I would like to thank you, Mr. Hoadley (Director of Student Service), and Mr. Thayer (Director of Human Resource for meeting with me and allowing me to address my concerns. However, I felt I gave you an inadequate answers to two questions you posed to me. I was caught off guard and perplexed why you would asked me these types of questions. After much, contemplation and without any trepidation, would like to respond to these questions.
The first question you asked of me why I was coming forward with my concerns. My reply was I had a moral and ethical requirement to address my concerns. Every year we have a requirement to review and read a sixty plus power point slide show on “What Every Employee Must be Told” This is provide through the Washington School Personal Association and Mead School District. After reviewing, this slide show we sign a statement of understanding and get a nice certificate.
In the introduction, it says the following, “We have the responsibility to model and uphold the highest level of professionalism.” The definition of professionalism can vary from person to person depending on experiences, achievements, and goals. My definition of professionalism is dedication, integrity, and commitment to excellence to the job and people I support and teach.
In March 2013, I was put in a position that there was little support, no communication, little or no information on students why they were in Life Skills, no valid or current assessments, no indication that students were meeting any type of standards or goals. They were basically doing a writing prompt, do a worksheet or two, and free time afterwards. On Fridays, they do a writing prompt and do a review on a newspaper article. There was no sense of purpose or direction in the curriculum or instructions. The student spent more times on their cell phones than doing work. This was one of my biggest problems to eliminate.
I found my asking why some of these students were even in Life skills. They had either discrepancies in math, reading and writing, but were cognitive of their surroundings and life itself. They had great support systems and families. It seems that the only reason they were in life skills because they were in special education. Yet, there isn’t a student in that high school who needs some type of life skills.
I tried several time to contact the teacher to find out “his method of madness”. Nothing made sense to me and there was very little information to access. He ignored my emails and came in for less than ten minutes. It was a waste of his time and mine. I was basically on my own and had to figure things out. He graded everyone the same and basically gave them the same grades. As far I could tell, it wasn’t a pass or fail class.
The following week two individuals came into my room and drop a stack of paper on the desk. They said I was going to start writing the IEPs for the students. The stack of paper was supposedly assessments done by the teacher. I took them home and it took two to three hours to separate and file them by student’s name. These papers didn’t tell me the progression of student’s goals, what their goals were, and why they were in Life skills.
On top of all this, I noticed that the math curriculum was ineffective, the students hated it, and it was confusing to teach. There seem no purpose benefiting the students in making progression in their individual math skills. I contacted another special education teacher who I was told to use as a resource. She told me that they stopped using the AMP curriculum it served no purpose and wasn’t helping the students improve their individual math skills. We brought this to the attention of an administrator at the weekly special education meeting. She said would get back with us.
During this time, this teacher provided me with some assessment test. I had no assessments on any of the students. I was appalled with the results of the assessments. Students were weak any many basic math concepts and skills. I noticed this with the entry task with students. They struggled with finding common denominator for fractions, division, word problems, finding the area, line segments, reducing fractions, multiplication of double digits, measurements, and much more. The Amp curriculum wasn’t not filling in the holes or tackling any algebra.
I believe after spring break, we got back with the administrator and asked about teaching the AMP curriculum. She told us to continue to use the curriculum. Her reasoning was that the teacher, who I was subbing for, might come back next year. She gave no other reason or solution to improving the students’ math skills. When I finally, had access to their IEPs, they were not meeting their IEP goals. In fact, very little was done in meeting their goals. These were very bright young people who had the capacity to pick up new concepts. If they would of spent the year working on their holes they would not be a year behind.
In May, the student were informed they would be taking the state test for algebra. They all were upset and in a panicky mind set. I was speechless and very sympatric to what they were feeling. I went and got some basic algebra work, but it didn’t make them feel any better. At the time of the testing, I told them to make their best guess. It was the only chance of passing the test.
In April, I was informed that I might be doing the freshman presentations. I found out that I was unable to get into the website used for signing up for the presentation. I contacted the people running the website and they told me what needed to be done. I contacted the person running the freshman presentation and told them what needed to be done. They said it too much trouble and they would get back with me. I kept inquiring about this every week to see what was happening. Finally, I was told I would be doing the presentations for the freshman.
We were told we would be given a list and instruction what to do. I believe I didn’t get a list of the students and time of the presentations until the day before they started. About half of the students were in my classes. One student hadn’t done anything on his presentation, another hadn’t worked on it in months, and most had only half or less presentation done. How could this happen? I made a list of concerns and problems I saw at these presentations. I turned these in in the workroom. No one every contacted me about my concerns with the presentations.
I spent three and half months in MT. Spokane, busting my buns off. I never complained and did my best to address the student’ needs. I spent my whole spring break writing lesson plans. I address my concerns through the proper channels or venues. I couldn’t tell you, even today, who was my supervisor. If there was any love or appreciation by the administrators I didn’t see or feel it. In fact, the last day of school there were no good bye, no handshakes, and no thank you. I walked out of Mt. Spokane High School door shaking my head.
Let me ask you this question, Mr. Rockefeller, “Did Mt Spokane administrators have a responsibility to model and up hold the highest level of professionalism? If so, why didn’t they do it?
Another power point slide states “Teachers do have a responsibility to be alert to students’ issues and needs and to communicate those needs to parents, administrators, or councilors so that the welfare of the student can be properly address.” Yet, what I found out there was a lack of communication in the school. There were times I felt I was left in the dark. Yet, I was responsible for the student’s behavior and welfare in the classroom.
I brought up three different students at the weekly special meeting. Every time I found out the school has been dealing with these behaviors throughout the school year. Not one person informed me of the students past behaviors and what actions were taken. I asked why functional assessments weren’t done, why they aren’t on a contract or have a behavior plan. Where was the documentation of these behaviors and actions taken? I saw nothing.
There was one of these students I discussed at one of the meetings. I said I was concern with the student. I outline what I saw, heard from the student, and how the student was behaving. One of the first thing out of my mouth the student shows signs of severe depression. Yet, in the minutes those two words did not appear. There was no follow-up or anyone contacting me about the student. All I could do is email his counselor and document the student’s behavior.
As I told you at the meeting, I asked the education specialist for a meeting because I had some serious concerns about writing a student’s IEP. I told the education specialist that the student’s only IEP goal was to work on algebra. The AMP math curriculum he was working on had nothing to do with his IEP goal. In fact. I asked the student if he worked on any algebra this school year. He said no. His routine was come in read the paper, work in the book and listen to music. I asked this specialist how I’m I suppose to write an IEP on this student? I got no answer.
At the IEP meeting, the education specialist led the IEP meeting. The IEP was incomplete because I was waiting to hear from the specialist what to do. After the meeting, I got an email to complete the IEP. How do you go into an IEP with an incomplete IEP? The education specialist never mention the student never worked on any algebra the whole school year? What happen to the communicating student issues and needs to parents? Didn’t they have the right to know?
These are a few examples what I had to deal with in the high school. I could go down the list of students and expound what happen to them. The district and school is asking me to take responsibility of a classroom, but not providing any communication or feedback. How does one exist in any organization with this lack of communications? How do you write new IEP goals without knowing why the student is in Life Skills? How do measure progress when there is no documentation of what a student has done? How do you going into an IEP meeting knowing the school failed their child? How is this kept from the parents? Why the silence?
Another example of lack of communication or feedback concern the report cards at the end of the school year. I had several students who missed significant number of schools days. What work they did during this grading period was very little. I was told I had to get approval from an administrator to give a student an incomplete grade. I sent an email asking for permission and advise what to do. I never got a response. The students got a passing grade for doing little work. Are we setting these students up to fail? No teacher should ever be put in that position with no guidance or instruction.
I made a statement saying that Miss Winters was set-up to fail. Let’s look at the evidence. Miss Winters was a late hire. She had no valid curriculum. She was teaching some of the same exact curriculum I was teaching to the same students last school year. In June, a teacher was hired to do all Life Skill classes. When did they change the classes? Who made the decision what curriculum would be taught?
She had little support from what I gathered, she was running room to room until she moved in the current classroom. She had little information on the students. She had some tough students who were being feed the same curriculum from last year. How do you think they felt? Why were the LCCE assessments redone when they were current (May and June 2013)?
I don’t make this statement lightly, but it is based on experience. I spent twenty years in the military where I had enormous and continuous training in leadership, management, supervision, and training. I was a training manager for a squadron which over saw over thirty different career fields. I develop training program to teach supervisor how to monitor and train their people. I was trained in Total Quality Management and Leadership. I back-up my statement based on my experience, training, and education.
When I showed up Monday morning, on November 18th, there were no lesson plans. No information on what she had done. I had to borrow a book for another Life skills classroom and develop lesson plans. Again, I was teaching the same exact curriculum to the same students as I did last year. The students were upset by they were having to do the same curriculum again. Here it is four months since the start of school, what exactly have the students learn? How do you measure their progress? How did the curriculum address their IEP goals?
In my first email to you, I stated the following “Your mission, goals and beliefs that are posted on the walls of district schools have been violated and denied some students a fair and equitable education.” These students were denied a viable education; a meaningful education. There is no evidence of their learning. There is no accurate reporting of individual achievement it is either covered up or distorted. In my opinion and experience, you neglected and denied them their maximum education potential. Some might say that is a form of abuse.
Mr. Rockefeller, have you ever had a child verbally degraded and denied and opportunity by an adult educator? If not, you are lucky. My youngest son and several other boys were verbally degraded and denied a fair and equally opportunity to compete for junior varsity squad; a right they all earned. It affected my son to the point he withdrew. The coach admitted it once I corner him.
However, I spoke to parents, teachers, tried to talk the principal, talked the athlete director, the district refused to talk to me, superintendent had a closed door policy, and one of the school board members did nothing. He was aware of the situation, but his kids went to Shadle Park High school. Not one person stepped forward to an advocate for my son and the other boys. My son decided to stop playing basketball because of this abusive coach. This is when I became an advocate for children.
Finally, on the Teacher’s Responsibility slide it says the following “Teachers must also accept responsibility as an advocate for students.” When I walked into your office, sat down at your table, and started talking about what transpired at Mt. Spokane High school, I was speaking on behalf of the students as their advocate. I did this because Washington State and Mead School District asked me to be that advocate.
The other question you asked me what you were supposed to do about the problems at Mt. Spokane High School. One, you can dig the deepest hole and cover it up, like most school districts do. Two, you can be that innovated Mead School District and create a viable, measurable Life Skills Program. A program that can be a model for schools across this nation. Ask yourself how did this come to be? Was it complacence at its worst or something more? Provide more training in leadership, management, communications and supervision. The last question you need to ask yourself “was there any acts of unprofessional conduct by your people?”
Mead School District Board of Directors said the following” The Mead school District is committed to ensuring each student has the highest quality learning opportunity possible. This regardless of which grade level, program or school building is involved. We believe students and teachers should use evidence of learning to help determine progress toward meeting educational standards. We believe this approach will provided students, parents, and teachers valid and timely feedback to assist student achievement and maximize educational potential.”
Mr. Rockefeller, you, your staff, the school board, and administrators failed and denied these students and education to help them be successful in their future endeavors. How did MT. Spokane High School become Newsweek 2013 Best Schools in the Northwest? Where these students included in those stats and numbers? Were they a victim of the numbers game and wanting to look good? It seems you have a lot of questions to answer and a lot of problems to solve.
Furthermore, on slide 66 called “A values-based Culture” it talks about helping others succeed. The last sentence says “Take ownership; share concerns with a supervisor. It is not about telling, but about facilitating help for someone who needs change.” That was another responsibility you tasked me with to do; to help Mt. Spokane High School.
I hope this clarifies my answers to your questions given at our meeting. Again, thank you for taking the time to listen to my concerns.