Monday, January 3, 2011

Goodbye High School

So, between the new job, then breaking my hand (don’t ask), I haven’t been blogging in well over six months.  Now, I need to get back to it, so this is my New Year’s Resolution, and here goes with my first post:

Drop the bomb: I’m pulling my freshmen (Ethan and Topher) from the local Public High School.  Read on for more info.

Both Ethan and Topher have been struggling.  Ethan has been having headaches that we’re trying to sort out with his pediatrician.  They’re debilitating headaches, so he’s been missing a lot of school.  When I asked the school for make-up work, I got back incomplete assignments, assignments with no explanation, or in book assignments when the books are stuck at school because of budget issues.

Topher, on the other hand, got 4 teeth pulled and braces in, so he missed a lot of school.  Then, when the holidays came, he started having some serious anxiety issues.  This didn’t surprise me, but it did make life difficult.  He just wasn’t sleeping.  He’d sleep 1-2 hours a night, he’d be a young Zombie-Boy during the day, and he was turning into a grouch.  When I kept him home, he got the same run-around over work that Ethan got.  When I sent him to school, he spent more time in trouble than in class.

The final straw, however, came from “Useless” … the Dean of Students.  I got Topher to school the week before Christmas … first time in days.  I told him to be sure and get as much makeup work as he could, and make sure it was complete, so he could work on catching up over Christmas break.

But that’s not how the day went.  I got a call from him 10 minutes after school let out stating that he had spent the whole day in ISS (In School Suspension).  Turns out that because Julian had a hard time getting out in the morning, they were 2 minutes late, which on top of his other issues piled up to an all-day sit-in.  Having already talked to the dean, having already talked to the attendance office about the issues we were having, I was expecting a phone call from the school in such circumstances.  I dropped everything and went straight to the school (sometime I’ll have to tell you how much I love working from home!).

Everyone was in a staff meeting, and I stood in the office for 1/2 hour waiting to be seen “Almost Useful”, his counselor.  This did nothing positive to my temper, by the way.  When she finally did see me, the conversation went something like this:

Almost Useful: So, what seems to be the issue?
Me: Topher spent the whole day in ISS, and I was supposed to get a phone call from Useless when that happened.  I realize I’m asking for special treatment for this kid, but given that he’s suffering from insomnia and anxiety over the holidays, and that he’s trying to make a stable life after being in 5 families in almost 15 years, I don’t think that that’s out of order.
Almost Useful: Wow … I’m sure if you had communicated with us about what was going on, some arrangement could have been made.  Communication is the key to keeping things like this from happening.
Me: Really?  Good, because I’ve been on the phone with an adult volunteer Every Day he’s been absent, I’ve talked to Useless about the fact that we’ve been having issues, and I’ve even turned in a note from his doctor stating that we’ve been consulting with them over these issues but they can’t see him until after Christmas Break starts.
Almost Useful: Well, this is the first I’ve heard of it.
Me: Then it seems that the communications failure isn’t mine, it’s the schools internally, yes?
Almost Useful: Well, ISS issues really aren’t my problem … look, here’s Useless now!

Sure enough, Useless was walking into the office as we spoke.

Useless: What’s up?
<skip rehash of what happened during the day>
Me: After our last meeting, you agreed that if something came up with Topher, you would call me to find out if it really was a discipline problem, or if there were extenuating circumstances (like, his brother) and help him get into class more often.  Instead, the first I heard of him being in ISS was when HE called me after school?  Could you explain that?
Useless: Well, we’re making those phone calls now.
Me: Don’t you think it’s a little late for that?  How can he get his make-up work now?
Useless: Well, he should have come to me.  I’d have figured something out.

<I later found that to be a lie.  I found out that last time Topher was late for class because someone knocked into his head with their backpack on the way to class … right in the spot where one of his teeth had been pulled, Useless had told him “too bad, no more free passes” … but I didn’t know that at the time, it just reinforced my decision later>

Me: You mean to me that an insecure kid, with known authority issues, was supposed to approach you rather than you, as an adult, handling the situation?
Useless: Well, communication is a two-way street.
Me: Thank you!  That means you both failed to communicate then, yes?
Useless: No.  If Topher wanted this handled earlier, he should have come to me sooner.
Me: Then how is communication a two way street if it all has to come from him?
Useless: Well, you have to understand if he’s not my top priority.  I have 1400 students to track.

Well, your honor, that was when I lost it.  I stopped being loud and angry.  My mama used to say: We’re Italian, which means we’re loud.  And we’re German, which means that when thins get bad, they get deadly quiet, not louder.  Sure enough …

Me <in the quietest voice I could muster>: So, tell me where to sign the forms and I’ll take some of those off of your overworked hands.

So ... Julian wants to stay in school.  He’s taking electronics and welding and agriculture … things I can’t do at home.  Jory is still receiving services from the special ed department, and he’s old enough he could have walked any time he liked.  Ethan and Chris, however, will not be returning to that school.  They will be homeschooled, and will join the waiting list for the Oregon Connections Academy.  For the moment, the younger kids will remain in the schools, as they are predominantly happy there.

Wish me luck on this new adventure.  I’m scared, but I'll survive!

        aka: goofdad

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