Dr. Wardynski, in an attempt to answer my question from Monday, July 25 concerning the preparedness of Huntsville City Schools to meet IEPs on the first day of school, offered a detailed presentation at the board meeting tonight demonstrating that the system would meet the IEPs on Monday.
(Dr. Wardynski stated that this presentation would be placed on the Huntsville City Schools website, but I suspect it will be at least tomorrow before this happens. As soon as it does, I will post it here as well.) Here’s the Special Needs report that Dr. Wardynski shared at the board meeting last night.
As I stated during the public comments tonight, I am grateful to him (and in particular to many in the Special Education department in the central office) for first doing the work of developing the report he offered tonight–I suspect there were many sleepless nights in that office since July 25th to review the 2,700 IEPs. I also thank Dr. Robinson for continuing to push this issue (not to mention putting up with me).
I am also grateful that he shared this information with the stakeholders (the parents). Sadly even a three slide presentation of data represents a dramatic sea change from the way business was conducted just a month ago. This is a step in the right direction, and I, as a parent and taxpayer, am grateful.
While this was indeed, as Dr. Wardynski promised on Tuesday, “good news,” it was not nearly good enough.
There is a huge disconnect between Dr. Wardynski’s presentation and the information that I was given during my son’s open house just an hour and a half before tonight’s meeting.
My son’s classroom has three times the number of students as last year with half the aides.
My boy is in the autism resource room at Challenger Elementary. This is a fantastic resource with an outstanding teacher, Mrs. Niki Bowling. I’m happy that he has the opportunity to have her as his teacher. She is the model of excellence.
But she doesn’t have nearly enough assistance.
Picture for a moment this scenario: It’s circle time and one of the eleven children in Mrs. Bowling’s classroom has to go potty. This boy doesn’t say, “I have to go potty,” and then excuse himself. No. He has autism, and putting his needs into words is difficult for him. So instead, he stands up holding himself until someone notices and walks him to the bathroom.
Suddenly the four to one student to teacher ratio is reduced to six to one.
While the boy is going potty with the assistance of an aide, another child suddenly starts screaming. Maybe the buzzing in the fluorescent lights is driving her crazy, maybe the blue in the book Mrs. Bowling makes her sad, who knows. But she’s screaming, and she needs assistance to cope with the situation she’s lost in. The second aide rushes to her.
Now the six to one ratio becomes, faster than anyone could imagine, ten to one.
So, if one child has to go to the bathroom, nearly all education in the room comes to a grinding halt.
This isn’t education. This isn’t even day care. This is warehousing.
This is the current situation in just one classroom, in a system with approximately 2,700 special needs students. If this is the case in my son’s classroom, this is the case in many other classrooms as well. Despite the welcomed presentation, experience from the front lines of the classroom shows that three days before the start of school, we’re still not ready.
We can and should do better. If we can be competitive on a national level in hiring a new CFO, we can and should be able to afford an extra $20,000 for two additional aides for this classroom.
We can and should do better.
To his credit, Dr. Wardynski has assured me that he is still working on this problem. As he did not create the problem, he does indeed deserve much credit for addressing it. But when it comes to the safety of our children, we cannot continue to wait. I have been personally raising this problem since April. The Board has known that this issue was approaching since it created this problem with the first rounds of reduction in force in February six months ago.
And now we have three days counting the weekend.
We can and should do better.