Archive for August 2010

It's a conspiracy…a C-O-N-spiracy!   3 comments

Last week I wrote about the plight of one Gwinnett parent, whose child has a disability. At the time, we thought dealing with the ignorance would be contained to Special Education issues but as I learned this morning, we were both wrong. Dead wrong. This is the text I received this morning:

‘Guess what Monise, the principal of Meadowcreek had the Parent Coordinator tell me that he doesn’t want me to volunteer any more because I spoke up at the Title I meeting held on Friday here at Meadowcreek HS. And that my interest isn’t in the best interest for the school.”

I couldn’t believe that (actually I could but didn’t think any person was actually dumb enough to tell the parent of a child they could not volunteer, especially when federal dollars are tied to Parent Centers). In fact, I am still a little shocked and a whole lotta pissed. Why? Because we have heard people say that parents, especially those of the Black and Brown hues, do not care about education because we only show-up for sporting events or when our kids are in trouble. Here we have a parent, armed with the assistance of an (free) advocate, a grasp of Special Education Law and No Child Left Behind (NCLB), who asks some questions (apparently the right ones) about the qualifications of her child’s teacher. How does the administration respond? The same way they usually do when they realize people are ‘on to them:’ They shut down and the walls go up. READ: ‘She knows too much and we don’t want her in this building everyday, talking to other parents and informing them of their rights.’ Kinds sounds like the reasoning slave owners used to keep slaves from learning to read. Only this time, the overseer (principal) is Black. Yep, direct descendant of Uncle Tom.

Now let me break-down the steps of the Conspiracy Theory:

  1. Talking heads and education ‘experts’ say parents don’t care. READ: Black, Brown, and low SES parents don’t care about education;
  2. Federal government waives extra money at districts to create Parent Centers to increase parental involvement;
  3. Districts indoctri, er…. hire people they know will only give parents enough information, but not too much;
  4. Said people mentioned in #3 should, when possible, be members of said disinterested parental groups, also known as tokenism in an effort to thwart any claims of racism when the superintendent says something stupid;
  5. Once this Parent Center is established, make sure that the building principal has complete control and liberty to select volunteers (yes, that’s an oxymoron);
  6. Any parent who asks questions of the Stepford Parent Coordinator should be annihilated immediately. Inform them that their services as a volunteer are no longer needed.
  7. If steps 1-6 are followed as directed, you can continue to assert (lie) that Black, Brown, and low SES students cannot and will not learn because their parents do not care about education;
  8. Repeat as often as necessary to perpetuate the opportunity gap.

Sometimes I feel like I am living in a bad dream..people can’t really be this stupid and careless, can they?

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It’s a conspiracy…a C-O-N-spiracy!   4 comments

Last week I wrote about the plight of one Gwinnett parent, whose child has a disability. At the time, we thought dealing with the ignorance would be contained to Special Education issues but as I learned this morning, we were both wrong. Dead wrong. This is the text I received this morning:

‘Guess what Monise, the principal of Meadowcreek had the Parent Coordinator tell me that he doesn’t want me to volunteer any more because I spoke up at the Title I meeting held on Friday here at Meadowcreek HS. And that my interest isn’t in the best interest for the school.”

I couldn’t believe that (actually I could but didn’t think any person was actually dumb enough to tell the parent of a child they could not volunteer, especially when federal dollars are tied to Parent Centers). In fact, I am still a little shocked and a whole lotta pissed. Why? Because we have heard people say that parents, especially those of the Black and Brown hues, do not care about education because we only show-up for sporting events or when our kids are in trouble. Here we have a parent, armed with the assistance of an (free) advocate, a grasp of Special Education Law and No Child Left Behind (NCLB), who asks some questions (apparently the right ones) about the qualifications of her child’s teacher. How does the administration respond? The same way they usually do when they realize people are ‘on to them:’ They shut down and the walls go up. READ: ‘She knows too much and we don’t want her in this building everyday, talking to other parents and informing them of their rights.’ Kinds sounds like the reasoning slave owners used to keep slaves from learning to read. Only this time, the overseer (principal) is Black. Yep, direct descendant of Uncle Tom.

Now let me break-down the steps of the Conspiracy Theory:

  1. Talking heads and education ‘experts’ say parents don’t care. READ: Black, Brown, and low SES parents don’t care about education;
  2. Federal government waives extra money at districts to create Parent Centers to increase parental involvement;
  3. Districts indoctri, er…. hire people they know will only give parents enough information, but not too much;
  4. Said people mentioned in #3 should, when possible, be members of said disinterested parental groups, also known as tokenism in an effort to thwart any claims of racism when the superintendent says something stupid;
  5. Once this Parent Center is established, make sure that the building principal has complete control and liberty to select volunteers (yes, that’s an oxymoron);
  6. Any parent who asks questions of the Stepford Parent Coordinator should be annihilated immediately. Inform them that their services as a volunteer are no longer needed.
  7. If steps 1-6 are followed as directed, you can continue to assert (lie) that Black, Brown, and low SES students cannot and will not learn because their parents do not care about education;
  8. Repeat as often as necessary to perpetuate the opportunity gap.

Sometimes I feel like I am living in a bad dream..people can’t really be this stupid and careless, can they?

I'd prefer, 'Changing Demographics.' Thank you.   4 comments

During the past year or so, we have been bombarded with stories about what works in education, whose to blame for the current situation, blah, blah, blah. Honestly, I thought I had seen it all, or at least developed some degree of immunity. Heck, I don’t even read stuff about ‘that woman’ in D.C. anymore because I am possibly the only person who will publicly state that if her name was Tanika Jackson, she would not be able to get away with that shi behavior. Anyway, as I am updating Twitter with what’s going on ed-wise in Atlanta, I came across a blog post from Maureen Downey-who writes the AJCGetSchooled blog.

In one of her weekly posts, Downey discusses the issues going on in DeKalb County, the state’s third largest district, and whether the state should intervene. Earlier this year the superintendent was indicted on racketeering and theft charges (who says the mafia is dead?) and now allegations of nepotism have (finally) surfaced. According to Downey:

‘But the county has changed, and there are far more hard-to-educate children now than when DeKalb was a bedroom community of Atlanta. Those days aren’t going to come back because the easiest-to-educate kids now live in Alpharetta and Peachtree City. Poorer children, immigrant children and children whose own parents didn’t go to college have a longer way to go than the  students whose parents bought them the Tolkien trilogy when the kids were still in diapers and send them to math camp.”

In the next paragraph, she explains her comment by stating that it is not a ‘slur’ on the county. That is an interesting defense of an obviously insensitive generalization. First, who believes that some children, e.g., African-American, Latino, and low-income, are hard-to-educate? Those student groups comprise the majority in DeKalb County’s schools and in most neighborhoods. I do not doubt that she chose DeKalb for it’s diversity, but I would wager that her neighborhood school does not depict a true reflection of the larger community.

While reading her post, I started asking myself some questions:

1. What, or who-the-hell, is a ‘hard-to-educate’ child?

2. What, or who-the-hell, are the ‘easiest-to-educate’ children?

3. How can you tell the difference between the two?

I am not a trained journalist, but I can think of at least two other non-offensive ways in which to describe the changes that have occurred in DeKalb, and other metro-Atlanta districts, over the past 10-20 years. Perhaps my race and ethnicity have a lot to do with that, but I prefer to believe that my sensitive nature stems from my upbringing and common sense. Furthermore, I refuse to allow anyone, especially an outsider, to lay blame for what ails urban schools at the feet of the children. After all, they were not holding signs, spitting on, or attacking kids who dared to integrate them and they did not make the decisions to uphold segregationist practices by covertly dismantling district-wide transfer programs.

The message and potential lesson here: Members of the media have a (sometimes too) significant impact on how different groups of people view each other. We need to continue to hold them accountable when they publish insensitive and borderline racist remarks. This instance is no different. Like my Granny always said: ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it.’ She was right about a lot of things.

I’d prefer, ‘Changing Demographics.’ Thank you.   4 comments

During the past year or so, we have been bombarded with stories about what works in education, whose to blame for the current situation, blah, blah, blah. Honestly, I thought I had seen it all, or at least developed some degree of immunity. Heck, I don’t even read stuff about ‘that woman’ in D.C. anymore because I am possibly the only person who will publicly state that if her name was Tanika Jackson, she would not be able to get away with that shi behavior. Anyway, as I am updating Twitter with what’s going on ed-wise in Atlanta, I came across a blog post from Maureen Downey-who writes the AJCGetSchooled blog.

In one of her weekly posts, Downey discusses the issues going on in DeKalb County, the state’s third largest district, and whether the state should intervene. Earlier this year the superintendent was indicted on racketeering and theft charges (who says the mafia is dead?) and now allegations of nepotism have (finally) surfaced. According to Downey:

‘But the county has changed, and there are far more hard-to-educate children now than when DeKalb was a bedroom community of Atlanta. Those days aren’t going to come back because the easiest-to-educate kids now live in Alpharetta and Peachtree City. Poorer children, immigrant children and children whose own parents didn’t go to college have a longer way to go than the  students whose parents bought them the Tolkien trilogy when the kids were still in diapers and send them to math camp.”

In the next paragraph, she explains her comment by stating that it is not a ‘slur’ on the county. That is an interesting defense of an obviously insensitive generalization. First, who believes that some children, e.g., African-American, Latino, and low-income, are hard-to-educate? Those student groups comprise the majority in DeKalb County’s schools and in most neighborhoods. I do not doubt that she chose DeKalb for it’s diversity, but I would wager that her neighborhood school does not depict a true reflection of the larger community.

While reading her post, I started asking myself some questions:

1. What, or who-the-hell, is a ‘hard-to-educate’ child?

2. What, or who-the-hell, are the ‘easiest-to-educate’ children?

3. How can you tell the difference between the two?

I am not a trained journalist, but I can think of at least two other non-offensive ways in which to describe the changes that have occurred in DeKalb, and other metro-Atlanta districts, over the past 10-20 years. Perhaps my race and ethnicity have a lot to do with that, but I prefer to believe that my sensitive nature stems from my upbringing and common sense. Furthermore, I refuse to allow anyone, especially an outsider, to lay blame for what ails urban schools at the feet of the children. After all, they were not holding signs, spitting on, or attacking kids who dared to integrate them and they did not make the decisions to uphold segregationist practices by covertly dismantling district-wide transfer programs.

The message and potential lesson here: Members of the media have a (sometimes too) significant impact on how different groups of people view each other. We need to continue to hold them accountable when they publish insensitive and borderline racist remarks. This instance is no different. Like my Granny always said: ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it.’ She was right about a lot of things.

On re-engaging parents, the PTA has a lot of work to do   2 comments

So 3 weeks into the school year, and I decided to give this PTA thing another chance. I will admit that I only attended one meeting last year and I will explain why (not that I need to). At last year’s meeting, everyone in attendance received a copy of the PTA’s projected budget for that school year. It’s part of my nature to read (and re-read) anything handed to me, so that time was no different. As I scanned the projected budget, I noticed that the PTA listed a $20,000 contribution to the school. Hmmmm. I thought, “Why in the hell would the PTA want to donate that kind of money to the school? Especially since this is a Title I school and there’s no money to carryover from last year? So, I asked one of the board members and a few parents to see if they knew; no one did. That really bothered me, on so many levels.

Despite my reservations, I made an effort to stay involved. I became Room Parent for my then 3rd grader’s class; the Kindergarten teacher had a ParaPro so she didn’t need as much help. I often sent classroom snacks to both teachers, went on field trips, etc. But I have to admit that chaos and disorganization are two of my biggest pet peeves and my interaction with the ‘school’ was limited to the aforementioned activities. Communication from the PTA often came late, or not at all; the Teacher Appreciation Week celebration was ill-planned. Any time one parent asks another (during the week of the celebration) what they are supposed to send, there is definitely a communication problem. Sadly, that was not the first issue with the PTA.

Well, new school year-new attitude (for me, at least). I made a commitment to get more involved with the PTA this year; I even emailed all the members to express an interest in doing so. No one ever responded, but I overlooked that. So I was excited to attend the ‘General Meeting’ ( pay attention to that phrase) held this past Monday. As I stood in line waiting the enter the cafeteria, I overheard the girl at the table asking parents for the membership cards:

Me: ‘Do we have to have a card to attend the meeting?’

Her: ‘Yes, I think so. Let me check.’ So she asks one of the Co-Presidents, who confirms.

Me: Are you serious? Why do you need a membership for a ‘General Meeting?’ (Not general membership meeting, just a general  meeting-there is a difference.)

Co-President: Well we are voting today and only members can vote.

Me: I understand how non-profits work, as I have developed one and sit on the board of another. But my point is this: You all sent home flyers, to every kid in this school, stating there would be a ‘General Meeting.’ Nowhere on the flyer did it state that the meeting was only open to parents who officially joined the PTA.

Co-President: Well, you are welcome to join the PTA and attend the meeting.

Me: (She has no idea how far I’ve come as I’ve aged, but my babies are standing next to me so I better keep it together.) Again, you are missing my point: This was not advertised as a members only meeting, hence my insistence upon sitting in. Furthermore, I do not plan to officially join until I see how things are run. (Reaching my level, I stood to the side to gather my composure. Another PTA member walked past me, so I asked her if she could answer some questions for me.) I came early so I could attend the PTA meeting but I was told that I couldn’t sit in unless I was an official member.

Other PTA Member: Who told you that? We want you here. You can stay and join the PTA. We need all the parents we can get. (Again, she missed the point but at least she listened.)

Me: Your fellow board members told me that. Look, people complain that parents are not involved but when we try to get involved we have to deal with drama and people who obviously don’t know what’s going on. The flyer said ‘General Meeting.’

Other PTA Member: I understand what you’re saying. And you are right, the flyer did not say it was only open to current members.

Long story short: She talked to the other members (I am sure I was all kinds of crazy b@*&%$#, but I don’t care) and she told me that I could sit in on the meeting. But why all the drama? If you are really trying to re-engage parents, why make it so difficult, especially when it’s obvious that none of the members have the slightest clue as to the correct manner of conducting a meeting? I can see this is going to be a long and very interesting school year…..

Everyone is not built to be a chief.

Special Education: Doing the 'Right Thing' even when nobody's looking   Leave a comment

A few days ago, I wrote a blog about a parent I met this summer. Her son was diagnosed with several disabilities, but the story is the same: Parent of a child with a disability is completely overwhelmed with jargon and paperwork; s/he doesn’t understand any of it. Naively, s/he believes that the school/district have her child’s best interest at heart. I have seen this too many times, and not just in Georgia. The parent I met this summer lives in Ohio; I have also helped two parents who live in Indiana. This goes beyond coincidence. And it needs to stop.

So as I talked with this other parent last week, my frustration returned. I couldn’t help but wonder how other parents would feel so I thought I would ask you (that means you have to actually respond!). So, if you were (or actually are) the parent of a child with a disability, how would you feel if:

  1. Your child spent the first 2 weeks of school with a building sub instead of a certified and ‘Highly Qualified’ Special Education teacher? (Considering how often the education experts are always mentioning the importance of qualified teachers, this should be important, right?)
  2. When you ask the building administrator (‘leader’) why there is no qualified teacher assigned to the class, he responds: Well we have interviewed several people. I didn’t click with some of them but we have someone who will likely be hired by next Friday (August 27th), provided all the paperwork is completed and everything goes as planned.’ (GTFOH with that BS)
  3. After speaking with the ‘leader’ of the school, you speak with the Special Education Department Chair. In an effort to rectify the situation, she offers to do a student ‘swap.’ That is, she offers to remove a kid from the certified and ‘Highly Qualified’ teacher’s room to make room for your kid. (See parenthetical comments for #2 and repeat.)
  4. When given options about placement, you (parent) decide to withdraw your child and enroll him/her in another school that has the correct Special Education program and qualified staff. ‘Leader’ completes withdrawal paperwork and sends you to School B. You arrive at School B, where Special Education staff tells you that they have room for your child. Unfortunately, you cannot enroll your child on that day because School A did not give you all the required records/paperwork. You inform staff that you will return in the morning to enroll your child.
  5. (Next day) You contact School B to make sure that you can still enroll your child. You are told that there is no room available. Within less than 24 hours. After you drove from School A to School B and back to School A the previous day. (You already know.)
  6. Well, 2 weeks of the school year have already passed and you need to find a placement for your child. What do you do? Look at the list of schools accepting transfers. You decide that you need to find someplace for her to go and PDQ (Pretty Dam Quick) because you don’t want to have to deal with attendance issues with the district. So you settle on a school that is 16 miles away from your house. Each way. Four times a day. That’s 64 miles a day. Five times a week. No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of driving that will require a lot of gas for the car. For a single, unemployed parent that’s a lot of money.

So, what would you do if you were in this situation? The mom is pretty upset and I have already made some phone calls and sent some really ‘official’ sounding letters. People are starting to get nervous because: (1) I will not provide them with her name or the district’s name; and (2) I used the phrase ‘legal representation’ in the letter. Oh well. Sucks to be them because it’s obvious the district has violated the law. It’s really unfortunate because they thought by getting the name of the district they would be able to make things right before the mom has the opportunity to speak with an attorney. No dice. It’s time for people to do the right thing, even if nobody’s looking.

Stay tuned for the next installment in “I swear I couldn’t make-up this crap even if I tried,’ also known as public education.

Special Education: Doing the ‘Right Thing’ even when nobody’s looking   Leave a comment

A few days ago, I wrote a blog about a parent I met this summer. Her son was diagnosed with several disabilities, but the story is the same: Parent of a child with a disability is completely overwhelmed with jargon and paperwork; s/he doesn’t understand any of it. Naively, s/he believes that the school/district have her child’s best interest at heart. I have seen this too many times, and not just in Georgia. The parent I met this summer lives in Ohio; I have also helped two parents who live in Indiana. This goes beyond coincidence. And it needs to stop.

So as I talked with this other parent last week, my frustration returned. I couldn’t help but wonder how other parents would feel so I thought I would ask you (that means you have to actually respond!). So, if you were (or actually are) the parent of a child with a disability, how would you feel if:

  1. Your child spent the first 2 weeks of school with a building sub instead of a certified and ‘Highly Qualified’ Special Education teacher? (Considering how often the education experts are always mentioning the importance of qualified teachers, this should be important, right?)
  2. When you ask the building administrator (‘leader’) why there is no qualified teacher assigned to the class, he responds: Well we have interviewed several people. I didn’t click with some of them but we have someone who will likely be hired by next Friday (August 27th), provided all the paperwork is completed and everything goes as planned.’ (GTFOH with that BS)
  3. After speaking with the ‘leader’ of the school, you speak with the Special Education Department Chair. In an effort to rectify the situation, she offers to do a student ‘swap.’ That is, she offers to remove a kid from the certified and ‘Highly Qualified’ teacher’s room to make room for your kid. (See parenthetical comments for #2 and repeat.)
  4. When given options about placement, you (parent) decide to withdraw your child and enroll him/her in another school that has the correct Special Education program and qualified staff. ‘Leader’ completes withdrawal paperwork and sends you to School B. You arrive at School B, where Special Education staff tells you that they have room for your child. Unfortunately, you cannot enroll your child on that day because School A did not give you all the required records/paperwork. You inform staff that you will return in the morning to enroll your child.
  5. (Next day) You contact School B to make sure that you can still enroll your child. You are told that there is no room available. Within less than 24 hours. After you drove from School A to School B and back to School A the previous day. (You already know.)
  6. Well, 2 weeks of the school year have already passed and you need to find a placement for your child. What do you do? Look at the list of schools accepting transfers. You decide that you need to find someplace for her to go and PDQ (Pretty Dam Quick) because you don’t want to have to deal with attendance issues with the district. So you settle on a school that is 16 miles away from your house. Each way. Four times a day. That’s 64 miles a day. Five times a week. No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of driving that will require a lot of gas for the car. For a single, unemployed parent that’s a lot of money.

So, what would you do if you were in this situation? The mom is pretty upset and I have already made some phone calls and sent some really ‘official’ sounding letters. People are starting to get nervous because: (1) I will not provide them with her name or the district’s name; and (2) I used the phrase ‘legal representation’ in the letter. Oh well. Sucks to be them because it’s obvious the district has violated the law. It’s really unfortunate because they thought by getting the name of the district they would be able to make things right before the mom has the opportunity to speak with an attorney. No dice. It’s time for people to do the right thing, even if nobody’s looking.

Stay tuned for the next installment in “I swear I couldn’t make-up this crap even if I tried,’ also known as public education.