Angelica Grace Designs Blog

Sunday, May 11, 2008

SCHOOL ISSUE UPDATE

Instead of sharing other Mother's Day photos & stories from today here on the blog just yet, I thought I would start with an update regarding the issue surrounding Kenidi's school and then get back with you tomorrow on the regular & normal blog postings. Thank you for the enormous and overwhelming amount of support, emails, blog posts, and letters from all of you this past week. The response has been jaw dropping. We've added an online petition to our fight. You can find and sign the petition here: http://www.petitiononline.com/KenidiCG/petition.html
Please forward this online petition to as many people as you possibly can. Like the letters, the more signatures the better. Thanks to some dear friends, we've also started placing handwritten petitions in local businesses within our area that are available to sign as well. If you live near us, please keep an eye out for those and sign them too.
Brent and I are glad that this issue is at least getting attention now by the Superintendent who chose not to meet with us last Monday. Though we appreciate his now very belated involvement, his automatic generated letters of response to those who emailed him still do not address why this is the only program in this particular elementary school that is moving out to another school within the district and being replaced by the high abilities class. Please do not let the auto generated response from him mislead you into thinking that this is just one of multiple programs being shuffled around within the district for the 2008-09 school year. The fact still remains that the assistant superintendent, William Long, confirmed last Monday at our meeting that the only class moving out was essential skills and the only class moving in was the "high abilities" class for this particular elementary school. He confirmed the program directors quote which was "We are simply making space for the high ability classes that are being added to the 2008-09 curriculum. There is no argument from him to be made that this decision is in the best interest of the children involved whom which will be relocated to another school and disrupted from their current stable environment. I think the school superintendent underestimated the impact of such a decision. A good measuring tool to this is the nearly doubled traffic to this blog each day with nearly 1,000 new hits daily. This is obviously an issue that is important to the public and thus why it is being forwarded to friends and family of those in the community at such an extraordinary rate. We believe that our school district is still one of the best in the country and our fight is by no means in an effort to represent to the country that its not. In fact the opposite is the case. Our fight is to show the country and our community that we do have a great school system and one that is worth fighting for. With that said, the superintendent has STILL chosen to make NO contact with us, the parents, who were the main ones waiting to hear from him beings that he "no-showed" us on the meeting we had scheduled with him last week.

This week, we anticipate to get a better feel of our legal options and will share any new information regarding those options as it becomes available. In conclusion, we have had many people express their want to send in a letter of support but have stated that having a form letter would help make it easier on them by quickly being able to copy and paste it into an email that they can then submit to the state representative and the Superintendents office. Therefore, below you will find a letter reflecting just that. This particular form letter happened to be one of our favorites sent in by a supporter. Feel free to copy and paste this letter below and send it on to the email addresses I've re-listed here:

To: State Representative, David Frizzell

I would like to add my voice to the appeal for Kenidi Seaman and all of the special needs children at her "home" elementary school. As you inevitably know by now, the well established special needs program (essential skills) that 5 year old Kenidi Seaman expected to finally be able to attend as she entered Kindergarten at this, her neighborhood school, is being removed after several successful years there. It is now being moved to another elementary school in the district so that Kenidi's elementary school can "make space" for a new accelerated program for high ability students. This was confirmed and made a direct quote by Kathy Stricker, assistant director of Johnson County special services. The principal of the elementary school, Mr. Bruce Haddix, also confirmed quote end quote - that it's "no secret" that they are removing the essential skills class to make room for the high abilities classroom. In all fairness to Mr. Haddix, we realize that as the principal of the school, his hands are tied until the Superintendent gives him the OK to allow the program to stay. Mr. Haddix has expressed that he too is disheartened that the program is being moved from his elementary school to another.

We feel it is wrong to ask the special needs children, for whom familiarity and continuity of environment is such an important factor in their success, to be the ones to move. Their program was established and resident there. The high ability students, while certainly deserving of a program for their special needs as well, are more adaptable to change and could better handle a program that may be located elsewhere. Being able to attend the neighborhood school with one's siblings and neighborhood friends is more than just a right for children with special needs, it contributes greatly to their sense of self and security. Allowing families to channel their participation and support to one school for all their children builds family togetherness and school and community loyalty, as well as reduces a lot of unnecessary redundancy, complexity, and logistical stress.
I also believe the handling of communications with the parents over this situation was deplorable. They were not told of these changes even as they sat and were introduced to teachers and facilities during a two hour IEP case conference just three days before receiving a letter in the mail notifying them of the recent change. Three days later that letter arrived telling them that the situation they had all just agreed to and signed off on, was no longer a possibility. Other than one unsatisfactory meeting for which the school superintendent did not show up, all attempts at additional discussions have been rebuked by school administrators. Interestingly enough, the school spoke quite glowingly of their special needs program in their 2008-2012 school improvement plan which appears on their website. I have attached the relevant section below. It is a shame they are no longer choosing to support it.

v. Special Education:
The Special Education population has been steadily growing over the past seven years. Additional personnel and services have been added to meet the needs of these awesome children. Currently, our school’s special education population includes children with Learning Disabilities, Mild and Moderate Essential Skills, emotional handicaps, and communications disorders. Our staff includes three certified teachers, one speech specialist and 10 assistants. These incredible staff members modify work, personalize student schedules, collaborate with regular education teachers, develop visual reminders, support adult parent volunteers, partner with other classrooms, set up and manage individual work stations for students, provide small group and individual remediation time, write and implement behavior plans, communicate regularly with parents, coordinate supportive computer software, provide peer tutoring with upper grade students, differentiate assignments, homework and grading, adjust goals for Accelerated Reading, partner with a Big Brother-Big Sister or Dad’s Club mentor, assess through ISTAR, provide instruction in resource rooms, adapt special class lessons for the physically challenged, and meet the needs of often complicated and extensive IEP’s. The results of this work with special education students can be seen in the chart below. A respectable percentage of our special education students do indeed pass ISTEP+ and some have even Pass+ed in some areas. We have a subgroup with more than 30 special education students for AYP, and we are proud to say that our students contribute to our making AYP each year by passing at a strong rate.

Respectfully,
A concerned parent

11 Comments:

Blogger Stacey Moore said...

sent the email and signed the petition. sorry it has taken me so long! hope you enjoyed your mother's day!!

5/12/2008 12:18 AM  
Anonymous Melissa M. said...

Hey girl.
First off, I hope you had a wonderful Mothers Day!! I know that you are stressed still but at least yesterday was a day to reward you for all that you have done, are doing, and will do.

Next give me a call when you have a chance. I have some good news. The girls at the station, when I stopped in this morning, Were out of signature pages. That's right! I am taking the new ones to them here in a minute.

I didn't realize how fast they had filled up. Between my dad, the ones I have collected, and the ones from the gas station, I'm guessing we already have a couple hundred or close to it.

Give me a call and maybe we can get together.
Melissa

5/12/2008 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Lisa Urban said...

As a mother of three (with one that needed a little extra help as well), SHAME on that Superintendent for not having the professionalism and guts to face you two and tell you the truth, and to the school for allowing the meeting knowing that the program wasn't going to be offered there. Things don't change in three days. I would be embarrased to work for that Superintendent. Apparently he isn't doing his/her job well.

5/12/2008 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Tina Crosley said...

PLEASE HAVE THE HEART TO SEE THAT THE ESSENTIAL SKILLS CLASS NEEDS TO STAY AT THIS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL...I WILL SUPPORT KENIDI SEAMAN AND HER FAMILY 100%

5/12/2008 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Barb B. (Kenidi's old occupational therapist) said...

The children at this elementary school will all lose if the Essential Skills class is moved from the building. Friendships, acceptance and understanding come from intimate and long term relationships with classmates of all abilities. Kids that start school together and proceed through their school years as consistent peers, become individuals to each other, where each young person is my classmate and accepted for who they are and in that acceptance and familiarity each child stretches to live up to the expectation of being one of the gang at school, on the playground, at school–community activities and in informal neighbor hood play and interactions. This is the goal of least restrictive environment, being fully integrated into the child’s own community in a meaningful and purposeful way for maximum social and skill development.

5/12/2008 9:54 AM  
Anonymous Melissa Roark said...

Why not house the high abilities program in whatever facility the school system was going to "move" the essential skills class to? These special needs children are LEAST capable of coping with change. Why upset their lives unnnecessarily?

5/12/2008 9:55 AM  
Anonymous Debra L. said...

Don't take Special Ed. out of the Elementry School. I have children that are currently attending your school and I would like to see Special Ed. contine in the Elementry Schools.

5/12/2008 9:56 AM  
Anonymous Melissa Matthews said...

As the parents of a young adult who has Autism, our advice is to never stop fighting for something you believe in. Our son was very blessed to have wonderful school districts that offered Special Ed classes during his years of school. But presetnly we find it impossible to get him services as a young adult. Please keep doing what you are doing.....Communication is the key. Best of luck to your family!

5/12/2008 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Tosha Matthews said...

As an aunt of a special needs child, I know how important it is to keep things simple and similar to these kids. If they get in places that are not familiar, it makes them distorted and very nervous and umcomfortable. Please not only for Kenidi's sake,but for all the other kids in the class too, this Special Skills class needs to stay put where the kids are comfortable. They need just a much, if not more attention than the gifted kids do. The gifted kids can adampt to changes much better. Please think of the children and not the rating of the school when making this decision.

5/12/2008 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Cindi Boyd said...

As a former school counselor, I wholeheartedly support Kenidi Seaman and the special skills class at Center Grove. Please keep them in the least restrictive environment as this will ensure their success.

5/12/2008 11:02 AM  
Blogger Isabella said...

Hello, I stumbled across your website while looking for jewelry and read the blog about Kinidi's school.I currently teach Special Education in Alabama so I know the laws are different from state to state. You need to contact your local OCR (Office of Civil Rights) and there is a link on the wrightslaw.com website for yellowpagesforkids http://www.yellowpagesforkids.com/help/legal.advocacy.htm (i hope the link works). You need an advocate to help the program at Kinidi's school. By law (according to the IDEA regs) the school that Kinidi is zoned for HAS to provide the services she needs in order to be successful. At least in Alabama schools have to do this. Special Education is a growing program but the funding keeps getting cut so schools can make AYP imporvements. Good Luck with your fight!

Belle Herston

5/27/2008 7:04 PM  

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