Policy Matters

Thursday night was the first “real” Parents and Community Advisory Board (PCAB) meeting of the 2014-2015 school year.

The major order of business was to nominate and elect an executive board, and I was elected as Treasurer with only a little back-and-forth about whether other candidates were going to accept nominations.  But this was the least of the matters that PCAB really meets for.

As I might or might not have explained well – PCAB exists to give parent and community feedback to the Board of School Commissioners (BOSC) regarding policies that are to be implemented in the schools.  The goal is for PCAB to give the feedback to the BOSC in time for it to affect policies that are being voted on, and to take into account how it affects distinct populations in the schools.  My role, on PCAB, is to speak for parents of students with disabilities.

As such, there are two policies now before me – a new proposed grading policy (really, it’s just the outline of the two options that they’re weighing, mostly on how GPA is calculated) and a fairly sizable change to the student discipline policies.  It’s the latter that is more important, since it affects so many things: suspensions, detentions, referral for psychological evaluations, physical restraint…

It’s interesting, being on this side of the table and reading over the matters as they come to our board.  Knowing that whatever I end up saying is going to be taken into account when the final policy is being debated, and will affect students for some decent amount of time to come.  In the case of the grading policy, I don’t really think there’s a specific point of view that I can bring to the table from my constituency, but the other…  The other one, I’m already writing down copious notes for where I have concerns.

Several of the policy documents directly deal with IEP/504 students, though I’ve not yet gotten really into those specific policies yet.  (I have a few days, and I’ll get them read over the next few evenings.)  In the general policies, though, I’ve been spending a lot of time with an eyebrow raised, wondering why the policies seem to have specific ‘outs’ when the student in question is on an IEP or other special education plan.  I think those are questions that someone from the appropriate office at the Board of Education is going to have to answer to when we have our meeting in 2 weeks, since I’m not quite sure what is intended (versus what is written there) vis-a-vis the loopholes.

And, for what it is worth, if you’re a parent in Baltimore City and want to get a view into these things – come out to PCAB meetings.  They’re open to the public, and at least some of our meetings are going to be out at zone schools to try to encourage a broader expression of views.  If folks would like, I can post the schedule here, as soon as we get something checked (namely our October meetings, which seem to be on the wrong weeks atm…)

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