to the PTB

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This morning I send this email to everyone who I could think of–teachers, school administrators, district administrators and the bus company (I will modify this email slightly and send it every day to my list of PTB until the issue is resolved.  At last, for Julia that is.):

Good morning,

My daughter, Julia Schanker, is a sophomore at West High School and has been late to school everyday since school began.  

Julia is on the autism spectrum and has an IEP.  This year her IEP specifically states the she be on time to school.  Badger Bus is responsible for getting Julia to school in the morning.  Badger Bus has been late every morning since school has started.  To date, Julia has accrued six (6) tardy reports for first period during the first eight (8) days of school.  (There was no tardy report on the first day of school and I drove her to school one day.)

Last year, Julia was late for school every day until November 13, because Badger Bus was figuring out how to get her to school on time.  In order to get her to school on time last year, I wrote to many of you asking for help.  I am not willing to wait until November this year.

On the first day of school this year, I asked the driver why she was late. Her answer was, “there was traffic on Park Street.” For anyone using Park Street on weekday mornings, traffic is not an unusual occurrence.  This Monday, when I called Badger Bus, Bob the dispatcher, told me, “[t]his is only the fourth day of school.” Today is Friday, the eighth day of school and the bus was late again today. 

Julia’s untimely arrival at school is disturbing on a number of levels.

1. On the personal level, students on the autism spectrum, like Julia, need extra time to prepare for and reach their classrooms.  They need time to settle down in a classroom and they need regularity in their days to have successful days.  Worrying about getting to school, rushing to leave lunch and coat at a locker and racing to a classroom is a recipe for an unproductive day and eventually inappropriate behavior.

2. Legally, transportation is in Julia’s IEP and thus West High School is not in compliance with Julia’s IEP which is protected by the IDEA.  The IEP team also agreed that being on time to school is important for Julia’s education, thus, the district is contractually obligated to get her to school on time.  Finally, Julia is being denied FAPE.

3. School wide, Principal Karen Boran sent a strong letter to the West community last week about  excessive student tardiness.  She has initiated appropriate consequences for excessive and repeated tardiness to classes.  Badger Bus is not in compliance with West High School Policy.

4. Finally, on Tuesday, when I dropped Julia off at West at 8:20 (ten minutes after first period began) there were three Badger Bus vehicles dropping off special ed students.  I saw another vehicle driving up as I pulled away.  At the time, I wondered if tardiness was not a Julia issue but an issue shared by many, many students at West High School who receive Special Education Services and are transported to school by Badger Bus.  Indeed, this idea was confirmed by Bob the dispatcher when I spoke with him later this week.  He told me that he had a pile of complaints from parents and a large number of those complaints were regarding West High School.  

I look forward to hearing back from many of you over the next few days and to addressing this challenge for Julia and for all students receiving special education services quickly and effectively.  

” . . . only the fourth day of school.”

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“This is only the fourth day of school,” said the Badger Bus Dispatcher when I called I this morning long after Julia was supposed to be picked up for school.  Bob, the Dispatcher, who seems like a nice enough guy, called the driver who told Bob that he had been outside our house and waited for minutes before taking off at 7:51; however, we were outside sitting on our steps at 7:48 and no one stopped from the time until just after 8:00.  Give or take a few minutes and the possibility that clocks differ, the upshot was that I drove Julia to school and she got there at 8:20.  First period begin at 8:10. Continue reading

1st day 10th grade

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Every year, on Julia’s first day of school, I have one glorious, luxurious fantasy.  I take a long hot, deep bubble and salts bath with a glass of prosecco and a few choice pieces of very dark chocolate waiting for me.  Afterwards, I indulge in a massage and facial.  I expect nothing more of myself that day other than to enjoy and revel in the indulgence.  (FYI: I never indulged in such fantasy raising a typical child and working full time. I usually regretted homework free time together, but that was the extend of first day of school musings.) In reality, I am prone to waste the day, dithering in the house, hanging out much too long on the internet, trying to find reasons not to get off the couch and at the same time, pushing myself to mop up after the summer, take care of money matters, correspondence and everything I’ve put aside in favor of whatever was happening with Julia.  That is much closer to what I am doing today. Continue reading

game night

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1C2A3A10-1D13-4899-85D3-18518F1F33EFLast weekend of the summer.  School begins Wednesday morning.  Julia’s schedule appears to be set—the elusive second art class has been added and it is ceramics.  She will have ceramics in the morning and her last class of the day will be computer illustration.  In between, she will have Earth Science, English, Choir, pre-Algebra and a guided study hall.  

This getting of classes was an abbreviated battle this year and my advocacy pattern was pretty transparent.  I send very polite and patient emails.  A healthy understanding of budgets and shortfalls. I am answered with a ‘no.’ I pose an alternative with the same response. No, she was closed out of that class, no, meetings are too hard to schedule before school opens, no, change is not possible. I snap . . . ok, I don’t snap; I step back.  I consult with my cabal of special ed moms. Wait a few days.  And write another email.  “Julia needs a second art class. How do we get it?”  I don’t quite see the change in tone but the response comes quickly.  Classes are moved around a bit.  Her Earth Science section is changed (there is no special ed resource person is either section) and she is placed in the ceramics class.  Why that wasn’t offered when I first asked, I do not ask. I take a deep, cleansing breath and send a thank you note. Continue reading

pointing towards a new season

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BDC21260-99A5-4B78-AEA8-C21CAFD51014

It has taken the entire summer to get Julia journaling on paper.  Previously and for a number of years, she journaled during the school year on her iPad.  My aim for this summer was to get her to write and draw on a page and although there was a lot to write about and draw during our Australian travels, she was not always very happy about doing any of it.  Finally, finally, finally, this week writing and drawing have been done with minimal reminders.  Sometimes it is even choice work. Continue reading

anxiety

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Julia survived cheer camp.  So did I.

From what I heard from the coach and what I gathered from Julia, she did not participate much on Saturday.  She was content to sit on the side and watch.  I have seen her do that before and if such behavior helps her integrate into a new situation, it is a good way to find herself.  It must have been pretty overwhelming with cheer teams from all over doing all those cheery-type things very loudly.  An unfortunate side note, Julia had her phone with her and she spent a lot of the day texting with girls back in Madison.  On one hand, it was good practice, but on the other, I’ve seen this behavior consume all her attention and make her unavailable to do much else. The next day, Sunday, Julia did participate and she said she had a good time.  I don’t think she performed with her team at the end of the camp but she enjoyed what she did. Continue reading

weekend cheer camp

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648C01DA-B7E2-4B12-846D-9E51FDA589E2This morning, 6 a.m., I dropped her off at school and she climbed onto a yellow bus filled with enthusiastic, yet somewhat drowsy cheerleaders each with identical shorts and tee shirts. Cheer camp weekend! The team will arrive at a high school a few towns over before 8, register and begin their very scheduled day at 9. Warm ups, chant class, dance class, stunt class, jump class, private coaching, cheer class and evaluation until 9:30 p.m., to be repeated tomorrow until they board the bus again at 9:00 p.m.  In between, they will sleep on the gym floor.

Probably while she was still on the bus, Julia texted me to say “hi” and after I responded and said, “love you,” she wrote “love you too mom.”

But that was hours ago . . . . Continue reading

homecoming

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2DFCC1F8-2043-4F4C-BC90-7972F03E9CD0Home three days and although I repeat that I am emerging from the fog, I underestimate the strength of the body to hold on to the time zone it woke up in.  Our sleep is topsy turvy and  I am knackered (British for exhausted with an onomatopoeic flare describing me rather perfectly right now.).  

The practice must be patience.

Wednesday, our travel day, was smooth but when I first woke up on Thursday, I could not make sense of the entirety of what was Wednesday. Indeed, we boarded a plane at noon in Sydney, flew for 18 hours to arrive in Madison at 5 in the afternoon.  We slept some, watched too many movies and ate too often.  About six hours before we were to land, we were served a major “snack.” I thought it was breakfast when the crew member woke me up. I woke Julia up and then realized our remaining time.  Had I some presence of mind I would have refused the snack and slept.  Continue reading

last Australian day

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There are a few more vacations days with pictures that I want to remember that I have not posted. I’m going to retro-post the entries. This post is written on 14 August.  I do miss the loveliness of an Australian winter day.

086DC97A-78F3-4719-8223-0965A701034EThis was our last full day in Australia and we packed in as much as humanly possible into our hours.  We started our morning at Taronga Zoo.  It was so easy to hop onto the bus a few steps from our cousin’s house, we could have been home. One of the sweetest things about re-visiting a travel city is that each time we returned to Sydney–we had three stays of varying lengths–we grew more comfortable.  Certainly, there was still lots of the city and surrounds that we did not experience, but because of our cousins’ and friend’s personal tours and our own wandering, by the end of our travels, we moved around the city easily. Continue reading

brisbane & the gold coast

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9B3F17E7-BD5E-4691-96DB-4C34A7BF80B2Saturday, 28 July

Is there more perfection than writing on a white sand beach while Julia plays in the surf and people occasionally pass by?  A few days ago, I was convinced that I had totally messed up our last few days before returning to Sydney. I had planned to rent a car for the day to get to a highly recommended nature park and then spend a quick night on the Gold Coast before jumping on a plane tomorrow, but the day and a half in Townsville with quick trip to Magnetic island, day and a half in Brisbane and Day on the Gold Coast have felt somewhat rushed and I didn’t really want another adventure.  And I didn’t want to go to another wildlife park. But this day, sitting on a perfect beach listening to the tide come in could not have been better chosen. Continue reading