A Sweaty Guy Plots Strategy
This is the second part of the second chapter of A Sweaty Guy.
I’m posting here just as it was in the original, with the exception of blatant typos and some formatting changes.
To start from the beginning just click here.
A couple of weeks later, John called me into his office.
I’d been sober since he and Pauline had confronted me. Things were going smoothly; I was hitting “twelve step” meetings most days after work.
John told me that the Principal of Ala Wai Elementary had called him about a meeting scheduled to discuss the program of one of their autistic students. The mother in this case was a single parent and while she was polite, she was pretty assertive.
The principal was worried that she might ask for services beyond what was normally available. At a previous meeting she had brought an advocate with her and the school was requesting some support.
Sandra Kealoha had started out advocating for her own son; she had the reputation of a pit bull, stubborn and mean. Some in the DOE felt she held a grudge against the school system for the perceived injustices inflicted on her and her son.
Others thought she was just out to make a buck off frightened parents who didn’t trust the school system. By the time I’d met her, she’d been a paid advocate for some time, her son was an adult and out of high school.
Ala Wai Elementary had avoided any real contentious special education cases, at least in the the several years that Rachel Arakaki had been principal.
John told me that she was concerned because she had never dealt with Sandra before, but was aware of her reputation for using stall tactics and obstructing the IEP process. She’d heard that Sandra’s involvement meant that the case was be sure to go to a due process hearing, a traumatic experience for everyone involved.
“It may not be all that bad,” John told me, “but she’s right to be concerned. I told Mrs. Arakaki that you’d get in touch with her SSC and set up a meeting. I think the IEP is already scheduled, so make sure you meet with them before that.”
I arrived at Ala Wai Elementary a little after eight on a Friday morning.
I was clearheaded, having rededicated myself to a clean life in a 12 step program. Muriel, the SSC, filled me in on some of the details of the case while we waited for Mrs. Arakaki in the staff room. The child’s name was Courtney, she was diagnosed with Autism and seemed to be regressing. At the last meeting, Sandra, speaking for Courtney’s mom, had mentioned that the team should consider placing the girl at home for part of the school day and providing one on one services there.
I’d met Muriel before, but I didn’t know her well. She seemed to be very organized, which is an important trait for a Student Services Coordinator; they have a lot on their plates.
In Hawaii public schools, the SSC is the person responsible for setting up testing (and administering some of the tests) for students suspected of having disabilities. They also arrange for specific services for students based on what the IEP determines the child needs. For instance, if the IEP calls for 1 hour per week of physical therapy, the SSC will arrange for a physical therapist. The SSC is usually a former special education teacher and often a central member of the IEP team. I’d been an SSC before I became a resource teacher.
Mrs. Arakaki joined us around 8:30, after her morning rituals of greeting parents and children, making sure that every one made it safely to class and touching bases with individual parents, teachers and students. She was responsible for over 400 students at this urban school. Situated near several fancy high rise condominiums, as well as hundreds of low rise walk up apartment buildings, the school is both racially and socioeconomically diverse and has a somewhat transient population.
Mrs. Arakaki seemed certain that Sandra would come and demand that the child be given a home placement. “Can you approve district funding for a teacher to go into the home?” she asked.
She seemed to be hoping that, as a representative of the district, I would either approve a home based program at the district’s expense or be the bad guy and tell the parent that we would not provide such a program.
“It’s not up to me or anyone at the district to approve any placement or services in the IEP.” I reminded them “Remember, it’s up to the IEP team to decide what the child needs. If the team determines that the student needs a home program, and the school doesn’t have the resources to provide it, then the district will have to.”
“So if we give her the home based program you’ll make sure the district provides it?” “
Do you think she needs that type of program? Or can… What’s the kid’s name?”
“Can your special education teacher meet Courtney’s needs in the classroom here on campus?”
“Yes, Andrea’s in her first year of teaching, but she is really good and she has an aid in her class plus Courtney has her own skills trainer.”
“So, she doesn’t need the home program.”
“But Mom will ask for it.”
“We just need to guide her through the process. If she thinks her daughter needs a home based program we need to ask her what “need” of Courtney’s would be addressed through the home program and how could we address that at school instead. The home setting is considered more restrictive than school…You know, you have the continuum with the regular classroom on a regular campus at one end, then you have the special ed classroom, the special school and home and hospital are at the most restrictive end. The law requires us to place her in the least restrictive environment that she can progress in.”
“But if Sandra comes she’ll demand that we place Courtney at home. I’ve heard how she can be.”
“I get along OK with Sandra,” I said. “She’ll slow us down, but she knows the rules. Just remember that as the principal you are the final decision maker when it comes to offering a program. If Mom disagrees with the IEP then she has her right take us to due process. We just need to make sure we follow all the procedures and don’t let Sandra slip us up.”
Read the next installment of A Sweaty Guy here:
A Sweaty Guy is Smitten
“I’m not sure Sandra is coming;” Muriel interjected, “Ms. Lim hasn’t mentioned Sandra since the last meeting.
Read the previous installment of A Sweaty Guy here:
Start from the beginning of A Sweaty Guy:
Originally published in 2011 at sweatyguy.blogspot.com.
But you should really be reading this:
The World Together
I published this back in 2006. You can see the original below. I thought it would be appropriate to re-post it today.