Monday, October 5, 2009

BISD, SPECIAL SERVICES, NCLB, THE TEA, AND TEXAS CONSTITUTION

To those trying to help with my computer - thanks. I will try and find my original programs again today. If I cannot find them and reload them, I will answer the additional questions posed to me - thanks.

Today I want to explain the bigger picture concerning the mess in Special Services at BISD. In some ways it is bigger than BISD, in others it is simply a matter of continued incompetence at BISD. If BISD is serious about solving the problems in Special Services, in addition to suing the State of Texas for greater funding, they need to form an immediate committee consisting of staff members, principals, parents and local advocates who can meet with parents and try and mediate the problems while forming solutions. Such a committe cannot consist of more than 5 people. More than 5 people will mean failure as the members posture for position and their own agendas. The agenda of such a committee must be to gather information about the problems while forming solutions - nothing else.

The other day Kathleen Jimenez, the interim director over Special Services, called a mediation meeting to resolve a TEA complaint. The key evidence in the complaint was the e-mails to Hector Gonzales and Board Member Otis Powers wherein the parent was demanding help for his child concerning his ADHD. Hector Gonzales was given months to address the problem. He did nothing, and now the TEA has opened an investigation.

The rumors are that Kathleen Jimenez was put into this position at the request of a Board Member. If this is true, then once again we can say the Board has screwed the special needs children. Several weeks ago I spoke about how the director over Special Services in the Northside School District in SA met with a parent concerning his child. The parent is thinking about relocating to SA. Now think about this, this director in Northside knowing this child did not even attend her schools met with the father.

Kathleen Jimenez called this meeting to mediate the TEA complaint. Kathleen Jimenez and the other person who we were told would be at the meeting did not show up. They sent someone who had never read the complaint, and did not so much as have a copy of the complaint. This is Special Services under Kathleen Jimenez. I debated over the weekend whether or not I wanted to tell this story because in the end we may have found a real solution to the problem notwithstanding Kathleen Jimenez’s unprofessional conduct. The person who did show for the meeting was actually very helpful, which is why I believe the mediation was a success. Why did I decide to tell the story? Because I was willing to tell the story when it was Art Rendon messing up. Further, BISD needs to get rid of Kathleen Jimenez yesterday if they are to move forward.

I cannot get into the specific settlement which was reached with BISD, but I can say this, if it happens such as we hope it will, this child along with other children will finally be getting the help they need. It is my understanding the program will be a pilot program which will eventually be used on all campuses.

THE MESS AND THE HISTORY BEHIND THE MESS - AND THE SOLUTION

Some time ago a decision was made to move severely mentally retarded children out of their special schools into the regular schools. In Dallas, where this is still a problem - being ignored by Accion America by the way - severely mentally retarded children are in the same classroom as students who just need a little help with math or reading. These classrooms exceeded 20 students. In one class where I did work there was a Cambodian girl severely retarded, who needed help going to the bathroom and who neither spoke nor understood English. There was an Anglo girl, age 21, who could not form the number 1, but was in the same classroom as the students who just needed extra help with math. The decision to move the severely mentally retarded students into regular schools helped no one - it was a mistake.

Maybe 20 plus years ago a laws suit was filed in Texas wherein the parties claimed the state had failed to properly fund education. Someone had discovered in the Texas Constitution that the burden of a public education fell on the state. The Courts agreed and reform for financing a public education began.

At the same time came No Pass No Play, and greater accountability if the schools failed to produce children who could pass standardized tests such as TAKS. Then came along George W. Bush an Senator Kennedy with No Child Left Behind. When one studies the true impact of NCLB, it is fair to say it forced school districts to leave special needs children behind. It was not the law itself, it was how the states and school districts responded to the law.

The TEA, like every other bureaucracy is not about their mission, but about money. Without federal money, the TEA would be a goner. The TEA needs to get TAKS scores up to continue to receive federal money. The problem becomes, the rules concerning the most learning disabled encourage the TEA to ignore the needs of the learning disabled in favor of those who can take and pass the TAKS.

Over a year ago, after Hector Gonzales ignored the complaints of the parent the TEA opened an investigation against BISD for a child at Hanna. A report issued finding BISD was in violation of the law and it ordered corrections. The TEA did not follow-up. BISD sent them some documents which appeared to put them in compliance with federal law. The child was thereafter abandoned by BISD - nothing really changed - nothing. The TEA is about creating paperwork and not meaningful change when it is found a school district is out of compliance with the law. The TEA will never fix the problems in special services because they have no financial incentive to fix the problems.

NCLB injured the special needs children in two ways. First it forced the states and school districts to put more money into the students passing tests like TAKS, which meant less money for special needs children. There is only so much money in any given budget. And as we all know it is the official policy of the State of Texas to build prisons to house children who fail rather than to invest in their education in a meaningful way.

The second way NCLB injured the children is in the certification process. Before NCLB school districts, maybe not BISD, would take learning disabled children, who could learn and just needed additional attention, and put them in self-contained classrooms. These classrooms had 10 or fewer students with one teacher who taught all subjects. The idea was you needed a special education teacher, even at the middle and highschool levels, to teach these children. Under NCLB this was no longer an option. For each subject you needed a certified teacher. This caused school district to move these children into regular classrooms wherein they have been neglected.
Again NCLB was not the real problem behind the problem - the problem is how the states and school districts are applying the law. It is a myth you need a special education teacher to teach middle school and highschool students who have learning disabilities. Obviously, children who are blind, deaf, and maybe a few other disabilities do need a special teacher, but most do not.

Some school districts, because the will was there, not BISD, understood that you could modify the old self-contained classrooms and make them work for the special needs children, while complying with NCLB. It is not very hard. I am hopeful that BISD is about to start experimenting with this idea.

You should be able to find 60 students between each of the two middle schools in each of the clusters. They all need to be moved to one campus. 60 students mean the teacher will have a full load of 6 classes with 10 students per class. These students are students who need the extra attention to succeed. In many cases after one year some of these students can be moved into a regular classroom. In each subject matter the teacher is a regular teacher certified in their teaching field. This is not complex. It is about solutions and a desire to fix the problem.

Nothing prevents BISD from moving forward with such a program. I do understand there are budget constraints, but there are also federal laws which mandate such programs, if the child is to receive a meaningful education. BISD also needs to hire a new director over Special Services who is from outside of the Valley and maybe even Texas. Unfortunately we are probably looking at another 3-4 months before the process of possibly firing Art Rendon is complete. Even on this note the Board has failed the students. The special needs children cannot wait for the Board to get their act together. Their attorney is just now starting the process of putting together the evidence to justify the firing of Art Rendon. This Board gives new meaning to incompetence.

The final solution is BISD and other school districts need to sue the State of Texas claiming they have failed to properly fund special services as mandated by federal law. Remember the Texas Supreme Court in previous litigation has found the burden of funding education in Texas is on the state.

Until the State of Texas is sued by the school districts nothing will change - we might hope for small incremental changes based on the demands of individual parents or advocates such as myself, but that is about it.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't trust going back to the local shop if you had trouble the first time. Even a monkey knows the stove is hot the first time he gets burned.

The rumors are that Kathleen Jimenez was put into this position at the request of a Board Member.

Isn't she the wife of Escobedo's boss? If so, did he switched his vote to fire Gonzales for this appointment? What do you think?

Anonymous said...

She was appointed long before the vote to fire Gonzles. I don't believe that the board approves interim appointments. Looking at the others available in that department she is the best might be overwhelmed but still the best and the one with the most experience in Special Education.

Anonymous said...

Don't you think some time would pass before the complimentary end of a quid occurs? Jimenez was appointed after the vote to suspend but before Escobedo voted with the Gang of Four. With the constant politization of our children why wouldn't you think a board member has influence on the hiring or movement of people?

Anonymous said...

"I don't believe that the board approves interim appointments."

Quien es este pendejo?

Anonymous said...

Please tell me what board meeting they approved the appointment of the interim special education director.

Anonymous said...

Let us not forget the$10,000.00 rausr that went qalong with theinterim position.