August 11, 2010

Special Ed Ain't For Dummies...But Then Again, Maybe It Is


In thirteen days, The Boy will be a Freshman in high school. OMG, scary stuff. What his high school education will look like has been a matter of lots of discussions at The Cleaver compound, since it entails many changes and opportunities for success and/or failure.


If your child is in Special Ed, they have something called an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Your child is evaluated, strengths and weaknesses are described, and a meeting is convened to discuss how best to educate your child. IEPs are reviewed once a year, changes can be made then - or when a substantial change in program has occurred. An IEP must be completely re-written after three years, or when the child is 16 - so that plans for transition from school to the real world may be discussed and implemented.

For the past two years, The Boy was schooled in a day-treatment kind of program; it included group and individual therapy, and took place in a self-contained classroom of himself, his teacher, an aide, and maybe five other kids, at a maximum. Many days the class consisted of The Boy and one other student; and about half the year, just The Boy.

The program also had other classes - one for early childhood students, one for elementary students, and a high school class. They were all housed in an older building that had previously been the elementary school. 

Small district. One elementary school. One middle school. One high school.


He grew to love his teacher, Ms. McK. She would let him call me when he got upset (what kid wants his mom to be called when they're in trouble?). She thought he was smart and funny. For the most part, he listened to her. Oh, he still had one major meltdown during the first week of school last year, which wasn't really related to school at all. I posted about his subsequent arrest and detention here.


Lucky for him, all charges were dropped when his attorney proved that he was unable to form the intent to commit any crimes - his actions were all impulsive, and due to his Asperger's.


Anyway, late in the Spring, one of The Boy's classmates (his only real friend) got upset and assaulted Ms. McK. She left the building and never returned to the classroom. The student who got upset never came back, either.

Even before the injuries to Ms. McK, the school district had decided that enrollment in the program was not sufficient to keep it open. They came up with a plan to move the students back to their regular schools. The Boy would be starting high school with Ms. McK as his teacher in this non-day treatment program. She would also be teaching any of the other high school children from the program, and those who were in the resource rooms at the high school.


Cool.


Then the district did not renew Ms. McK's contract (or they fired her, I don't know what happened); they were on the hunt for a new teacher for the high school class.

I've been waiting since the end of school to find out what's going to go down...know I know.


When I called the Special Ed director at the end of July (after waiting a month for his return call, despite numerous messages left for him), he told me that a male teacher had been located. He would also be serving as an assistant Boy's baseball coach (like that mattered to ME). He also said that the teacher was brand new, and was NOT certified in Special Ed. I actually heard "Danger, Will Robinson" in my head. I was under the impression that if a child were in Special Ed, he should have a Special Ed teacher.


Maybe not.

I had heard that they were looking for a male aide last year, to no avail. They were hopeful that a male would be intimidating enough to keep some of the male students (including The Boy) from acting up. 

Another strike against Ms. McK, who can only be described as petite.


And I can only assume that the baseball team was looking for a coach.


And another wrinkle - the high school is undergoing a massive renovation. The oldest parts of the building have been torn down. The other classrooms in the building where The Boy is are now needed for other high school classes.


Ok, we've closed the program, fired the teachers, sent most of the kids elsewhere - yep, the building is almost vacant. Sweet.



In the last week, I have spent some time on the phone with the state Department of Education. I have spoken to The Boy's Service coordinator...and something, my friends, smells fishy in Denmark.

Based on the state's recommendation, I typed up a letter requesting a new IEP meeting; The Mister hand delivered them to the Special Ed office AND to the school superintendent - the very same superintendent who did NOT respond an email I sent about The Boy just a day prior. 

While waiting for a response, I also spoke to the Freshman counselor, since they mailed a flyer about Freshman Orientation - I asked if The Boy should attend, and she told me it would not be necessary. They'd be discussing schedules and graduation requirements.


So The Boy isn't a Freshman? He's not going to have a schedule, or graduate? Huh.


A bit later, I got a response from the superintendent. He suggested that we wait a month for the IEP meeting.


Since two out of the last three years, The Boy has had a meltdown that led to his arrest during the first week in school, do you think I want to wait a month before we set ground rules for discipline and decide how to de-fuse an outburst?


Nosiree, gentlemen.


Today, another call from the Special Ed guy, who has just returned from his vacation (boy, I'd like to have been in his office when he listened to HIS voice mail)...


Yes, The Boy should attend Orientation. I should attend with him. And following orientation, The Boy and I will adjourn to the Special Ed office with the director and Brand Spanky New, the teacher/coach. Mr. Special Ed said that the teacher was indeed certified - and where did I hear otherwise?


Oops, I guess he didn't remember telling me when he called me to get me off his to-do list before he went on vacation.


Oh, I know the teacher's name now (I have two pet names for him - here, I'll refer to him as Brand Spanky New). And I Googled him. I know that his degree is in General Studies, and that his career aspiration is to be....drum roll please


A baseball coach. 


So, no teaching degree, let alone special education degree. A local boy, baseball hero. His dad is even the American Legion team manager of the World Series participant team (and sonny boy was a coach).


Apparently, there's some law that makes this totally okey dokey. If a real job candidate can't be located (or they just fired all the other CERTIFIED special ed teachers they had), the school district may apply to get an emergency certificate - which allows Brand Spanky New to teach while attending classes - with the goal that he does get certified.


Not sure how that will help in the middle of a meltdown, but we'll see.


I'll be calling the nice lady at the state office tomorrow...I'm so glad she gave me her personal number.

WAIT, WAIT, let me tell you the BEST part: Guess what the school districts motto is?

Scroll down (make sure you've visited the potty first)
























"EXCELLENCE EXPECTED, NO EXCUSES"
  
No shit.

10 comments:

  1. OHEMGEE are you POSITIVE you don't live in my hinky dink county?? Cause this sosounds like the issues I had for MY son.. who is bipolar. Except toss in the HS Principal as his bully yeah .. I let him drop out and he got his GED 6 months later.

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  2. I'm so sorry that you have to go through all of this. We are the best advocates for our kids.

    Hang in there with the calls, emails and letters. You and The Boy are both in my thoughts.

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  3. You have got to be kidding. A baseball coach and not a certified teacher? It sounds like a bunch of crazies!

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  4. OMGosh! I worked in the behavior program at our middle school and how do you NOT have a certified special ed teacher in there? Well...my prayers are certainly with you and the Boy!!!

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  5. Something smells very fishy indeed...I know you must be so angry and frustrated because I know I sure as hell would be

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  6. The Boy is very very lucky to have you!

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  7. Oh Jesus. This sucks. This is wrong. They are putting children's lives behind the need for a new baseball coach, the bastards. Part of me hopes the Boy does a number on the new teacher, but that would just end up being bad for him and you. I wish you the very very very best of luck with this. Sounds like you're going to need it.

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  8. Not much I can say but that I will be praying for all of you this month. I know it's got to be tough. Don't pretend to understand at all - but you definitely have my prayers.

    (((HUGS)))

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  9. Incredible. I'm impressed with your fighting spirit-- you know how many other parents know anything about Brand Spanky New? None. They'll just accept that he can teach because they trust the system. Kind of like my parents when I got a shop teacher for math. Needless to say I had to pay for extra classes when I went to college to catch me up to a basis math ability. You go girl, do NOT give up!

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  10. That is super crazy!!! All of it! I don't even want to think about what lies ahead.

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Thanks for stopping by. I love your comments...I get all warm inside just reading them!