Remember that glimmer of hope I expressed five days ago about my daughter’s education?
Hope is a thing with feathers. Open your hands, and it will take wing and fly away. Hold it too tight, and you’ll crush it.
Yesterday was the deadline for applying to an Edmonton high school that isn’t your neighborhood school. We’ve been aware of the deadline, and Mars and I both have looked over the application packet a couple of times.
The hardest part appeared to be a letter Girly Girl needs to write that discusses two characteristics she has and how she displays them, and one characteristic she wants and how Victoria can help her develop it. But she can be quite eloquent when she’s motivated, and she wrote a lovely letter.
We were still a little concerned about the funding though. When we met with the principal and inclusive ed specialist, we talked about the fact that special ed funds go to the district where the child lives. Theoretically, the neighborhood district can transfer the funds (called sponsorship), but they rarely will.
Since we’re homeschooling, of course, our local district (cough, cough … Parkland Schools … cough cough) doesn’t get anything. If we re-enter the public school system, though, the regular ed funds would go to the school where we enroll her, but the special ed funds would automatically go to Parkland.
However, the administrators at Victoria assured us it wouldn’t be a problem. ”We’ll figure it out,” they said (or something to that affect).
I’ve been sick all week, so it was Thursday morning before I started filling out the front portion of the registration material. You know: name, address, contact information, etc.
At the bottom of P. 2, was the Declaration by Parent, where I signed to document that the “foregoing information” was “true, correct, and completely.”
Then I hit a paragraph I’d never seen before, the “Special Needs Disclaimer.”
“In the Province of Alberta, funding for Special Needs students is assigned to regions … For example, should a student with special learning needs reside in Parkland County but attend school in Edmonton, the funding for special needs could be accessed in Parkland County, but not by the school in Edmonton.”
Do you suppose it’s just a coincidence that the example they used was Parkland County?
It reminds me of my first homeschooling meeting in Edmonton, where I estimated a fourth of the families were from Parkland County.
And within a month after I started talking about our experience, I met four families that have removed their children from Parkland Schools for either bullying issues or an inability to meet their child’s special needs (yeah, we won the lottery — we got the double whammy).
Hey, Parkland County, does the shoe fit? It must ’cause you’re sure wearing it.
The next paragraph on the registration material was even worse.
“For this reason, we ask you to sign this waiver acknowledging that your child, who is currently living outside of metro Edmonton … has no special needs.”
Neither of us had ever seen those paragraphs before — and when we checked the online documents we’d looked at more than once? The language isn’t there. They do talk about needing sponsorship, but it’s not clear whether you have to have the sponsorship before registering. It’s definitely not a door slamming shut like in the packet they gave us at the school.
I could not, of course, sign the document, so I called the inclusive education specialist to ask whether I should just leave it unsigned or add a note or what. She (of course) was in a meeting, and it was 4 p.m. before she got back to me.
“(Girly Girl) can’t be registered,” she said.
(Fast forward through hours of discussion and phone calling)
The short version is that she’s right. Despite their assurance that they’d “figure it out,” Girly Girl cannot be registered.
In their defense, this is the first year in the job for both the inclusive ed specialist and the principal, hence it’s the first time they’ve gone through the registration process. And I should have looked up the sponsorship process myself instead of trusting the Victoria staff to do it.
Regardless, GG cannot be registered for the high school our entire family has fallen in love with. To register her, we needed to include with our registration, a letter from our home district agreeing to sponsor her.
Mars called Parkland Schools as a last resort (I didn’t dare!). Apparently the woman who has the authority to write the letter wasn’t in the office yesterday (again the question … coincidence? You know she knew the deadline).
But even if she had been there, the receptionist assured Mars they would refuse to sponsor a child unless they could not provide adequate services themselves.
They mean, of course, adequate to them. And we’ve already established the vast gulf between what Parkland Schools thinks is adequate and what we think.
This is the same school district that gave us full inclusion and believed they were meeting it even after they removed our daughter from eighty percent of her classes (by their math).
After all, they said, she was still with her peers (well, except for the two periods a day when she was alone with the aide, but they didn’t mention that).
And if you consider “all” children “typical” (as the principal implied is the case in Canada, thus playing the Clueless American card against me), Girly Girl was with her typical peers all the time (well, except for two periods … oh, right, I already said that).
I have to wonder … if the school removed all children with dark skin to a classroom by themselves for eighty percent of the time, would they consider it desegregated?
This is the same district that when we insisted twenty percent does not equal full inclusion, met with us to write a new plan that specified full full inclusion — and after we left, reconvened everyone on the IPP team except us and wrote a completely different plan.
This is the same district that, when we kept insisting they follow the plan we agreed to, passed us along to the associate and deputy superintendents.
This is the same district that, when we insisted a new IPP be in place before the end of the school year because we’d lost trust in them (can’t imagine why, can you?), told us to “Shut up, sit down, and don’t get up ’til we tell you to.”
OK, fine. That isn’t exactly what they said.
No, those are the words (said in the nicest possible way) of an immortal flight attendent dealing with the passengers on a much-delayed flight Mars and I were on years ago.
But the meaning of what the associate superintendent said was pretty much the same. Sans the “nicest possible way” part.
What she actually said (before she’d even heard the whole story — she literally cut me off) was that I — me, Katrina — was the entire problem. That I created everything by complaining, and I needed to stop talking about my experience at Muir Lake and accept what they gave us.
If I had done that, my son probably would be dead.
I spent all day yesterday alternating between crying and talking on the phone.
The Animator and I had a guitar lesson in the afternoon, and I got the final call back from the Executive Office at Edmonton Public Schools right as his lesson ended (and mine began).
The administrator from EPS said that IF we got sponsorship from Parkland (ha ha) and IF there’s still room at Victoria (highly unlikely), then Victoria can choose whether or not to accept Girly Girl as a student even after the registration deadline.
I hung up and went into my lesson, but I couldn’t play. My teacher made the mistake of making a sympathetic comment, and I ended up sobbing in the music room. As soon as I could get control, I tried again to play, but I couldn’t concentrate.
I was still trying when Girly Girl came running in, holding up her phone. ”Look! Dad texted me!”
I picked up the phone to see she had texted him first.
She said, “We’re at guitar lessons and mom is sad about school registration but she doesn’t know what to do but she’s was crying and crying in the bathroom at home and I had to finish the letter to school but I didn’t (know) what to do and I needed help so I am might not go to Victoria high school and mom is really sad but I don’t know (what) to say to make her feel better you might as well come home if you want to go to the redline tonight I maybe in bed sleeping and I almost hit the wall thx” (her note, exactly as she wrote and punctuated it, though I did add the missing words in parentheses).
I burst into tears, and that was the end of my lesson.
After all the grief and disappointments we’ve faced since moving to Canada two years ago, this feels like a final straw because we were finally thinking the nightmare was nearly over. I was starting to hope again.
Part of the problem is trust. After the smoke and mirrors we wandered through last year with Muir Lake and Parkland Schools, we have a really hard time trusting school administrators. “Once burned, …,” yanno.
And though I absolutely think this mistake with Victoria was just a normal, forgivable human error, it’s hard not to feel … once again … betrayed by school officials. Especially since the cost to my daughter and to our family is so incredibly high.
Oh, we aren’t done. As long as my children are still breathing, I’ll keep fighting for them.
We can always continue to homeschool. After all, we know it works. GG has learned more from me this year than she’s ever learned in one year at school. Heck, I was reluctant to even try high school and only agreed to it because 1) she really wants to go to high school; 2) homeschooling is yet another thing that separates her from her peers here; 3) We thought we had found a truly inclusive school (and … bonus! … one that emphasizes arts as well); and 4) I know we can always pull her out if things turn disastrous mid-year.
Monday we’ll call Parkland and ask for sponsorship. We’ll explain, as nicely as we can through gritted teeth, that they aren’t getting any funding from us anyway because we’re homeschooling, and if Parkland is our only option, we’ll just keep homeschooling. We’ll point out that they have the choice between us continuing to be a pain in the ass and a public relations nightmare, or they can get rid of us forever.
We’ll also continue to try to sell our house, so we can move out of Parkland County for good. If we move into Edmonton, we won’t need sponsorship, though odds are, there won’t be any spaces left at Victoria. It fills fast, the district office told me. And given the packed-room response to their open house this year (which surprised even the administration, I think), I expect it’ll fill even more quickly than usual.
If we moved into Victoria’s neighborhood, they’d have to accept us. However, it’s not an area we want to purchase in. Much of the neighborhood is quite industrial, and it’s smack in the middle of the city, which would make Mars’ commute a nightmare.
At this point, our options appear to be: 1) continue to homeschool (my first choice); 2) rent an apartment in Victoria’s neighborhood that the kids and I would live in during the week (expensive and sorta painful); 3) start all over, trying to find a high school in Edmonton that wouldn’t involve a killer commute for Mars but would actually include Girly Girl.
None of the options look good.
If anybody has access to a time machine, I’d pay a lot to wind back the past two years and make different choices.
Heck, I have twelve grand I’m considering putting into an apartment I don’t want. I could use it instead as a down payment for a trip back to January, 2011.