One is making sure all principals are up to speed on the legal issues of Special Ed. Many aren't and it can make for difficult conversations between parents and principals over accommodations under the law.
Another is the issue that since the Education Directors' positions are being revamped, should their new job description include watching over Special Ed at the schools they cover? Currently, they don't do this.
The parents at the meeting were asking Harium how to get this discussion in front of the Board. He told them that it could be put on the agenda at a committee meeting but that it would be better to have it at a Work Session as that is a meeting with the entire Board present. He said those Work Sessions are currently full up to about July. He also said something interesting about the parents coming to give a presentation. I questioned if that was possible because I thought the presentations had to come from staff but he said just because it hadn't been done before didn't mean it couldn't be done. Okay then, so keep that in mind. If you have a group, it can't hurt to ask to present to the Board at a Work Session on that topic.
The parents also stated that they felt that Marni Campbell, the head of Special Ed, tended to tell parents a lot of "happy talk". Harium said that Ms. Campbell had been pretty frank and serious in her presentations to the Board.
Then there was some discussion over alternative schools. I agree; the new SAP calls them Option schools but is there a difference between Option and alternative? The frustration here is over the alternative schools audit and why the district seems to keep postponing this discussion. My take after watching this for awhile is that the district doesn't really know what it wants. I'm not sure they like the parent/staff partnership at alts (we know how Dr. G-J feels about parents and their ability to give objective input) and would love to somehow restructure those schools but can't figure out how to do it.
Then there's the issue of what qualifies as alt. One issue, for example, is at the Schools page at SPS's website. You would think that we have 7 alts and that's not true. (Side note: I mentioned to Harium that Thorton Creek got put in this pull-down menu and no other alt. He said that because of "coding" problems, the district can't seem to fix this and move Thorton Creek. What? File this one under the VAX and other mysteries of SPS computing.)
So what do we have?
- K-8s. What are they? The district used to call them non-traditional (think Blaine which has a traditional curriculum) versus alternative (Salmon Bay). They are widely accepted in this district so what should they be labeled or it is more about the offerings?
- foreign language immersion - not alternative but not traditional. Looking at the drop-down menus at the Schools page, you'd have look for International in the name to figure this one out. To me, a school that teaches in a language other than English IS alternative. But that's me. That they are neighborhood schools also seems odd. Until you have them in all corners of this district so that there is even a chance for every child to access them, I think they should be Option schools.
- then we have alts but TOPS is somewhat alt light versus Nova which is very alt. And yet, most of our long-time alts are very popular and have people waiting to get in. So why do we replicate foreign language immersion programs and not one alt?
- Montessori - part of a couple of "regular" elementaries yet clearly alt and again, popular. We still haven't done much duplication here.
I only stayed for an hour. If you attended the rest of the meeting or Peter or Sherry's meetings, let us know. (I know a few of you mentioned Sherry's meeting and some boundaries discussions around JSIS.)