Sunday, March 15, 2009

AAPS and Committees

A recent article in the Ann Arbor News, found here, discusses racism in special education placements--an issue totally deserving its own post. Nationally, a lot has been written about that.

In any case, this line got my attention:
As a result of the state's directive, the district formed a committee to look not only at this issue, but also the broader issue of minorities being over-represented in special education.

Really? Why is this the first I've heard of it? Were parents recruited to be on it? Who is on it?

Want to be on a committee, board, or commission related to Washtenaw County government? Learn all about them here. You can find out who is on the various committees, and what the vacancies are. And it's only three clicks from the home page.

Want to be on a committee, board, or commission related to the City of Ann Arbor? Learn all about them here. It took a little longer to find the right page (it's not as clearly labelled), but four clicks from the home page, and I was there, and you can find out about vacancies too.

Want to be on a committee for the Ann Arbor Public Schools? A committee that has broader reach than, say, the school your kids go to? For instance, I had heard there was one, previously, addressing racial disparities, but I couldn't find it on the web site. There were only a couple of committees I could find. Under "Especially for Parents," I scrolled way down to Organizations/Departments, and found the PTO Thrift Shop (thrift shop committee), the PTO Council (association of PTOs), and the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee (more on that in a minute).

Are there committees on racial disparities? Finance? Music and arts? Athletics? I'm not saying those committees don't exist, but if they do, I don't know how to find them. They don't appear to be on the web site. Which could make you think that AAPS doesn't want parents to be involved in any boards or commissions. Unless, of course, they involve fundraising.

Actually, the "Especially for..." section needs an added piece: "Especially for taxpayers." That would be a good place for financial information, and why shouldn't any taxpayer be a member of a committee, board, or commission? (Yes, that of course includes parents, and teachers who live in the district, but it might also include some people without a direct relationship to the schools too.)

Now, back to the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee: unless you looked at the fine print, you wouldn't know that this is an advisory committee that is for parents with kids who qualify for special education. The details spell out the importance of widespread representation, and say that March/April is the time to fill slots. They do list representatives, and schools that don't have representation, and there are a lot of them. If you are a parent of a student receiving special education services, at one of these schools, maybe this is an important opportunity for you: Abbot, Bryant, Burns Park, Carpenter, Clemente, Lakewood, Logan, Pattengill, Pittsfield, Stone, Thurston. There are also opportunities for at-large members and a WISD liaison. Plus there are additional spaces for middle and high school representatives. The process is here, and there are so many vacancies I don't think it's hard to get in.

Like so many things in the AAPS--both the good and the bad--the process and the data seem secretive, not transparent. It doesn't have to be that way. It shouldn't be that way. And not only that, but--I'm not sure whether the staff and school board mean it to be that way.

Can the AAPS post a list of committees, with information about what they are and how to join them?

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