Trying not to be bitter about yet more staff cuts for Portland Public Schools. A harder subject to bear as I am preparing Isaac and myself to face the fall term. Gathering his most recent IEP reports, his recent behavior and I.Q. results from OHSU, and putting together a simple one page profile of Isaac as a person as we prepare for a new school, a new teacher, and new program. Should I include a picture or two? Laminate the thing? It's beginning to feel like a lame PowerPoint presentation now.
I need to go into Isaac's history with PPS a bit before my rant and anxiety can have their full impact. But honestly, right now, I don't have the energy to. It is long, complicated. Rife with failures and flaming melt-downs on all sides. And not one but two police reports. And a few medics.
I wish I was kidding.
But I will say this. Since Isaac departed Early Intervention and roamed into kindergarten, he has been to three different schools. And to put it into context, he is in first grade. Two years, three schools, and as we prepare for second grade, we are walking through the doors of our fourth school. What happened? This is where I get frustrated by the cuts in PPS.
We were barrel-rolled into a kindergarten class (100% typical, and he was assigned an aide for 4 months), I ignored the misgivings I had with the teacher (she actually said "I don't think he belongs here") to handle it based on the assurances from PPS. It was a disaster. She actually would roll her eyes when I came to pick him up at the end of the day. And that was the best thing I can say about her. Let me add that she retired at the end of the year (I swear, not because of us!). So she wasn't in the mood to put up with a less than typical child in her last year (bitter bitter).
By spring vacation of kindergarten, I pulled him out and we sent him to a special class at another school (our top-tier school did not have a great special ed program). And it was wonderful. The teacher was brilliant, engaging, and loved her students. Isaac thrived. And two months later, she left Portland to move back East. Her replacement was pulled out of administrative duty to take over a class that she could not handle, and we were not the only family there that were horrified by the ensuing chaos. He lasted in that class for two months. One day he just had enough, and walked from the class. She tried to restrain him (despite a "do not restrain" clause in his IEP) and he grabbed her hair, snapping her head back. The Vice Principal witnessed this and called in both the medics and the police. Despite even the teachers protestations, she was piled into an ambulance and sent to the ER (and was fine). All by 10AM.
The following process of getting Isaac out of that school is a tale in itself, and how we ended up at Pioneer is yet another. But I will say that since the third week of school at Pioneer (and by the way, you really don't want your child to go there, it is a last ditch option for very bad situations), I had a child incapable of learning, reading, behaving suddenly become a model student. The second school told us that Isaac was manic depressive, that he was working with a below average I.Q. and would be limited in his abilities in school. Now that same first grader is said to be happy, smart, and exactly academically where a 1st grader should be, except for in math, where he has started a 3rd grade package.
That, my friends, is the difference between a school unprepared and understaffed, and one that is. But he can't stay at Pioneer (and we don't want him to). And it is time to move on to a more permanent position.
And I am scared shitless.