As frequent readers here can tell you, getting my attention – my full attention – is a Bad Thing.
My wife and I are a team when it comes to the Monster and his various appointments, therapies, and whathaveyou. She’s the one that most folks deal with – she’s friendly, and nice, and inclined to want people to like her. Me, the warrior dad… I’m the one that things come to when there’s a Problem.
We have a Problem.
I was already somewhat heated under the collar yesterday afternoon when I was unpacking the Monster’s backpack and discovered the bulk of his lunch uneaten, while his daily report form from the school indicated that he’d eaten 80% of his lunch. I dislike being lied to, and I was already planning an email to the Monster’s teacher about inaccuracies in his daily report form. (The aides have been filling out the form instead of her, so I figured I’d have her crack the whip and remind them that accuracy matters.)
In the midst of this, the wife informed me that the bus aide had called to mention that she’d found the Monster on the bus after school – not in the library, where they do dismissal and where she goes to retrieve them, but at the bus, outside of the school building. This sounded odd to me, so I pressed further. My wife had, after this phone call, reached out by email to Ms. A, the Monster’s teacher, to ask what had happened, and Ms. A responded with a phone call to explain the situation.
It seems that, en route to the library, one of the eighth graders on the Monster’s bus intercepted him and took him to the bus. (All of the children on the Monster’s bus are special-needs.) The aides had not noticed that he was missing until they got to the library, and this caused a panicked three-minute search until they found him on the bus already.
My wife was mildly annoyed. I was upset. (Which puts it lightly.)
To me, there’s a whole slew of issues here that were being papered over by the school:
- How did the staff not notice that one of twelve students was missing, the moment he wandered off?
- Why was an eighth grader permitted to approach a line of kindergardeners in the hallway of the school? Why was the eighth grader not where he belonged?
- Why did we hear about the incident from the bus aide, and not from the school?
- What kind of conversation would we be having if the Monster had proceeded to walk out into traffic? If he’d wandered over to the nearby major street without someone noticing? If the eighth grader had taken him outside the school and thrashed him?
I demanded answers to these questions, and immediate corrective action. Ms. A mailed back within a few hours to say that she’d be meeting with the aides to go over their dismissal procedures… and that was not Good Enough for me.
So after another angry email, the IEP coordinator asked me if we could chat by phone. I dislike chatting by phone – it leaves me without a record of precisely what was said – but I like Ms. R (the IEP coordinator) and I like Ms. A, and I was willing to at least hear their side.
Ms. R let me know a couple of things:
- She herself doesn’t know quite all of what happened – she doesn’t have the aides’ point of view. She did speak to the eighth grader, and it was well-meaning enough, as the child had seen the bus, knew the Monster was on his bus, and had simply thought it appropriate to take the Monster to the bus. (He’s now been informed that it’s not appropriate.)
- Ms. A is not responsible for dismissal – the aides are. Ms. A will be, as stated earlier, re-covering the dismissal procedures and re-emphasizing that they need to make sure the kids all reach the library.
- Ms. R, herself, has no authority over the aides. They’re under the principal’s aegis, so she can’t even discipline them. Her authority barely covers the special-ed staff at Garrett Heights.
- Ms. R is not convinced that a 1:1 aide for the Monster would correct the situation – I’m inclined to agree, reluctantly, because most of the time, he’s perfectly fine.
And this comes back to the crux of the problem. The school that the Monster’s program is housed at is one of the worst schools in the city. There is plenty of potential for a child to wander off, or be led off, without the staff noticing. There’s no adequate coverage of the front door to see comings and goings of staff, students or visitors. I don’t feel that a good portion of the staff cares adequately about such matters – Ms. R and Ms. A are exceptions, and my interactions with the principal have been good enough… but I feel the apathy when I walk into the school.
But this comes back to what I intend to do about this matter.
I intend to let the principal and the school board know that I expect the aides to be fired, and that I will keep pushing until they are fired.
There is no excuse for two aides, in a classroom of twelve children, to lose track of one of those children. There’s no excuse for them to not be giving adequate coverage in the lunch room – the original reason I was going to write in the first place last night before I knew about this incident. If they can’t do their jobs properly, then perhaps there are others who would love to have those jobs.
The school has witnessed what happened when the Transportation Department got my attention. Well, now they have my attention.