Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Open Enrollment...the crazy-making continues

I said I'd post updates here on a monthly basis - the ongoing saga of those of us displaced by a school closing this year.
...I think I missed last month's. Sorry, all.

I'm in the midst of figuring out where my 3 kids will be attending school. As the oldest is now 13, he gets to have some say in where he's going next year. More so than his sibs, anyhow. And he has some pertinent questions, such as "How strict is the dress code going to be?" "Will I be able to take the 10th grade math class I'm going to need, even though I'll be in 8th grade?" "What does it mean, the names 'traditional' and 'alternative'?" "How am I going to get to school from my Dad's house, if there's no bussing? He lives across the city from here."

The juggling of working full-time so we can scrape by financially with kid schedules, school event schedules, and family meetings (all the kids, me, my spouse, and my ex) to keep us all on the same page is taking a lot more energy than I'd realized...as I'm realizing now, attempting to add in yet another item: that of getting the kids enrolled for school for this next year. See, I thought I had that taken care of for their whole schooling - with the possible exception of them deciding they wanted to attend a different high school. Now, with the only K-12 closing, I'm still scrambling, alternating with reeling as it hits me again, and there is much querying within the school's community as to what's going to work best for each of our kids. We've all kind of hunkered down and are doing the best we can for our own individual families. And that makes me extremely sad, especially as life keeps going on and MGJ keeps coming up with more and more things that appear to be solely for making life difficult for the parents of SPS students.

Bitter? Yes, I think I am. I'm generally keeping my chin up as best as possible...moving forward, etc...and today, with working late, and reading about the Board meeting, etc, I'm bitter again.

I'm tired, and looking forward to this whole thing being over. And as I told my kids the other day, if they start school in the fall and hate where they've gotten placed, we'll start doing the "transfer to another school" process as needed.

My personal best wishes to all others going through the same morass of chaos.

28 comments:

Beth Bakeman said...

Thank you, Sabia, for posting. I think it's really important that the Board, staff and public understand the real-life implications of the decisions that are made.

Good luck to you and your kids during this transition.

dan dempsey said...

Sabia said:
MGJ keeps coming up with more and more things that appear to be solely for making life difficult for the parents of SPS students.

Most of this is predicated on MGJ's idea that greater uniformity is beneficial. There is little to support this idea that greater uniformity is beneficial.

As Sabia point out the demise of a k-12 school brought no benefit to her family.

SPSMom said...

I have two questions. Is the new Jane Addams K-8 not an option for your children?

And if your son would have been entering 8th grade as a Summit student, did they have a math track that allowed students to take classes two years ahead?

If so that is real downgrade in "academic services" from Summit to JA K-8.

dave said...

Since JA k-8 is a Spectrum site, it would offer math 2 years ahead. Hale is also right across the street and there has been some talk about partnership with hale for 8th grade spectrum students..

Still not a replacement for having a k-12 environment.

Maureen said...

I thought Spectrum was one year ahead?

Make sure you ask about after school math. TOPS and Blaine both offer them. My kid got through algebra and a chunk of geometry (using traditional texts) and started High School in Math 3H.

Your kids will have the program preference tiebreaker. It seems that many of the K-8s would be a real possibility. Of course you still need to be in the right cluster.

What grades are you looking at? I wouldn't be surprised if TOPS has a few spots in 8th grade--not many people are looking then and that particular class has had more turn over over the years.

Good Luck!

cas said...
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cas said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

Cas, what school are you at? I rarely hear of any Spectrum classes (self-contained) that aren't totally full all grades.

The buying a teacher question is tough. I know it's possible because I know schools do it. If you fund-raise and the money goes through the Alliance for Education (and to your principal), he or she could direct it towards an FTE.

emeraldkity said...

After reading the letter for teachers from Summit, I can't imagine that families who chose Summit, would feel that the incoming program felt welcoming or flexible.

My daughter was at Summit for 6 years, the last ones through middle school. Sixth grade was part of the elementary program, but 7th and 8th graders could take courses with the high school in foreign language, math, music, drama and art

Re class size- I feel that while class size is important, so is ratio. If parents are utilized in early grades, which is often one of the easiest times to get parents, I think you can mitigate teh effect of a large class. I would rather have a class of 30, knowing that I was going to participate in the classroom say 40 hours that year, than give up music or library.

Megan Mc said...

I was told during our budget process that we could by a teacher or part of a teacher as long as we gave the district a deposit for the amount.

cas said...
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Rick said...

First grade classes are larger at our school because there were three Kindergarten classes (one full-day, two half-day) last year, whereas previously, there were two.

Staff has not bought a "new" fourth and fifth grade teacher - the BLT decided to end a 4/5 split after last year, because teaching two different curriculums fully, with "fidelity", following the pacing guide, was not possible, and the students in the split were not getting the same amount of instruction as kids in straight grade level classes. This is especially worrisome when you have kids going off to middle school the next year.

Spectrum classes are full, and the general education classes are smaller only because of where parents choose to send their kids to school, not because of a staff conspiracy.

Keeping two general education classes at each grade level is a good choice, because there are classes coming up that are larger, and will definitely need it.

I am a parent at this school as well, and I feel that the principal is not giving parents accurate information about what staff "wants" and what the budget rules are.

That said, I don't know if PTAs can no longer "buy down" class sizes.

TechyMom said...

I asked about this on the tours at Montlake and McGilvra, both of whom fund extra teachers with PTA money. I had PTA presidents as tour guides on both tours, and they said that they were allowed to do this as long as they kept the building at functional capacity. Montlake has extra teachers for math and reading, who pull out part of the class into the hallway or a PCP space. McGilvra added portables (and maybe gave up a PCP space? I don't remember) so they could have 2 smaller classes at every grade instead of one big one. They have more students total than they did before, but the class sizes are somewhat smaller. Both schools said that they would be able to continue this next year, after I asked about it specifically.

Keepin'On said...

RE buying a teacher:

Your PTA can buy a FTE teacher, but what you have to consider, it that it is an enourmous amount of money. When our school considered it a couple years ago, the amount was approximately 40-50 thousand dollars. As that would have effectively wiped out the PTA budget for the year, it was decided that this was not in the best interest of all students, as it benefited only the students in one particular grade. The other questions that arise are, can your PTA sustain that level of funding year after year? Are all of the parents in your school willing to commit all of your PTA money to fund one teacher? Those are points to think about.

This could be the case at Rick and CAS's school, I don't know.

cas said...
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old salt said...

NE cluster elementary schools were told this year that they would not be able to limit class size with PTSA dollars.

I think PTSAs are still able to contribute to PCP teachers, specialists, IAs and other staff.

The class size issue in NE came up last year, when some schools were required to go above contract limits on class size to accommodate all the kids in the cluster. When buying down class size at one school pushes up class sizes at another school it gets sticky, especially with no 'weighted student formula' advantage for the school taking in the extra kids.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Cas, I think I know what school you are talking about (it starts with a W, no?) and just so you know, when my kids were in Spectrum at this school, Spectrum kids DID mixed in music and PE with other grade level students. The idea was to have all the kids on each grade level knowing everyone. I have no idea why they would stop that because it can lead to a more divided school.

This school also used to manage the budget to keep 1st and 2nd grade classes small to get the reading on track.

I do take a little issue (gently because I believe your heart is in the right place) at these statements:

"It just seems unfair to put the same amount of kids in both programs.

In Spectrum a majority of the kids are independent readers and the classes have way more parent volunteers than the regular program.

I feel Spectrum, both my kids are in the program, should have bigger classes than the regular program and I like the idea of keeping those classes very small."

Because the Spectrum classrooms are able to have more involved parents and kids reading at a higher level (and you would expect that), you believe they should have bigger classes? I don't. I think every administrator and every teacher in that building should be striving for EVERY kid to have their academic needs met.

Just because a kid can read well for their grade level doesn't mean their academic needs are being met and they deserve it as much as any other child.

But I think you are trying to look for a way to bring all the kids up and it is to your credit.

cas said...
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Rick said...

Is it your perception that the general education program is declining, or have parents from the general education program told you this? I just don't know - I am not asking in a snarky way - but I have been impressed with all of the teachers I have seen, the student work on the walls, and know both happy and unhappy parents in the gen. ed. classes, and in Spectrum!

If you really feel that there is a divide that is widening, talk to the principal, the PTA co-presidents, or bring it up at a general PTA meeting (where others may share your point of view but were afraid to speak up).

Keep in mind that there was a principal with mixed reviews who was removed suddenly for illegal behavior, then a very good, but interim principal for half of a year, and now a principal who has failed repeatedly in other settings and was unwisely placed at this school.

Leadership is key to maintaining programs and creating a positive climate. Classrooms need the support of leadership to be successful, both at the building and district level.

I don't blame parents for this, Spectrum or general ed. Ideally, we are all focused on the good of all of the children, but many only have the time and resources to focus on their own child and their classroom. Some are only able to make sure that their child is cared for and has their homework done, and others are practically unpaid full time employees at the school.

All of these parent voices are valuable. I think our own insecurities as parents get in the way of participation and feeling that our voices are valued. The last general PTA meeting was the smallest group I have seen as of yet. Hopefully more people will step up and be vocal, and more general education parent-driven items will be on the agenda.

I also think that people are just overwhelmed by all of the changes and turmoil.

Anyway, I am glad you are here bringing up these issues, CAS.

Rick said...

One more thing, I would think that when you donate to the school, you can earmark it for a certain program - I don't know if this is widely known, or if I am right.

If people want more money going to the tutoring program or are wanting to pay for an aide for K/primary classes, maybe they can do that. Next year is an auction year, and maybe one of those could be the "fund a dream" item.

Kand4mom said...

Cas and Rick,

Are there not parents on the BLT already? I thought they just had a meeting on Friday?

I am surprized the PTA Board doesn't require an even amount of Spectrum/Non? It does feel so many of the parents involved are Spectrum. Rick are your kids in Spectrum?

I am new and not sure were staying. We tested for Spectrum but is not an option for us, and were touring other schools.

I can't say the regular program isn't as good but I get the fibe that it isn't. That's just a newcommers gut feeling.

Rick said...

I don't want to pick on you, CAS, because I have thought these same things and struggled with the same issues you struggle with in your posts.

But:

"Another problem is Spectrum classes are filled with stay at home moms who have so much more time to give their kid both inside and outside the classroom."

Is this really a problem? This from the parent of a Spectrum student (and a regular ed student) who does not have a stay at home parent....and we don't volunteer in the classroom, either. We give in other ways to the school as a whole.

There are Spectrum and general ed. parents who are organizing food drives, Helping Hands, the Book Drive (going on right now!), and other things that do not appear to directly benefit their own children. And tutoring in the tutoring program.

"I just worry that this is leading to two different education tracks within our school."

There are two tracks when there is self-contained Spectrum in a school. You called yourself "lucky" in an earlier post because your kids had this opportunity to be in a different track than regular ed.

And there are plenty of kids in gen.ed. classes who participate in Chess Club and After School Art.

I think we should look at what is currently benefitting all/the most students and build on it, not blame involved parents for being involved, or try to question their ethics and motives for being involved.

Keepin'On said...

cas-

I also would gently ask if you know for a fact that all the regular ed parents are unhappy, etc. I think class progress depends more on the teacher rather than the spectrum/non spectrum classification. Also, it is my understanding that class sizes are being mandated by the district this year - for the first time buildings are no longer going to be allowed to cap enrollment. If you are at a popular school, that means you must increase your class size.

So that can lead to the bigger classes, at all grade levels.

Kand4mom said...

I have heard it is more about teachers. If you can avoid one teacher, in each grade, you child will do fine.
The odds are 50/50.

Kand4mom said...

This burns me that the regular and SPEC doesn't mix for music and PE.

This just looks bad.

Rick, and other Whittier parents, how can you support this?

whittier07 said...

I would hope that all readers take each post with a grain of salt and remember that it is one person's perspective. Whittier is a great school (my opinion)!

I am on the board at Whittier and have never heard that we have students on the wait-list for tutoring. I'm not sure if this is something that the principal should have brought to our attention BUT a parent could also turn in a PTA funding request to increase funding for tutoring at anytime ... it takes a village!

We have discussed trying to buy down class sizes in the general ed classes but have been told that the district is setting class sizes next year. I would love to know how Montlake & McGilvra can do this! If anyone has any info - please post!

I can't speak to how many Spectrum/non-Spectrum parents are on the board because I've never asked them ... it doesn't matter! We are volunteers spending MANY hours trying to help our school. If people have suggestions/concerns, they should let us know! Leave an anonymous note in the office BUT please let us know - we can't know everything that is going on. We have just started the process of nominating next year's board - if you would like to join, let Marie Talcott know.

Lastly, (sorry about the length of this post) in regards to classes mixing at PCP times ... the two K classes mix together but starting at 1st grade there are 3 classes in each grade and only 2 PCP classes (PE & Music) ... so the 2 general ed classes mix so that they have the same schedule and are able to mix & "team teach" to kids' abilities whenever possible. NOT the best solution - I would LOVE for this to change and will be asking how we can do better next year. This is not any conspiracy to keep the Spectrum kids separate, it was a plan so that the two general ed classes could work together to make the general ed classes stronger.

WHEW!

Rick said...

Thank you, Whittier 07, that clears a lot up. My kid doesn't know what Spectrum is, or what "kind" of class he shares music/pe with, so I wouldn't have known.

I think Spectrum is much more of a grown-ups' issue than a kids' issue. Sounds like the schedule focuses on what is best for the general ed. classes, and a better way to do it is open for suggestions....

Rick said...

About avoiding certain teachers - my son had a great kindergarten teacher at another school, and we thought she was the best ever, and some parents couldn't stand her and thought she was too strict. Our son grew so much that year, and we couldn't have been happier, and other parents took their kids out because of this teacher. It is a very individual preference, and rumors can be wrong.