My letter to school district admin - suggestions?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Shari, Mar 3, 2009.

  1. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    As I am trying to work with difficult child's team to find solutions to help keep difficult child in school, I am repeatedly asked how long these required half days are going to last, what is hoped to be achieved by doing this, and how we are working towards getting him back to a full day at school. These are questions I don't have answers for.

    You said you want difficult child to "have some successful mornings", but largely speaking, mornings haven't been his issue. So, what is the goal of these half days and when do you know that goal is met?

    When will you be re-evaluating to decide when he can come back in the afternoons?

    What is the plan to bring him back in the afternoons; will you be extending his day by a few minutes at a time or for the entire afternoon all at once? If its small chunks, how will that be incorporated into some sort of afternoon routine?

    What is being done to address the environmental and support issues that are contributing to his problems staying in school; will he be allowed to hang onto one Para that he works well with in the mornings, will I need to come in and work with him during the afternoon transition with a plan to hand it off to the Paras later, or is there another plan for this?

    What is being done to help prepare difficult child to transition back to the afternoons?

    I know we are ultimately supposed to be working to have difficult child maintain in school for the duration of a day, but given the situation, that's a pretty general statement. His absences are now delaying his evaluation, and subsequently, his IEP. At this point, we are likely looking at May before we have an IEP in place, which isn't helping anyone in this situation, particularly difficult child. We need to address these questions sooner rather than later.
  2. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Shari....In answering another post I got to remembering something we did with Cory...and actually Jamie too. Our mental health had a service called Childrens Day Treatment which was actually a half day program that was play therapy with other kids involved. Parents could watch through a mirror. Kids received therapy much like in a psychiatric hospital but on an outpatient basis. A psychiatrist oversaw the whole thing but child therapists were in the room with the kids.

    When Cory was 4 and in headstart...he was in the morning program and went from 8 to 12 and then was bussed to headstart. When he started K thru age 7...he went afternoons from 12:30 to 4 I think. bussed to mental health and I picked him up at 4. Jamie went for one year from age 6 to 7 and was gone by the time Cory arrived. Jamie went afternoons in first grade.

    This program was really good.

    Maybe you can find something like this somewhere?
  3. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    The downside of being a small district...I don't think anything like that is available. I know we have an alternative school, but even that's not warranted yet (may be down the road).

    Right now, the principal won't let the SpEd teacher put difficult child with a para who can work with him. Until we get rid of outside factors setting him off, we won't know what he's truly capable of handling within the school setting.
  4. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    I don't understand you first paragraph. Who is asking you these questions and why is it important you have answers. I think I would leave that first paragraph off.

    Is there any way that this letter can simply request a meeting ASAP so you and the school district can iron out the reason for the half days, the enviornmental and support problems and the plan behind transitioning him back to full days? The more streamlined the letter, the better, in my humble opinion.

    Did you write in another letter that you would make difficult child available at any point for IEP evaluation purposes?
  5. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    The people asking, besides me, are difficult child's therapist and psychiatric.

    There are two purposes to this letter - one is to find out what their plan is, if there is one (I don't think they have one beyond getting rid of him for the time being). We need to know what their goal is so we can work with difficult child towards meeting it. The second is to put it in writing and copy this letter to superintendant's office, possibly school board, SpEd director, etc, so they can deduce what's going on without me being ugly about it. We had a meeting just over a week ago and walked out with a plan, which 2 members of the administration undermined 1 day later.

    I'd like them to decide on their own that its probably best to get something rolling. The next letter, if there is one, will tell them my intents and point out where they've dropped the ball with IDEA, safe school mandates, and the IEP process itself, but when that happens, cooperation tends to stop, so I don't want to rush into that.

    So with "beating around the bush", so to speak, as my "motive", do you think just calling another meeting is better?

    And yes, I sent a letter and email that the delay was not acceptable and difficult child has been and remains available literally any time they want him. Let me know and I will hand deliver him.
  6. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Shari, whether you decide a meeting is necessary or not is up to you. When an issue is so severe, I'm of the mind that bringing everyone to the table makes it more important and has the potential to get more done quickly.

    Whatever you decide, I'd just recommend you make the letter more businesslike. For example:

    As you know, difficult child has been attending school half days since XXX. I am writing to find out what your plan is for returning difficult child to a full-time school schedule.

    The following issues need to be resolved:

    Just my two cents. I assume the administrators are busy and having it spelled out plainly works in your best interest.
  7. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    I agree...I think your letter needs to be more direct and business-like.

    Right now, the letter is a little rambling and it does not sound like you are really demanding anything.


    Tell them what you expect (whether a meeting, a written plan...whatever you really want to get from them.) And request it in a no-nonsense sort of way.

    Best of luck!!

  8. Star*

    Star* call 911

    Shari -

    I hope my suggestions are of some help. Seems like you've gotten some great advice already.

    Regarding a plan for returning difficult child to full days. Do you need the verbage that is used on an IEP or do you need something less structured and loose?

    Regarding a plan for him being only 1/2 days? My recommendation would be to request a home bound teacher for the 1/2 of the day that he does not do well at. A retired sped. teacher makes a perfect helper at home. Then since he doesn't do well in the afternoons - and they want him to be attending full days and he is not physically able to handle that challenge at this time? I would suggest that he goes to school in the morning - like all the other kids, catches the bus etc. Then the school district would bus him home in the afternoon and he would work with a school district paid teacher in homebound.

    If the lessons at home with the afternoon teacher become too much this would tell everyone that difficult child is not ready for a full 6/5 hours of school in a typical classroom setting.

    If the lessons at home with the afternoon teacher were helpful - then you write that you want to continue this scenario with difficult child transitioning into 1 full day of school a week without the aid of the homebound teacher. One day rolls into two and two into three and set a realistic and achievable goal for next year.

    If it is I can tell you that it worked for Dude. This was my suggestion to the school after they said he could not come back full time. By 10th grade? He was going full days in self-contained class. The days that he couldn't handle a typical classroom setting? He was to report to the guidance counselor after telling his self-contained teacher and he could do this up to 2 times a week. I would have to get him from school. We set realistic rewards if he did stay in school the entire week and even had rewards if he took one day off early.

    is this an idea that would appeal to what you're trying to accomplish?
  9. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I don't mean to sound argumentative, so please don't take it that way. I'm not good at this.
    My hang up with half days is this... it was decided at a 5am meeting without the rest of the team by 2 top dogs in the school district and completely throws out the plan the team had agreed to the day prior; it is very loosely based on safe schools acts (VERY loosely - in fact, that basis wouldn't hold water); it is based on the assumption that difficult child can't maintain at school when, in fact, we have evidence to support that he CAN maintain at school if the school will allow him to either work with the one para that he can work with, or train the others - in fact, even the private school that threw him out said they had teachers that could keep difficult child in the classroom all day long - what they didn't have were ENOUGH teachers to be able to commit one teacher just to difficult child as much as he needed...TWO of those successful teachers met with the school district when we put him there and told them that. One of those teachers said she thought difficult child could even maintain in the mainstream classroom without support if the teacher was the right person. It was also presented as a "plan change", except the "plan group" wasn't involved in the change, so it is effectively half-day suspensions.
    The school district so far has done enough stuff "wrong" that I could go in guns a blazin' and spouting the law; I don't think that's the best approach because when you start talking about how they aren't following the law, they start doing whatever it takes to CYA, and less focusing is on what the kid really needs (already happening anyway). The other thing is that the research team still has a toe in the door with the principal - he hasn't closed them off completely and they are talking to him about TEC methods - I don't want to tick the principal off and have him close that door completely, therefore, I don't think I want to sound too official just yet. And we're a tiny district. If this school doesn't work, we don't have other options. And we have 11 years to go.
    Ideally, I want someone in administration, maybe SpEd director, to read this and say "you've only got 60 days to complete that evaluation, make it happen" or "he's been there 4 months and still doesn't have an IEP?" or "what is going on here???", something along that lines - it gets said, without me saying it - and they get in gear without me being the bad guy. Worst case scenario is it doesn't work and I have to take the bad guy route, which I'm willing to do, just not quite yet.
    Does that make more sense? I'm about ready to just keep quiet til he's out of school for 8 days, then toss the manifestation determination out there. That's not a subtle nudge, tho.
    And now I just got a note from SpEd Director saying they can't hurry the evaluation along - her reason is because difficult child's behavior has interfered with their ability to test him. Yesterday's reason was absences.
  10. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Shari - I'm sorry - school district is messing with your kid in terms of this evaluation. (I'm really *incredibly* peeved on your behalf.) I would strongly suggest that you find the state definition of what the timeline is (state dept of ed website usually has that stuff) and hold them to it, period. This is just going to drag on and on and on. Too doggone bad that school district-mandated absences or difficult child behaviors or phase of the moon has delayed it. It's not an acceptable excuse in the eyes of the law. If they hem and haw in the slightest about when evaluation will be done, I'd contact state board of ed pronto. Also, if memory serves, OSERS/OSEP has a representative assigned to each state. I recall calling Difficult Child at one point and getting some good help from them as well. I really think if you give them the least bit of wiggle room, they are going to draw this out to the end of the school year and it will not only have been a wasted semester in terms of academics but it will have laid a very *very* poor groundwork for next school year for both difficult child and you in terms of dealing with- school district.

    There *are* other options outside of your school district, at school district expense. If school district is not able to provide services required for FAPE, then they have to hire it out.

    I really totally understand (and admire) you wanting to bide your time - especially since he's 6 and you've got a lot of years with these folks - but my prediction is that they are going to give you a hard time about manifestation hearing, 10-day limit etc., because he doesn't have an IEP (Catch-22). The response to that is that since you had already given consent for evaluations and they were *supposed* to be doing the evaluations, they knew they were dealing with a child who potentially had a disability and therefore IDEA applies.

    Honestly - I wouldn't be asking them what their plan is (ok, sorry, I know ;) I'm a hardened sped parent, LOL) - I would be *telling* them they are failing to provide FAPE and difficult child needs to return to an educational setting now - if not in school district, then out of it, at school district expense. Once you hit those 10 days, I'd be asking for compensatory services for every day past 10.
  11. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    FWIW, I'm incredibly peeved at them on my own behalf. lol I'm just trying to take the high road first. Unfortunately, time is a BIG factor, tho. I don't have too much time to play nice guy.

    My next letter to them is already well drafted in my head (and is the one I really want to write) and doesn't ask them anything except what are you going to do to fix this now that you've dropped the ball here, here, here, here, and here...?
  12. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    I think that it is possible to be the "nice guy" and demand exactly what you want at the same time. You needn't threaten or use harsh language...

    You could say:

    It is my understanding that our goal is to educate difficult child in a full day regular classroom environment by providing appropriate aids as necessary to accomodate his special needs. I am concerned that the extended absences caused by the school district's decision to send him home early each day is interfering not only with the quality of his education, but with the goal of remaining in a regular classroom environment....

    Or something along those lines.

  13. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    With time as a factor, I'd be opening the letter with a request/demand for a meeting ASAP. You could include that the top item on the agenda needs to be the imposition of half-days coupled with the lack of IEP, and again include the reminder that they are rubnning out of time and cannot use this as an excuse because you will make difficult child availabel to them at any time.

    The aim of all this is to give difficult child the learning experience he is entityled to as a human right, and to do it in a way that works best for all concerned.

    You could also mention that things did seem to be working and progress was being made, before someone who may not have been fully aware how things were going, moved the goalposts.

    Shari, I get the vibe from you that you feel a bit overwhelmed by the qualifications/professional status of the school district staff who made the decision, as if you as a'mere parent' don't have the right to have equal force to what you say onbehalf of your child - I hope I'm wrong, but if there is any doubt in you, please toss it away. You are an expert on your child, you know what has been working and you need to be in the driving seat here, not pushed to one side and disregarded by professionals who treat you like an idiot.

    Again - that's why you need to ask for a meeting as a matter of urgency, because someone in this mess has made some decisions that need to be explained/justified, especially given the current circumstances.

    You have a right to do this. You are a vital part of your son's Learning Team. Some decisions should not have been made so arbitrarily. Or if the school district staff feel justified in making these decision,s they should have been interim until a meeting could be called with you and others concerned, to explain it and put in some spadework on what to do now.

    I agree with your private assessment also - it sounds to me like they were just looking for an excuse to get him out of their hair for a while. Nothing appropriate has been put in place, and he is being denied access to education.

  14. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I sent the letter. I revamped it to have a short body requesting a meeting and pointing out that the half day decision wasn't made by a "team", it is negatively impacting the process of getting difficult child into school, is as much as personell issue as it is a difficult child issue, and we have no plan in place to move beyond it. I attached my questions as an addendum. I sent it to the entire school admininstration (superintenent, assistant super, principals, etc) and the Special Education director.

    The university team contacted me today and said the SpEd teacher told them, in presence of the principal, that she has now documented the pattern of difficult child's behavior with the one para and that there is a clear link. That's now on paper (and paper other than mine). Gives me just a little more to work with.

    Yes and no, Marg. I'm overwhelmed, but not entirely by their seniority. I have 95% of the school staff supporting me. In my opinion, I have the important ones in my corner - the SpEd teacher, the aids (even the ones he doesn't work well with know it and want training), the teachers, the counselor, etc. Unfortunately, the principal and the super get final say on what those people are allowed to , so I don't want to get them stuck in the middle of a power struggle, if I can avoid it. And the way principal and super have already handled several things "behind" everyone else, I'm guessing they don't have good marks in the "plays well with others" category.

    So anyway, meeting requested, along with a long list of questions, that, if anyone reads them, should raise some eyebrows about how things have been handled. I also sent a letter to SpEd Director. I said that difficult child has been available literally ANY TIME, and remains to be so, for testing. Delaying his evaluation and IEP and behavior plan because *someone" decided to exclude him from school due to a personel issue and behavior issues during testing when I, and the other para, are able to help are not acceptable excuses, either.

    I know he's been tested at least twice a day since I sent the letter to SpEd Dir. Hopefully they are kicking it in gear.
  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I think, form what you said in your letter, you did it exactly right.

    The important thing is for you to remember - you have every right to be considered with equal or higher authority than anyonoe else on that team. It's something we ften forget as parents. And even more important than you remembering it - you have to go into every meeting exuding the air that you expect everyone else to know this too. Even if it's all a bluff, you need to havew this hold over them, so they will respect your position, your knowledge and their need to get YOU to sign off on what they want to do.

    That's why I mentioned on another thread, even down to how we dress for such a meeting (like a Legal Aid lawyer - dowdy three piece suit and flat shoes, hair pulled back off your face, a trace of makeup but as if you are not trying to impress anyone).

    One last thought that might amuse you - a few years ago, not long before I pulled difficult child 3 out of mainstream, the school district cut the number of teachers to his school so he would have been put into a composite class of 45 kids. The messing around associated with this had also resulted in difficult child 3 having three different class teachers in as many days, so I spat the dummy and began my "heavy" attack of telephoning people beginning from ground level and up. I had already spoken to the school, they were victims too. The technique involved first telephoning the school district Special Education staff (who were in a meeting), then the school district boss (in a meeting) then the next higher level at the Region (in a different meeting) and finally ending up with the NSW Minister for Education, whose assistant was NOT in a meeting, who took my call and promised to kick every rear end back down the line, who had not been able to stop me by talking to me.
    The message at each level that I left was, "I am very angry, this needs to be fixed NOW. I am giving this person fifteen minutes to return my call, at which point I will be calling the next person up the line. I am keeping on calling up to and including the Minister, until I get satisfaction. If I have to go beyond the Minister to the media, I will do so and will also supply the names and phone numbers of those who were not willnig to talk to me."

    The end result - I got a meeting, next day, with a chastened school district Special Education person and school district boss. I'd also been called back by the Minister's office and told just how hard their butts had been kicked, and had also got some coverage by a state parents rep on the radio and TV on the issue in broad.

    The kicker that told me how hard their butts had been kicked - I was greeted with a politician's double handshake from the school district boss. You know the sort - you reach for the handshake, your hand suddenly becomes enveloped by both of theirs, then their second hand releases your hand and grips your elbow. it's a handshake for cameras (although none present for us at that time) and one designed to make them look like they look sincere, warm and loving. Which means it's a handshake they give when they're feeling anything BUT warm and loving.
    It was a handshake that warned me to go very carefully in the meeting and not leap at the offer they made, because it meant I had more leverage than I had initially thought.
    They offered a reinstatement of the original class teacher but carefully didn't tell us at first that it was only until they made a final decision (which I knew would be a reversion to their original "get rid of her" decision as soon as the spotlight was off them). So I used the opportunity to say, "What you reinstate now must be ratified as the staus quo for the year at least. This is a Special Needs child who has already been badly distressed and inconvenienced by the mucking around. He also will not cope in a large, composite class and you all know this very well. Do not 'be nice' to us now that you've been chastised, only to return to type later on once you feel you've placated me. I want my son's needs assured to be met, for this year at least. I must know now, or I will not accept your decision."
    They locked it in and promised the teacher would stay for the year. Ofcourse, the school lost her the following year, but by then I was able to make alternative arrangements for difficult child 3.

    Do not do what I did unless you are desperate and also prepared to follow through to the end of the process. It's not something you start and then walk away from. But you DO have power to use when you need to, if the need is strong enough.

    A professional is often LESS powerful, because they have rules and protocol to follow. As a parent, I can break rules because I'm not bound by them. A techer may not telephone the Minister for Education, for example, without getting a bollicking by everybody in between and probably losing his/her job. But me - I can do what I like in this. But it's like crying wolf - you'd better be sure there is a huge slavering beast genuinely about to attack, when you do this. The cavalry will happily come to the rescue if there is genuine reason, because it makes them look good to do so. They don't want egg on their face any more than you do.

    But Shari - keep your eyes peeled for the politician's handshake! If you get it, quietly shout hooray and begin your plans to put the thumbscrews on them.

  16. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    That's exactly what I'm hoping for. I wanted enough "crooked" stuff in that letter for the administration to go "hmmmm" without me having to say "you're doing this wrong, you're not following the law, and I'm calling you on it". But I will do that if I need to.

    I will check with school tomorrow and make sure principal and others are in to have gotten the letter. I will give them til the end of the day tomorrow to hear something. If I don't hear anything, I will call the SpEd director and tell her what has happened, and that I want wee difficult child back in full days with the para he works well with, and I expect this because of the way this whole thing has been handled incorrectly. They can't do what they've done and I know it.

    That makes someone a little higher up aware that I am learning the legalities of all this without directly confronting the two that I think will give me the most problems.

    If that doesn't happen, they'll get the letter I really want to write, anyway. lol At that point, I'll have little left to lose. And since the research team has been told there's a personel issue, well...what more reason do I need to get some action on this?

    Thanks for all the input, everyone. I think you'r right - asking for the meeting and being direct came off sounding a little less brass AND a little more forward. Putting the questions on the end makes them less forceful, but still puts it all right there. We'll see if it works or if I have to make the next step.