Sunday, August 28, 2016

Before The School Year Starts

Maybe you have already bought back to school supplies. Maybe you are not a procrastinator. Maybe you are not squeezing the last few days of vacation out of the summer.

But my advice this week, based on my Facebook feed and an email I got from a worried parent, is this:

1. Check the bus schedules, if you expect your child to take the bus, NOW. 

For some Ann Arbor high school students, 
the bus transportation may be 
provided on an Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority bus.
Don't wait until next Sunday or Monday when everything is closed. If there is a problem (and I have heard about a few), you are much more likely to resolve it before the school year starts if you try to solve it now.

--Look the schedule up (in Ann Arbor:
--If there is a problem (for instance, if your child would have to walk more than 1.5 miles, or cross a very busy street without a crossing guard or light), then I would suggest doing multiple things:

  • Call Transportation and ask for a Router to discuss the problem, in Ann Arbor: (734) 994-2330
  • Fill out the Parent Question and Concern Form
  • Let the school principal know your concern as well 
  • If necessary (if you don't feel like you are getting a resolution) then bump up your concern to the Superintendent and the Board of Education.

And by the way, it helps to know your rights: you can read the Ann Arbor Transportation Policy in Board Policy 3760.R.01 which can be found in Board Docs

2. Did your child have a crummy year last year? Are you worried that will happen again? Take Action Now. For instance: 

It's OK to request a meeting: Summer vacation is over for teachers and principals--you should feel free to write an email or place a phone call asking for a meeting. (If it's simple, maybe you don't need a meeting--but anything complicated, ask to get on the schedule!) Don't feel badly about asking to meet with the principal or with teachers or counselors--they are there to help you problem-solve. If you have complicated/multiple issues, it may help for you to describe the problems in advance--but that is not a requirement. It is better to ask earlier, before the school year is well underway.

Is it possible that your child's difficulties are due to an undiagnosed learning disability or other issue that would be covered by special education statutes and would qualify your child for additional services? Sometimes (not always) a telltale sign for this, is that your child did well in elementary school because they are smart, but as the work (and school day) gets more complex, they have trouble with a specific class or classes (even though they seem to be trying); they have trouble organizing (even though they are trying); all of a sudden they are failing classes.
If you have been wondering about whether your child would qualify for additional services under an IEP or 504 plan, it is your right to request an evaluation. (You can also have someone do an evaluation for you at your expense.) Once you request an evaluation, the school district is "on the clock" to provide it--so it really is in your interest to request this early. 

3. There Are Resources To Help You!

In addition to teachers, principals, and counselors, don't forget that other parents have a wealth of knowledge. If you are new to the school, the PTO is a great place to start.

If you have issues with special education or truancy, the Student Advocacy Center can be a great resource for you. It has Sample Letters for requesting an evaluation or disputing decisions around special education.

Another great resource in Ann Arbor is the Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee for Special Education (AAPAC for short), a group of parents that have children who receive special education services and who work to improve services to kids. They have experienced parents who are often liaisons to specific schools, and they have regular meetings as well.
[Note: some of the other districts have similar groups as well.]

The Michigan Alliance for Families has a parent mentor available to all parents in public schools (that includes charter schools) who can be very helpful--for instance, reviewing an IEP to see if it addresses the concerns that an evaluation might raise.

Consider subscribing to Ann Arbor Schools Musings by Email!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Voter Registration: With Schools, Every Vote Matters

Last week, the day after the election, I was helping a woman from Whitmore Lake complete a Medicaid application.

At the end of the application, there is a chance to register people to vote. 

Me: Are you registered to vote?
Her: No.
Me: Would you like to be?
Her: No. They're both a bunch of liars.

Here you see my internal struggle. On the one hand, I think, there's a good chance she wouldn't vote my way. [I'm with her...]
On the other hand, I really believe that more voters is better for the greater good, even if people don't vote "my way."

I sometimes use this moment with people to talk about how a former mayor of Ann Arbor (Albert Wheeler) and a current County Commissioner (Yousef Rabhi) only won their elections by one vote (ok, on the recount for Yousef, two votes).

So while one part of my brain is having this internal struggle, the other part of my brain (the one that goes with the "other hand") pipes up:

"The thing is, the presidential election is not the only thing on the ballot. There are lots of other things too."

And she says to me...
"You mean, I could vote on a school millage?"

Yes! Why yes, you can!
[I admit to being totally surprised by this question.]

"There's no law," I found myself saying, "that you have to vote for everything on the ballot."

"OK," she said, "I'll register."
And so we did.

You might, or might not know, but the Whitmore Lake sinking fund vote lost by six votes. SIX votes.





Consider subscribing to Ann Arbor Schools Musings by Email!