Wednesday, September 19, 2007

So sorry, not my problem

I just came back from the Muffins for Moms event at the Middle School. (There's another one in the Spring called Donuts for Dads. I hereby propose that we combine the two as Pastries for Parents and get rid of the redundancy.)

Was talking to a friend whom I haven't seen in years while I was trying to get to know a father seated across the table. My friend kept butting into my conversation with the dad, much to my annoyance. (Neo and dad's daughter are becoming fast friends and I want to know him better.) What was her issue? When will the District fully support Marching Band programs?

My quick answer, "Never."

My longer answer, "We have an excellent marching band program, but it's expensive. Last year the District covered some more costs within the Band program, but only those which relate to activities during the school day or within District boundaries."

"But the parents are killing themselves fundraising for this. We have the trip to Hawaii, the transportation to different competitions, the entrance fees for competitions, the uniforms, the instruments; it's really expensive."

"Hun, you're not hearing me. I think it's great that you go to Hawaii, but you're going to have to fundraise for that. I'm not taking money away from the rest of the kids so that sixty kids can fly to Hawaii. The kids should be playing on good quality instruments, but I'm not buying more because the bell on the Sousaphone got dinged. I'm not paying for entrance fees for competitions -- that's a decision for the Band Boosters to make."

"But these kids are so talented! We do so much work for the Boosters. We haven't taken a family vacation in three years. My daughter was in drumline last year, and that was crazy. An hour practice before school, practice every weekend, three practices after school, and only two performances. All of the practices were mandatory."

"Uh huh. But see, you made the decision that it was too much for your daughter. As a District, I don't think it's appropriate to support a program that's that intense. All kids should be able to participate in some level of the drums or drumline. Neo would still be in band if it weren't for the fact that it takes up her only two electives in school, requires practices before school, and has practices every Saturday. She loved fifth grade band, but they only practiced two days after school per week, and those practices weren't mandatory. We just took on the entire cost of the Elementary band program, except for yearly sheet music, which the parents are happy to support. AND Elementary band takes everyone in, whether or not they've ever played an instrument."

"Yeah, I know. Middle School band is a lot of work."

"It's not the work, it's the time and the fact that it interferes with learning. What if you need help with Math and want to go to a Math club? You can't go because you'll get dinged for missing Band practice. That's ridiculous."

"Yes, it is."

"So the District considers Band to be educational during the school day. But after school it's a different program, and we're not supporting a program that interferes with learning."

"But it's expensive and the parents are killing themselves fundraising."

"But that's your choice. You are choosing to enter competitions to buy expensive uniforms and to go to Hawaii."

"Well, Hawaii's different."

"But you brought it up as something you have to fundraise for."

"Yeah, but when is the District going to support Band?"

AAAAGGGGHHH!! Circular argument! AAAGGGHH!

Personally, I hate marching band. Hate it. I love seeing marching bands in parades, don't get me wrong. But WHY aren't kids learning symphonic music? Where are the violinists? The cellists? I know we have some of those in this town. Why can't they be supported? Why is it ONLY marching band instruments and Sousa music? Limited much?

These are the sorts of conversations that a) frustrate the hell out of me and b) make me glad that I'm stepping down from the board.

Now ask me about Special Ed in the District. THAT I should stay on the Board for.

(There's a movement afoot, run by the teacher who lost her mind at the beginning of the year, to oust our Director of Special Ed. The one who advocates that disabled kids should be in the General Ed classroom, where the law mandates they be placed. If we didn't have the Director of Special Ed that we do, my son would have been placed in a County program filled with violent and sexually abused/abusive kids a long time ago. As it is, he's struggling, but he's staying in Gen Ed class as much as he can.)

(Did I ever post about the teacher who threatened the Director at the start of school? Why, yes I did. Yeah, this wacko is the one who wants all the parents to sit in a room to compare notes about services. She's also the one who found out about the details of one of Saul's IEPs and then requested the same program for her son. Snooping through confidential information is Not Allowed, yah big twit. In case you're interested, here's the info on that story from the end of last year. It's the same teacher. Wacko.)

A teacher at his school asked his case worker if her child could go to a summer camp and if the District would pay for it. The case worker sort of looked at her sideways and said, "That's an issue for an IEP." Then the teacher asked, "Is SAUL going to this camp, and is the District paying for it?"

The case manager replied that she was not going to discuss any other child's accommodations and that if the teacher were making a request, then it would have to go through an IEP. Then she called the Director of Special Services and asked for advice. The Director said, "School's over. Get your stuff packed and get the hell out of there."

(As a note here, the camp that my son's going to IS part of an IEP, but it's for patients of a psychologist. You have to be a patient to attend. And yes, I requested it..... It took a grand total of three days for ... confidentiality to be breached.)

This is where I start wondering if maybe a review of her employment is a good idea. But I think pushing for it while I'm on the Board is cheap. But I do think that I should advocate for better muffins for the Middle School. Those sucked. But Neo and I had a good time complaining about them.

I should have taken a picture. There was one which was brownish tan, perhaps masquerading as a Banana muffin? But when you broke it open, it was BRIGHT PINK inside. Ummmm. Ew.

4 comments:

Marianne McA said...

I'm just wondering what the father was doing at the muffins for mums event in the first place.

Gate crasher.

Completely O/T question for you, as my foremost authority on American schooling. My 14 year old had to write a debate for English either for or against single sex schools. One of the things she was supposed to include were stats to back up her argument, but she'd chosen to write opposing single sex schools, and we couldn't find any. However, something I read somewhere seemed to say that US schools had to be co-ed. I was wondering if that's right?
(Not for the debate; she's handed that in, I think. I'm just curious.)

Suisan said...

*have* to be co-ed?

Well, for public schools, maybe kinda sorta. Private schools, all bets are off. Private schools choose what the curriculum is going to be and who will teach there, and whether there will be religion in the classroom, and if (or by whom) they will be accredited. Don't like it? Don't send your kid there.

But for public schools, there are single sex programs within larger districts. There are even some "magnet" schools, I think, but I'd have to go check, which set aside learning environments for single sex. But they'd have to make a pretty strong case for it. I do know that some urban school districts are trying to set up charters (a type of public school wich gets to set its own curriculum) or magnets (a school set up for a short period of time which gets Federal money to study one particular curriculum or educational theory) for boys only elementary school education (for children ages 6 through 11 or 12).

Magnets and charters are more like private schools which operate within the larger public school system. So they can get away with things that the larger school district cannot. (Including bleeding all the money out of the larger district until it goes belly up and the parents say, "Look out how much better the charter school kids are performing." Yeah, because they have things like teachers and pencils and stuff.)

"Have to" is pretty strong language. There are non-discrimination laws on the books, for sure, but there's always one way or another to push on the system.

Generally, it's not a cultural norm though for kids to go to single sex schools. Americans assume that most single sex programs for younger kids are religiously based.

Chris said...

Maybe he misread the event as "Muffins for Men"?

Marianne McA said...

Thanks. Did say it somewhere, but it just sounded unlikely.

Things are changing here - when I was a teenager almost all the post-primary schools in town were single sex - but since then the convent schools have become co-ed, and then the boys & girls secondaries were amalgamated, and now the Department of Education is pushing for the boys & girls grammar schools to amalgamate as well. (And a new co-ed integrated school has been built.)
So in another ten years, single sex education probably won't be an option.