Wednesday, December 05, 2012

FYI on School-Level Concerns

Some of you SPS parents may not be aware but there is a procedure to follow if you have aschool-level concern and if you don't follow it, you may be spinning in circles (without knowing why).

Here's a link to our SPS Ombudsman page that gives many helpful details. 

I put this forth because a parent from one school got up at the most recent Board meeting and said that 22 parents had phoned Superintendent Banda with a concern and he hadn't answered one call. 

As it turns out, he couldn't.  There is a clause in the principals' contract that says a chain of command has to be followed and district staff have to first allow principals the opportunity to solve their own problems.

Meaning, if you have a teacher problem, go to the teacher first.

If you have a principal problem, go to the principal first. 

THEN, you can get district staff involved. 

You can, of course, always write to the the principal and also cc staff and/or the Board (and I recommend that always). 

But you need to start at the school level first. 

13 comments:

Rocketlauncher said...

As a teacher I'm always amazed at how many parents immediately go to the top with the most minor issues.

That used to be considered really petty and unacceptable behavior. When did this change?

So many molehills get turned into mountains this way -- stuff like calls from a parent to the superintendent about a school secretary who reportedly said a certain child isn't allowed to eat lunch anymore. When, in fact, the secretary loaned the student money because he/she forgot theirs and simply said, "please repay it tomorrow so we can use it to pay for another student to eat lunch."

When people start playing the "telephone game" things get mistranslated and blown out of proportion.

I know parents aren't the only ones. Even teachers do it now with each other. Instead of one colleague asking another to switch times for using a computer lab, they will immediately run to the principal ordering a switch because that time is the only time their class can use it.

Just ask first!! We're all human being and we're all in it together.

I've even seen cases where parents immediately filed complaints with the ombudsman and/or OSPI about the most simple, basic misunderstandings that could have been solved by a phone call.

CT said...

Off topic, but yikes!
MGJ died.
http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Report-Former-Seattle-superintendent-Goodloe-Johnson-182285691.html

Kat said...

Not related, but http://www.king5.com/news/Former-Seattle-School-superintendent--182287271.html

-- Kat

Jan said...

I agree, Rocketlauncher. It seems to happen more and more that people don't bother to try to deal with each other on things, before turning it all into a much bigger deal. I catch myself doing it (or tempted to do it) as well. I wish I understood the impulse behind it better, so I could work on my OWN bad behavior here.

Anonymous said...

That is still not an excuse for not responding. At the very least, a response should redirect the caller to the appropriate person or outline the chain of command. Former Supt. Manhas had the decency to respond in some way.

Sped staffer (who appreciates the chain of command but understands the frustration of parents).

Anonymous said...

Just try to get something relating to special education resolved at the building level. If you have a weak and inexperienced sped teacher you hope the geneducators can help. Name one school in the entire district where a principal has been known to competently be helpful on a sped issue. Next you try the education director. That is what you are told to do because they supervise the principals. But wait! They refer you to the Special Education supervisor because it's a SPED issue after all, don't you get it? Then the Special Education supervisor says I have no authority in the building talk to your principal. And around and around it goes. Every day, 100 times/day. Everywhere.

For special education students and families there is no chain of command. That is a fact. That is why special education families should ALWAYS start with the School Board and the Superintendent until he and they fix this situation.

The whole chain of command thing is nonsense where special education is concerned.

Frustrated NE parent

Anonymous said...

Frustrated NE Parent,

Erika Ayers, Daniel Bagely. Also, Stacey McCrath both when she was a principal and in her new role. That woman works her butt off, approaches things from a perspective of helping kids, and doesn't treat parents as the enemy. I am not a Polyana, but I can't deny how hard at least these two women try.

-CM

Anonymous said...

@CM.

Ok that's 2. Out of ... ?

Any others?

FNEP

Anonymous said...

You asked to name one, those are the two I hve delt with! :)

-CM

Anonymous said...

CM - you're lucky, Your kid attends a well resourced program with a history and the experience necessary to teach a wide variety of students. I wouldn't agree that the first step in solving sped problems is going to the school board, but solving problems at the building level is often not possible in sped where discrimination is rampant everywhere you look.

- reader

Anonymous said...

Actually the school district's own policies run afoul of this 'common sense' approach in cases of suspected criminal/unlawful activities, and it would seem most teachers and principals don't even know it:
per SPS policy in cases of abuse and theft for example, concerned public or parents are directed to take it to the principal first.- especially if child safety is part of the concern ( even if it's a classroom , and not school wide issue)
This is good sense too, as it allows the admin, ostenisbly, to fairly investigate the matter before tipping off the potentially criminal employee. I don't know if policy and principal contracts are in conflict here...
I had a situation at my neighborhood elementary school where the teacher, principal and ombudsman all had three different takes on the policy, and argued about which was correct -- leaving me wondering why no one was worried about the kids first & foremost...

N.seattleparent

Anonymous said...

Actually, I dealt with Erika and Stacey at Meany.

-CM

Jan said...

N.seattleparent: you are correct on criminal/abuse issues, of course. On other things, I don't know that there is a single right answer -- but I do know that over a number of years, I worked with several great SPED folks whom I would never have wanted to undercut by taking an issue to the Superintendent, rather than working with them first. I think that in most cases (not involving crimes, abuse, etc.) what you need to do is know the players. Is your principal a problem-solver, or a flunkey? Has your SPED professional showed responsibility and initiative in the past? Is there a level of understanding between you that facilitates problem solving at the class/school level? But I DO know that, for teachers who try hard to make things work, it is very disheartening to hear about a problem from some downtown person (or from the principal, who got it from downtown) rather than from the parent who raised the issue. It all depends on the people.