Is My Confidentiality Agreement Confidential?

As of 2009, approximately 5.8 million students were receiving special education services in the United States. This population includes children with mental and physical challenges. They may be educated with their “typical” peers for a majority of the school day or segregated into specialized learning programs.

When children have special educational requirements, their education is governed by an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This is a document that outlines everything from the goals that are being set for the student to the exact services that will be provided by the school district. It also contains assessments about the child from the various educators and other specialists who work with the child, including the child’s progress in meeting the goals outlined in the previous IEP.

As advocates for their children, parents should have input into the contents of the IEP and indeed they do have an opportunity to meet with the school’s special education team after the document has been created. After this discussion, they can either sign off on the conclusion or request changes. Unfortunately, it has been my experience in raising two daughters with autism that unless these changes are minor or do not involve the allocation of resources, the school-level administrators will tell you that they are not empowered to alter the IEP.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Blending a Family

This article was originally published in The Patch on April 28, 2013 


TheBackSideOfFamily.jpgThroughout the years, Disneyland has been the background for many happy memories and raising my family in Southern California has allowed us to claim our fair share. Donald fawning over my newborn daughter and then trying to get my Ex to stop yelling in excitement that he had talked. Cinderella declaring to my daughter on her sixth birthday that it was her two hand birthday as we entered the park. My son insisting on standing up to the height check sign to see if he had grown enough in the past couple of weeks to ride the rides his big sister could go on and he could not.

The Happiest Place on Earth took on more significance as the marriage started to fall apart. The kids and I took weekly pilgrimages to escape the turmoil at home and make new memories in our evolving family unit. We made friends with other visitors from an online community of fellow enthusiasts. The days where we would be blacked out from our annual passes were looked upon with dread. 

Once upon a time,

Somewhere online,

A man and a woman met,

And soon after they fell in love.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Avoiding Our Inner Jack Walsh

This article was originally published in The Patch on April 7, 2013

Nicole_and_Carl2.jpg

In retrospect, the separation should not have been a surprise. However, at the time it came like a punch to the gut. After 16 years of marriage, I was now a single Dad.

As one would imagine, family and friends played a huge role in getting me through that difficult time, filling needs within my physical and emotional worlds. However, my spirit also needed healing. Since I am a man without a religion, I turned to music to soothe my soul.

REM took the first turn: “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.” When doubt set in, I turned to Anthrax’s Finale: “Now I’m free, now I’m free, me me me, finally!” Then it was time to fight and Limp Bizkit’s Boiler took a turn: “But sometimes, some things turn into dumb things, And that’s when you put your foot down.” That agonizing series of “whys” at the end of the song let me know that Fred had also been there.

However, the biggest push from culture came from a movie that I had not seen in many years. Even before the separation was final there a little voice in my head acting like Jiminy Cricket who was constantly reminding me not to turn into the Dad from Pretty In Pink. For those unfamiliar with the movie, Jack Walsh’s wife left him and he never recovered. As a result, family roles have switched and as the movie begins his teenage daughter, Annie, is taking care of him.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Setting Expectations

CMZ.jpgWhen you are a parent of a child with autism, you get used to being told what your child cannot do. I think people do this as a way to protect you. Your kid is different and the sooner you grow accustomed to this fact the less you will be disappointed when your child does not meet the same milestones of their peers.

When these lowered expectations are driven by professionals, we are more likely to take them to heart. As a society, we tend to give experts a lot of weight. We send self-help books to the top of the bestseller list. Some will avoid getting a second opinion for fear of offending our Doctor. If a teacher tells us that our child’s lack of progress is to be expected due to their diagnosis, we tend to trust their expert opinion.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

El Camino Digs In

Scientific method: “a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested.”

-Dictionary.com

Education “reformers” claim that charters were created “as testing grounds for new and alternative educational models”. However, if these publicly funded private schools were actually engaging in innovation, it would seem that a high percentage of them would fail. After all, playing it safe is rarely a recipe for successfully making radical changes. However, in the LAUSD, there has been only been one charter revocation in the past three years. This hardly seems to back up El Camino Real Charter High School’s (ECRCHS) assertion that “the district has become more hostile towards charter schools.”

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Individuals Not Widgets

There are currently more than 640,000 students enrolled in the LAUSD. These students are not widgets in a factory, they are individual people, each with unique needs. Every individual student has their own interests, most effective method of learning and challenges of achieving success. All are important and deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential - every single one of those 640,000 students.

For too long the education “reform” movement has been allowed to operate in the LAUSD in a way that ignores individuality. Instead of supporting students with special education needs, the District has forced them to mainstream with general education students, even when doing so is harmful to the student. When some parents objected to the closure of special education centers, the District fought them in court. As a School Board member, I will fight to end this litigation and keep these centers open as an option for parents.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Mónica García on El Camino: Ignorance or Insincerity?

This article originally appeared on K-12 News Network's The Wire

Oversight:

The job of checking that a process or system is working well

-Macmillan Dictionary

Before the LAUSD School Board began debate on the Issuance of Notice of Violations for El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) “requesting the charter school remedy violations by September 23, 2016”, the public had an opportunity to speak. Other than a three-minute time limit, there is little formal structure to this comment period and speakers are free to bring up anything that they feel is relevant to the subject at hand. During this time, ECRCHS’ case was presented by their lawyer, several teachers (who were at the Board meeting instead of teaching their students), a couple of parents and the charter’s Chief Business Officer, Marshall Mayotte. Notably absent was David Fehte, the “Executive Director” who has been at the center of the controversy surrounding the charter.

Ironically, one of the first speakers used the analogy of Charlie Brown’s repeated attempt to kick Lucy’s football to make her case against the resolution at hand. She was trying to make a case that the LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) had been moving the goal post so that ECRCHS could not meet the terms of the Notice to Cure that was issued in October. However, it was the speakers who engaged in diversionary tactics as they tried to take the emphasis off of the “financial shenanigans” by focusing on the academic achievements of the charter, the incompetence of the CSD and wild conspiracy theories that the District is trying to “take down” ECR because they “are thriving too much.” Despite evidence that ECR has violated the law and “generally accepted accounting principles” compiled by both the CSD and the Los Angeles Daily News, the speakers each requested that the Board not issue a Notice of Violations.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

In Los Angeles the Unified Silence is Deafening

When the LAUSD approves a charter, they accept the responsibility (and a fee from the state) for holding the charter accountable to both the charter and the California education code. By placing a former California Charter School Association staffer as the head of the LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD), the Board of Education has signaled their lack of interest in providing this oversight. It is, therefore, not surprising that complaints to the CSD by parents seem to be routinely ignored. However, given the possible financial liability to the District, if this lack of interest was misinterpreted as complicity, one would assume that both the CSD and the School Board would make sure major allegations would not be ignored. A possible example of impropriety would be removing $600,000 from an account held in trust for the student body without permission of the Associated Student Body (ASB) representatives or approval by the charter’s Governing Board.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

The Race For LAUSD District Two: A Status Report

CP2.jpgIn many ways, District 2 is a microcosm of the 2016 Presidential race. I am a Berniecrat running on a platform that supports public education, empowers parents and teachers and stands up for the most vulnerable, including students with special education needs. The incumbent, Monica Garcia is an establishment Democrat who attended the Democratic convention as a delegate for Hillary Clinton and whose Facebook page is titled @iamwithmonicagarcia. Standing in for Trump is Walter Bannister, who even uses the slogan “make our schools great again”. He has tweeted that we should forcibly arm ALL teachers, that vaccines are ineffective and harmful, blows the dog whistle by calling for the “end [of] compulsory busing” and says that “government ownership, operation, regulation and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.” There are also two other candidates who currently have a limited internet trail.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

The LAUSD: A Primer

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the largest school district in the country that is governed by an elected school board. Only the New York City school district, which is under mayoral control, has more students. Los Angeles has more than 640,000 students enrolled in the district, attending over 900 schools that are spread out over 720 square miles. The District is also the largest authorizer of charters with over 130,000 students enrolled in about 250 independent and affiliated charters.

Read more
Add your reaction Share