Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Tax Dollars Hard at Work

Kira came home from school today, totally upset because two of her favorite classes had been changed. I don't know how I can stress what a big deal this is, seeing as it is SIX WHOLE WEEKS into the school year, and the two classes that were changed happened to be ones that she really enjoyed. What are the odds of your kid actually liking one of her middle school classes, let alone two? I suspected the teachers were handing out free iPods, or letting them text message their friends and eat Oreos in class. But I went to Back-to-School night a couple of weeks ago and met the teachers and saw why Kira liked them: they were engaging and inventive and had a real rapport with the kids. Kind of like me and Rigel, only younger and way smarter and with better hair.

But then the school administration had a great idea: let's pull her out of an environment where she's happy, and doing well and actually enjoying school, and totally stress her out by throwing her into a couple of other classes where she has to start over from scratch. What's next on their to-do list? Leave mean notes in her locker and then pants her after gym class?

Wait! I've got it: It's actually supposed to be called No Child Left Behind Where They're Thriving.

I decided to call Kira's grade-level counselor to find out what the deal was, but he basically threw up his hands and passed the buck on to the head counselor. And this is where it gets ugly, since apparently this head counselor, we'll call her Ms. Head, doesn't like parents calling her to inquire about their children. What kind of crazy parent interrupts the head counselor's afternoon with legitimate questions regarding school policy? Obviously Ms. Head feels that parents should be seen and not heard, and by 'seen' I mean only showing up when they need someone to help at the book fair, or sell pizza at Open House, or serve soda at the faculty luncheon.

Who are you freakish people with your concerns about your kid's happiness? Can't you see being head counselor requires lots of strenuous finger-pointing and nonsensical double-talk and insulting of tax-paying parents?

I could tell she was immediately on the defensive when I started asking about the class changes, and gave me some lame answer that Kira was chosen because she “seemed to be someone who the change would be least disruptive to.” When I asked her how that was determined she answered, and I quote with her own words:

“What?! So you think we’re picking on your child, is that it?”

After digesting this bit of hostility and wondering how I could slap her over the phone, I answered that in fact, she had said herself that Kira had been singled out. Then she launched inte a rambling explanation on school district protocol, and hours of time spent analyzing schedules and careful selecting of unfortunate students. I'm not sure, but she also might have thrown in something about the time-space continuum, where Jimmy Hoffa was buried and unicorns, but this I'm absolutely certain of: She didn't ask one single fucking time what she could do to help my child.

The conversation went no where, and I could imagine her on the other end of the line, rolling her eyes and waving her bony hand in the air to pretend she was swatting me away. I suspect she had more important things to do, like catch up on her Sudoku puzzles or blow off some other parents so that she could make it to her waxing appointment on time.

I tried again, this time calling a different counselor who was a little more sympathetic but lost me when she said that one of the reasons Kira got her classes changed? Was just because "she was unlucky." I was too busy putting my fist through the wall at this point to answer that the true meaning of 'unlucky' was getting two counselors on the phone within the span of ten minutes who didn't give a flying crap about my daughter.

I spend a lot of time supporting my public school system. I've volunteered hundreds of hours serving pizza to neurotic tweens, selling snacks to impatient grade schoolers and spent countless hours riding on stifling hot, bumpy as hell school busses while chaperoning field trips. I've cut out hundreds of construction paper circles, baked untold numbers of cupcakes for class parties and mopped floors in preparation for school staff luncheons. I've cornered strangers in my neighborhood to shore up support for our local neighborhood school, and talked too loudly at parties about the importance of standing behind our local administrators. But at times like this? It makes me understand why people knock the system, and decry public education. And move to France.

I've fired off a letter to the school principal and I'm going to leave it in his mailbox in the morning. If that doesn't work, I'm going to take it to the local superintendent. I'm not sure what I'll do after I've gone all the way up to Oval Office and even ol' Dubya refuses to change Kira's schedule back to the way it was. But I'll handle the situation calmy and maturely, and explain to my daughter that her mom did the best she could to right the injustice in a fair and rational manner.

And then I'm going to give that head counselor a wedgie during passing period.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

tags: | los angeles unified school district | | |

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  1. What a joke. Just what you love from a counselor, an angry retort to make you feel bad. Unlucky? Gee that makes me feel better, have a great one there buddy. THat isn't a reason, is it alphabetical, easy target because they are nice and/or smart/sharp or do we not want to pick a fight with a different parent? What about kids out of the school area zoning? Grandfathered into the system? What variables cause for the re-work or moving of kids?

  2. Why would they move students? Was the class too full? How ridiculous. It's so annoying when someone gets chosen for something unpleasant because they're the "best equipped to handle it". Great, so reward the smartest, brightest students by uprooting THEM because they can handle it. See where your hard work gets you, kids? I hope you can get it worked out for Kira - but if not, I hope she can come to thrive in her new environment, too!

  3. Go straight to the superintendent, and then perhaps to the school board during an open meeting (where the local paper can grab the story). Anything less and you are waisting your time, because the best answer you will probably get is that it is "out of their hands" and you will have to go up the ladder anyway.

  4. Well, that sucks! I would make a formal complaint (in writing) to the principal of your school regarding this "counselor's" behavior. It may not be the first complaint they've gotten about her, and it's good to have these things on record.

    I hope Kira is ok.


  5. NorCal Sistah10/14/2008 6:45 PM

    Go get them M! That is ridiculous. What kind of councelors are these ... I hope that the Princpal responds better than those two (of course, how could he be worse). They better start treating Kira better or I will sic Kiyomi on them -- then they will be sorry! Good luck.

  6. This doesn't surprise me. And where I live (in NY), that head counselor would make about $70k-$100k a year. And by year, I mean 180 days.

  7. That's public school for you. Your child is just
    another child. No exceptions. You'll find teachers and counselors these days that cannot think for themselves and handle EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY in a black and white manner. This will continue throughout High School. Until you actually move your child to a private school environment, you will never realize the difference in education and care from teachers and the administration. I didn't think there could be that big of a difference until I put my son into a private middle school. Until then, ROCK THEIR BOAT and keep doing what you're doing. We should have a say in our kids education, and personally, I would love school vouchers to choose where my educational tax dollars are going and to provide my kids with the BEST that money could buy. And even though Uncle Sam already had my hard working tax dollars, the additional monies spent on private education were worth it. YOU GO MOM!

  8. Lunch. Name a day and a time and bring all info on what car this counselor drives and her home address. I'm putting my pal, Vinnie, onto this one.

    Don't let it go, Marsha. hang tough.

  9. Oh dear. As a public (high school) teacher, I completely sympathize. Trust me, teachers are throwing their hands up in the air in despair about this sort of thing too. It drives me nuts when suddenly students have to be switched around very late into the year, often due to reasons that SHOULD have been handled far earlier (and sorry, admin, COULD have).

    I feel your pain, and your daughter's.

  10. Oh, and in response to "anonymous"--sorry, this is not just a "public school" problem. I myself went to private schools. There are many, many issues there, and the administrators are not always sympathetic. Rather than painting an entire system as identical, realize that it very much depends on the individual schools, the individual staff members, and the individual students. I went to private schools AND was home-schooled and currently teach in public ed. They all have their good and bad points. That's why I value the diversity of our educational options.

  11. OK, my blood is boiling. Screw writing the Principal. Stand outside his office and demand that your daughter be put back in those classes!


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