This will be a quick and dirty blog post. Partly that’s because I’m on a major book deadline crunch and I’m kidding myself if I think I can keep up this blog at the same time. Another part is that at this moment I’m very frustrated with Dar’s current level of support and it would probably be smart of me to let things shake out before I take a magnifying glass to it.
However, I’ll get just a few items off of my chest. Loyal readers will know when Dar arrived for his first day of first grade at Thousand Oaks two weeks ago, I learned that the school’s special-needs coordinator, Mary, hadn’t even met Dar’s new aide. And this aide, Jenny, was late.
What you don’t know is that after less than a week, Jenny was no longer Dar’s aide. I wasn’t in love with the way I learned about this. Without warning, I walked into the school and met her boss Jonathan; I could have been pinged over email or text or whatever. Jonathan explained that they’re looking for someone. They’re looking? They had all summer, they had all year.
Jonathan subbed for two days, fending off my questions like “So, you’re just looking for this person now, even though you’ve had months, right?” When she arrived, the new aide, Jill, seemed much warmer, which came as a relief. But then came weird wild stuff: on the afternoon of the day I met Jill, I lingered in Dar’s classroom upon pick-up, just to go over use of his iPad. Jonathan and Jill and Mary and I went over the buttons together. At a certain point, Jenny walked in and took Jonathan by the hand! Jenny the former aide! And for some reason, Jenny was much better-dressed than I’d seen her as Dar’s aide, suddenly like a 1950s teacher in an ironed hoop skirt. I thought that was so strange, and I believe Jenny did too, which would explain why she avoided my eye contact and probably waited to talk to Jonathan, hoping he would come out of the room by himself but ultimately decided she had to come in and take him out. As Mary and Jill confabbed, I peered out the window at Jenny and Jonathan chatting. No idea what they said, but it sure didn’t look like he had fired her, or she’d quit. I like to think that if you’re hired to do a job at a special-needs-specializing business, you don’t get the privilege of changing jobs after less than a week. Wrong.
And just how wrong, I would find out a week later. I arrived at school on Monday, two days ago, to find out that Jill was no longer Dar’s aide! This time, the replacement aide, Nicole, told me. She also said that it’s okay, because she had “overlapped” on Friday. So this was in the works already? I found that odd, since Mary and I had shared emails over the weekend about scheduling Dar’s IEP, and Mary hadn’t mentioned it. Mary arrived at Dar’s class about three minutes after I met Nicole, and I asked her when she learned about Dar’s latest transition. She said “I just found about it.”
I don’t know that the Berkeley Unified School District is forced to rely upon third-party vendors for special-needs instruction. I do know that the BUSD is almost alone amongst local districts in its insistence on immersion – unlike every other neighboring city and every city that neighbors the neighboring cities, Berkeley doesn’t provide a special-needs-only class (a.k.a. Special Day Class). If the BUSD is so insistent that immersion can work, shouldn’t it model its own behavior a little better? Perhaps that could start with hiring its own special-needs aides. Or perhaps it could start with planning things before the last minute.
I’m glad I’m writing this here, because the blog will be one more place that the record will be kept when we go into an IEP and explain that the BUSD’s work with Dar leaves something to be desired. Clearly I don’t love explaining all of Dar’s iPad buttons to three different people in two weeks, among other issues.
I suppose the reader must have a temptation to see Dar as the problem. There may be some merit to that! Jill said his days were filled with screaming. Nicole has, so far, had no such problems. That’s after three days.
This morning I happened to run into Mary on Dar’s way to class.
I asked, “How’s your experience with” [the third-party aide provider]?
“Not that great, to be honest.”
“How was this particular vendor chosen?”
“I’m…not 100% sure.”
“Did Lisa [Mary’s boss, special-needs coordinator for BUSD] pick a name out of a hat?”
“It sometimes seems like that.”
Matt, God bless you, I know you’re reading this. Thank you so much for everything you’ve written and said to me, including how you’re looking forward to a year from now, when you’d become Dar’s second-grade teacher at Thousand Oaks. I have to tell you that if things continue at this rate, I don’t see it happening.