1. Slightly fewer than 20 of our students have IEPs.  We actually possess six IEPs.  It’s December.  What’s sadder, says our amazing special ed teacher, is that when she says this to people expecting them to be shocked, they’re like, Yeah.

2. At least two of the students in our CTT class are not in the correct setting according to the specifications of their IEPs, so… what to do?  CTT is an overly restrictive setting for each of them.  For one, it actually seems like a move to a less-restrictive setting would be problematic, while the other would fit in quite well in any of our classes with SETSS support.

3. At least one of our special ed students has an IEP that has not had an annual review in over three years.  Three years, people… annual review.  Then again, this is what the district’s computer file says, but who knows what her real IEP looks like, because damned if anyone can find it and give it to us.

4. There are no service providers for our students who require services (speech, counseling, etc.).  Practically everyone who should be working at the school downstairs – and therefore with us, as well – has left.  That is, the psychiatrists, speech teachers, everyone.  Shortage area, no joke.  And it crossed my mind, because I know the kids, and I know they need the services they are entitled to, and I know that when they don’t get those services, it affects the rest of their lives, and I know that it also affects my immediate classroom life when they don’t get what they need… thinking about all this, it occurred to me to wonder what it would take to attract good people who could teach and provide services to our students with special needs.  Would it take another $20,000 above their current salaries?  Port Jeff came up in conversation, a teacher from that town observing that sometimes classrooms there have 20 kids and 3 or 4 adults in the room working with them in different capacities.  How would you attract those teachers and paras to come work in the city?  “There isn’t anyone to do it” is not an acceptable answer.

5. District 75 is full.  This means nothing to you if you work outside NYC, but when someone from our PSO (which also means nothing to you if you work outside NYC) said it today in our meeting, no one questioned it.  One colleague suggested that would be the title of his campy indie short film when he gets around to making one, a la Escape from New York, District 75 is Full!  Maybe you had to be there.  Maybe you think this is the funniest thing you’ve ever heard.  Maybe we just think it’s funny because the alternative to laughter is to get really sad and really angry.

6. We just want to do a good job.  The classroom bit is hard enough, the learned helplessness, the fits of over-reaction, the occasional bouts of semi-chaos, the frustration of finding all the kids way behind where they need to be and that class even farther behind, the feeling of banging your head against the wall when the kids who need you most are absent day after day until they lose the habit of school altogether, the newfound compassion mixed with a little helplessness of your own when you realize the reason that angry kid is so angry is because his dad is in prison for something really, really bad that was all over the news… yeah, the classroom bit is hard, but you signed up for that, all in a day’s work, etc.  You want to do a good job, and sometimes it feels like no matter how hard you work, no matter how hard you bang on the doors of the people who are supposed to solve these problems, the system is so effed up you’ll at best make a whisper, no more than a whisper in Grand Central on a holiday weekend.  One hand clapping.  No one around to hear.



Filed under education, New York, politics, special education, teaching

5 responses to “Travesties

  1. OK. Here we go…

    1. It would really help to know what kind of school you are (I assume empowerment). If empowerment, then your special education teacher needs to reach out to your ISC team immediately. Your empowerment team should have one designated individual responsible for advising your school as to special needs assistance. This, of course, also presumes that this individual may not know what they are doing, as this current reorganization has placed many regional folks in areas that might not be their specialty.

    2. You must get the IEPs pronto. Believe me, I fought like a lunatic to get mine. First, your sped teacher needs to identify what schools these children came from. Then call the school and politely ask that they fax over the last IEP they have on file. Then inform them to send the whole file to your school.

    3. Your principal can access a site known as SIS. This will provide additional information about test mods, counseling requirements, and setting placement.

    4. I say be nice to the SBST of the schools that you call, because often the clerical worker will be stressed and overworked. A little charm and empathy to preface the request goes a long way. If the clerical worker gives an indefinite answer, or states s/he will call back, immediately have your sped teacher request to speak with the school psychologist. If you still aren’t getting anywhere, call the prior school’s principal directly. These records are legally required to be following the student.

    5. Still no luck? The sped teacher will have to go to the CSE record room in person. Have the sped teacher call your designated CSE chairperson, and find out where the record room is.

    6. All students must have an IEP, even if one did not follow the child. The sped teacher must write a new IEP from scratch AND convene a new IEP team meeting, for each and every child with an expired or missing IEP. Again, this should be done ASAP. This is also one of the biggest nightmares for most of us in special education Write the IEP ASAP, then track down the psychologist designated for your school (because CSE WILL know which off-site psychologists and social workers have been assigned to your school to conduct initial evaluations and tri-evals.

    7. Setting must be adhered to. If you have a CTT classroom, with a SETSS child in it, you may be ok in the short term (so long as SETSS services are being delivered specifically at a designated time in which the CTT teacher in the classroom is NOT acting in the role of CTT teacher. I know, odd.) I presume your SETSS classes are mostly push-in. That means, if the child is a “pull out” (technically more restrictive than a CTT classroom, as the child is actually removed from a classroom), pull out services must be provided.

    8. Special education teachers almost always bite the bullet and do these amazingly time consuming and complex tasks. Although we are know to grumble quite audibly and frequently while doing such. If possible, s/he should be alloted time during the day to resolve these matters.

    9. Definitely do not waste another day. The ELA exam is coming up extremely quickly. There will only be a few instructional weeks before administration. Every student must have their accommodations adhered to (even if the mods were just developed). Failing to do so can result in a nightmare situation for a school. My former school actually had a DOE “swat team” descend upon my building when they somehow learned that some students weren’t be given their appropriate accommodations in a separate location. My principal was then under investigation. Not good.

    If you need assistance, hit me with an e-mail.

    Good luck and be extra nice to that poor teacher. What a way to spend the next couple of weeks before the holiday.

  2. ms. v

    Thanks SO MUCH for all these ideas and suggestions… I will definitely email if I think of any specific questions. 🙂

    1. Done. Our PSO has that person, meetings have been had, she knows what she’s doing, this post is in fact the result of what she told us.

    2. Attempted back in October. That yielded one or two more IEPs.

    3. This is the district database thingy, I’m pretty sure, I just didn’t know what it was called. At the moment it is the source of most of our info.

    4. No one’s being anything but nice. This week, after many attempts to get IEPs directly from elem. schools, the sped teacher met with someone higher up at the Region… supposedly she will be able to go over to the ROC next week to pick up all the missing IEPs. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    5. See #4?

    6. Basically, the plan is to start writing them next week. That was the thrust of today’s meeting. It would have been done sooner except that the sped teacher is new and this whole thing is new to our school this year.

    7. There is no SETSS teacher. I’m serious. And I’m not saying, oh no, there’s no teacher at our school. I mean, serious attempts with the help of higher-level people have been made to find and contract with one: no one. Believe me, we know placement must be adhered to… it’s getting that DONE that’s the problem.

    8. Yup.

    9. Don’t worry… we’re on it. It’s just that the more “on it” we get… the more obstacles. This has been worked on every week for months now; it’s not like we just woke up to these problems.

  3. “There are no service providers for our students who require services (speech, counseling, etc.). Practically everyone who should be working at the school downstairs – and therefore with us, as well – has left. That is, the psychiatrists, speech teachers, everyone.”

    There were always people to provide services, I almost hate to bring this up, before BloomKlein, in the “good? old days” of districts where with all the problems there was someone you could call who would take responsibility, where there was a district office someone could go to, where there was a monthly school board meeting. The constant reorganization of “creative destruction” is responsible for this, make no mistake about it.

  4. Rachel

    Is there a way to file a compliance complaint with the State of NY? Here in CA that is pretty much the quickest recourse: the parent or interested party files a complaint with the CA Dept of Ed and they initiate an investigation. Districts hate them because they cause a lot of paperwork. It is only effective in clear violations of the procedural safeguards (e.g., IEP at least once a year) but in those cases it is VERY effective.

  5. Good to hear.

    These kinds of situations aren’t at all isolated this year. Many, many schools are facing similar problems. You’re fortunate to have a staff on top of these matters (yourself included, of course). NYCDOE must begin requiring a specific protocol of compliance in regard to new and transfer students at the middle school level, with true accountability placed on the shoulders of those overseeing these matters. These kinds of problems are a true nightmare for small schools with a limited support staff.

    If your sped teacher and your staff feel like you are getting the run around, do call on the UFT for assistance.

    As always, these are children. At the end of the paper chase, there is a child. A child that deserves, and is entitles to, the finest services available to support them. As a lead, and as a UFT chapter leader, I find myself dismayed to hear of such issues so prevalent in the city system. I am likewise concerned that small schools have the least amount of services and support on site.

    I hope that you didn’t find my post in any way inferring that your school wasn’t taking all appropriate measures.

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