In Tuesday’s post, I alluded to the fact that I had spent a good portion of the afternoon dealing with some school drama. I thought it might be valuable to document my experience, for both my own personal records, and possibly, to help other parents dealing with the same issues. I will make attempts at brevity, but if you’ve read my blog EVER, you should know that it’s not likely.
Kind of quick background on my daughter…I will be posting more about the journey that has led us here soon, since a very important anniversary is fast approaching. But for now, I’m trying to focus on school. So, yeah…quick background:
Sadie, my oldest child is a little over two-and-a-half years old. Shortly before her first birthday, she was diagnosed with Williams Syndrome after the discovery of a heart condition. Her greatest challenges have been the heart condition and developmental delays, though both are considered mild. Since her diagnosis, she has been in Early Intervention and Speech therapy constantly, and physical and occupational therapy for shorter periods of time. She has done very well in all therapies, and consistently tests in the lower “normal” range or just below the normal range for her age.
We received a letter a few months ago saying that we would be contacted by the “preschool transition coordinator” for our school district soon, to discuss Sadie’s entrance in the public school developmental delay Pre-Kindergarten three-year-old class. When we hadn’t heard anything this past Monday, I asked Sadie’s EI (Early Interventionist) if she could get in touch with this coordinator and find out what was up.
Maybe thirty minutes after she left, she called me. She got in touch with the coordinator, and we would be having a conference with her next Monday during our scheduled therapy session. It would be the two of us (Kyla and me), Sadie, the EI, and the preschool transition coordinator. We would be going over our questions for the coordinator, she would be giving us an overview of the process, and she would do the preliminary screening to determine if Sadie will qualify for the program.
And then she told me what school she would be going to. They didn’t have the program Sadie needs at the school we’re zoned for, so she would go to another school.
As soon as we got off the phone, I jumped on the computer. After about five minutes, I was very unhappy. I tried to give it a second chance…another chance to find something positive about the school. After another twenty minutes, I was heartbroken. My vision of my daughter being educated at the lovely, historic, community-driven, program-rich school that we’re zoned for went up in flames.
The school they want to send her to…I wouldn’t slow down in this neighborhood in the middle of the day, much less leave one of the absolute most important things in the entire world to me there for two hours every day with complete strangers. And I’ve lived in some rough neighborhoods…like shootings on my block neighborhoods.
Searches for the school they want to send her to bring up “Worst Schools In South Carolina” lists and school choice voucher editorials and quotations from the principal explaining why a 26% literacy rate is not an accurate measure of the school’s performance.
Anyone who is a mother can surely understand how I would immediately go into angry/raging/she-lion/panic/attack mode. You want to send my child WHERE?! This is supposed to help her transition into a school setting and give her a better start to her educational career by sending her somewhere that can barely TEACH A QUARTER OF THEIR FIFTH GRADERS TO READ?!
I’m not a snob, and I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. We are far from classy, and I know it. I don’t mind if my child goes to a school with purple people who eat shoe laces…as long as it is a good school with good teachers and the programs that can help my daughter learn.
I yelled at Kyla Brown no less than five times that night. I had to yell at someone. I have anger issues. He will be rewarded, somehow, for his amazing ability to deal with me in times such as these. He is calm, understanding, and, usually, very supportive. So glad that I married him.
Though, given the current circumstances, it might have been nice to marry some high ranking school board official. Too bad he would never win an election, or I’d be signing him up tomorrow.
Anyway, I researched. I looked at every bit of information I could find about our district and every elementary school in it. I poured over the web sites of local, state, and federal departments of education, third-party rating sites, message boards and blogs looking for dirt. (I’ll add a list of resources that I’ve used in the near future).
Unfortunately, it seems that there are no blogging mommies or message board mommies with first-hand experience with this school they want to send her to. Part of me sees that as a really bad sign. I like to see first-hand accounts posted on the internet, because it feels like the parents are more involved, you know? But if you put your ear to the blogosphere ground for a mention of this school…*crickets*
The Results and Realizations of how Public School Works
I’ve come to realize that the school district would purposefully place special programs (developmental delay, advanced placement, Montessori, etc.) into these schools that were barely scraping by in order to attract students whose families were more involved, thereby raising the chance for improvement throughout the school.
While I understand trying to save these schools by bringing in more involved families, I don’t want my child’s education to be sacrificed in order to help a school and other children who will go there in the future. It’s not that I don’t care about other people’s children (or the schools in our community), but I certainly don’t care about them as much as I care about my own children and their future.
I found out that, through poor performance for the past four years, students going to this school have to be offered school choice. Unfortunately, the “choice” is between this school and two other district-selected schools, which are maybe half of a baby step better than this one. Also, being considered “special needs,” her choices are even more limited. So, it won’t help us, because I’m not going to settle for her to have a “below-average” education.
I started calling people. I’ve yet to make all of my calls, because there are only so many hours in a day, but I’ve made a list of everyone I know who has been inside of a school in the past three years, and I plan to call them all this week. I don’t know enough about what could happen and what I should want to happen. I don’t know how the process works.
I did talk to a family member, who was very helpful. She brought up the point that I should go visit the classrooms before I pass judgment about any school. I agree, of course, that it would make sense, but the thought never occurred to me until she said it. Maybe I was in battle mode from the moment I realized they wouldn’t be sending her to the school we’re zoned for, a school which was a major factor in our decision to buy this house in the first place. I’ve added “schedule visits to all possible elementary schools” to my to-do list.
Where We Are Now
I do want her to get school experience that may make the difference between her entering first grade in a self-contained special education classroom (which would hold her back, in my opinion) and a mainstream classroom (which is my preference). I would like for her to get that experience at a public school, both for financial and personal reasons.
But I will not be sending her to a school that I’m not one hundred percent confident will prepare her for kindergarten and grade school. These are the most important years of her life from a developmental standpoint, and I won’t squander them just to get her used to a classroom setting.
I’m going to get as much info from the people I know as I can, and decide what I want to have happen. Then I’ll meet with the coordinator next week and try to gauge how helpful she will be in helping me get the information I need from the schools and the district in order to help us make the decision of what to do. It may end up being that this school they want to send her to has the queen of developmental delay early education as the teacher, but I need to know more about all of our options.
Had enough for today? Good…so have I. My brain hurts and my fingers are numb. Check back next Thursday for more school drama in Part Two.