being moved to the new one next year.  Why the transition students that don't do well w/ change, I don't know.  Frustrating is an understatement at my feelings right now.  Really is.  Had to share and gain insight from other parents across the nation.

We are at a crossroads and do feel we will eventually pull all the kids from school.  All of them.  Right now, we have to plan how to do it, how we're going to teach them and what we're going to teach them.  I feel academics in schools are being short-changed and that it is all geared toward what's ever on the stupid end of year test.  Ashame.  Many great points of history too are being lost.  During February, my kids spend barely any time on the presidents.  Truly sad.  To show you how pathetic it is here I just asked my 14yo, 15yo, and 17yo when the Independence of the United States took place.  Not a one could tell me.  I said when is Independence Day.  They said July 4th.  I said what year did it begin.  I got, 19-something, 1965 and 1962.  Lovely.  Just lovely.  I digress.  You can tell by this post I'm thoroughly upset about the school situation.  I like the teachers, hate the county we're in.  Seems issues are coming from the top on down.  who knows.  Just know Warren and I have some very tough decisions coming up regarding school for not only the kids here but the kids coming home.  We have to do what is best for everyone.  Working on it.  More to come on the outcome of orientation tonight.  Stay tuned as I'm sure the saga will continue.  LOL

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