Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lottery Winnings and Losings

In previous posts, I mentioned a situation we have been dealing with regarding school placement, and this weekend that drama unfolded in a way that leaves us facing another decision.

Maybe you have some wisdom that might help? We welcome all thoughtful and supportive insights.

Here is the basic breakdown as I see it of a very complicated situation.

  • In March, we put the Rooster's name on the Open Enrollment list at a school I'll call The W that we heard is more "autism friendly" than the school he attended in kindergarten and first grade. This other school, we hear, has a more actively involved special needs parent body, more active parents overall, a beloved resource teacher, and a very strong principal. We assumed we would not get in, the way you assume you probably aren't going to win the Powerball, but it's surely worth a buck to try.
  • In May, we had our IEP. The Roo's current school generously agreed to increase all kinds of services for our boy, mostly because he struggles so much with math and he has extremely slow processing skills. Oh, yeah, and monumental ADD. But every person at that table, without exception, acknowledged what a great boy he is, and that he is bright and charming and learning a lot, with help...
  • In June, the W called and said we had won the lottery, (and no that is not a metaphor I'm extending, it's an actual lottery where they supposedly draw names at random to be FAIR) and that our boy would be able to attend their school. Thrilled, my husband and I rushed over to sign the papers a week later as instructed. When we got there, it seems they had discovered my son's IEP. (We had not hidden anything, we completed our application fully and honestly.) The woman who greeted us at the reception desk explained that my son could not go to that school after all. She said, "We are a small school, and we already have a lot of kids with autism."
  • This next bullet point represents my husband morphing kind of like Bruce Banner into Lou Ferrigno on some level, and while he remained respectful at all times on the outside, he popped some serious muscles of indignation and outrage on the inside. Let's just say lawyers, civil rights experts, district officials, and experts in education immediately heard from my husband, all in his admirably polite but clear and definitive terms. Let's just say that my husband is a professional writer, and he used the tools of his trade to make his perspective absolutely clear. "This is not just the back of the bus," he explained, "this is being dragged from behind the bus, and it is NOT right, and it will not stand."
  • So this weekend we got a call and an official email from the district saying that the principal has been instructed to enroll our son on August 25, and we should go to the school to meet with her again on that date.
My husband needed to fight this because he knew he could not let injustice score another point against a child, our child, and he feels deeply gratified that he prevailed. That does not mean, however, that we are at all certain we now want to send our boy to the school that does not want him, where we have clearly made some enemies. It's very complicated, of course... but we have a month to figure out what to do next.

Keep him at his old school, where parents have made us feel heartbroken, the kindergarten teacher probably deserved to be fired, and all three of the first grade teachers he had seemed good but only lasted a matter of months? But on the other hand, at his old school, he had some really good service providers, a wonderful IEP, and people who find him adorable. They have told us that we are wanted there, and that's not for nothing, though it is a school with lots of room for improvement, and possibly at risk.

Or move him to the new W school, where the principal has us flagged as troublemakers, we don't know anyone else, and the amazing special ed resource teacher everyone has gushed about for the last 4 years is leaving anyway? But it's a nicer campus with more stability and resources, and better programs.

I didn't even mention the wild card that our daughter, Peaches, is starting kindergarten in a charter school next year. That means a year from now, she should be able to pull in her brother, as a sibling, and we'll have to consider what THOSE changes might mean, besides even more transitions for a boy who doesn't navigate them with particular grace and agility.

So, if you have a positive, encouraging comment to leave, we welcome it. (Of course, trolls and critics need not apply; comments will be moderated thankyouverymuch.)

For now, we breathe a little easier, at least, knowing that we have a choice at all.


kim mccafferty said...

Wow, what a chess game... While all the moving parts are important, which school has the teacher who is the best fit for your son next year? I find with my oldest son I have to take one year at a time, and we've been in a position recently that was commensurate with this one. In the end we simplified a bit, and looked at the educators, and chose with that information in mind. It was really complicated, as this case is, but I've found that the other issues are always at least somewhat resolvable. Your child's main instructor, depending upon ability, temperament, and willingness to tailor his/her instruction to your son's needs, may not be.

Another thought... I'm guessing if you reject the lottery placement, you might not have another chance to get him in there. I know how disruptive changing placements is to our kids, but I'm assuming he could return to his current school if it didn't work out. Just food for thought. People might come around, and not hold grudges.

I have a strong feeling you know all this already, but sometimes it just helps to hear the perspective of another educator. I wish you and your husband the best of luck in your final decision. Looking forward to hearing how it all turns out!

Gloriana Beausoleil said...

Oh, dear. If it were me, I would probably keep Roo in the first school, and be vigilant with monitoring his progress. In my experience, though love is an essential part of any child's life, our kids need more than just love at school. They need solid guidance, professionally-trained therapists and teachers, and lessons that make a difference in their development.

Because of the opportunity to have Peaches 'pull' him into her school next year, I would likely choose to keep the number of school transitions to a minimum at this point. Bravo to Father for not backing down.

My heart is with you.

redheadmomma said...

the trouble is, you have no crystal ball! You better get one of those! lol

So this one aikido place was not a good fit for Maya. I finally relented and paid to get out of it (not cheap) and she asked if she could go back sometime.

"No," I said. "Because it will be exactly the same." Same teacher, same teachings, same environment, same everything. And it obviously wasn't a good fit with her.

Don't assume you have a big "bitch" on your head at that new school. If I worked there, I'd just assume it was nothing personal, that any parent worth their salt would fight.

I'd probably try it, and give it a bit; and you'll know if it's the right fit or not. If it's not the right fit, he can always return to where he was before.

The trump, however, is if he has a truly hard time with transitions to new things, and only you - and really, he - can answer that.