Of IEP Meetings, Playground Safety and Golf Tournaments

posted Friday September 12th, 2008

Late last night, I met a friend to see the movie “Man On Wire”, about a French guy who walked a tight rope between the Twin Towers, shortly after they were built in the 1970s. It was an odd way to honor 9/11, maybe, but somehow fitting — and I was glad for the break from my own tight rope walk.

Sophie’s IEP team met yesterday. Crammed around a small table in a portable classroom were:

Me. The kindergarten teacher, physical therapist, speech therapist, adaptive PE teacher, school psychologist and classroom volunteer. The psychologist who evaluated Sophie this summer made a special trip over. And the principal was there.

We began by reviewing Sophie’s progress in therapy. I brought reports from her outside physical therapist and occupational therapist, and we went over her daily schedule and achievements in class. Everything’s going well, I was assured.

Not long after the meeting began, the principal stepped outside. I know she’s busy; her job is obviously a demanding one and she had been checking her phone while we’d been sitting there (to be honest, I itched to check my own, I left work far earlier than I should have, but I put the thing on silent and left it in my purse).

The principal never said she needed to leave early. I wish she had, because I wouldn’t have saved my most significant concerns for the end. But I was nervous. My main goal with this principal, with this school, has been to avoid rocking the boat. I was worried about sharing my concern, which is about Sophie’s safety.

I first shared this concern at the original IEP meeting we had in the spring, at Sophie’s pre-school. The principal was at that meeting, too, but again, slipped out early without saying anything. And so when we got to the part of the meeting where I announced that I believed Sophie needed a parttime aide for transitions (playground, lunch, that sort of thing — any time she could stray from the group), if only for the first two weeks of school — a safety net, so she could get settled in, considering the front gate on the school is left open all day — the pre-school principal said, “Oh, no, I can’t make that decision. That’s the other principal’s decision, and she isn’t here.”

Oh. Actually, as I gently pointed out, I believe the law states that it’s the IEP team’s decision, not the principal’s. But again, I didn’t want to make trouble, so I signed the IEP anyhow – but only after everyone agreed that the “team” would meet again one month into the school year, to review Sophie’s progress and challenges and make any changes needed to the IEP, a binding legal document.

Yesterday was that meeting. Turns out, my concerns are sadly founded. Sophie has already escaped from recess once, and that was morning recess, where there are several adults present.

Lunch time is the real concern. At lunch time at Sophie’s school, there are 92 kindergarteners on the playground, with one adult to watch them. There is no one to help Sophie make the transition from the lunch room to the playground, and just one person to watch her and 91 other kids.

We scheduled yet another meeting with the principal for next week, to review these concerns. This morning she said she left the IEP meeting early, because she had heard it was just a review session (although I’d made clear it wasn’t, weeks ago) and anyhow, she had another meeting to attend that day.

I hope I’ve calmed down by our next meeting, because ever since I heard why she left Sophie’s IEP, I’ve been, well, let’s just call it unhappy.

The principal left Sophie’s IEP so she could run a meeting about a golf tournament.

That pushed me right off the tight rope. Which might be the best thing that could have happened.

Did you enjoy this article?
Share the love
Get updates!
Tags: Filed under: Sophie Goes to Kindergarten by Amysilverman

3 Responses to “Of IEP Meetings, Playground Safety and Golf Tournaments”

  1. The principal’s ADHD problem should be pointed outed as well as her salary! I’d become chummy with the teachers , they are Sophie’s adovacy group.
    They work with her, and I’m sure love her(I would)
    and take notes at every meeting. As her mom it is a balancing act and I suggest make friends,not enemies but indiscreetly letting them know who you are..a honest to god Ballbuster for Sophie!
    Also, how does Sophie like her teachers?Can’t bullshit kids..I know..that heavens.

  2. How very disappointing…and educators wonder why people defect from public schooling?

    I think (for whatever my thoughts are worth) a fundamental change needs to occur in public school administration. The principal, headmaster, rector, Lead Teacher, whatever needs to have as his or her primary responsibility “presence”-ness, for lack of a better term. My experience with school administrators, and I’ve had what I consider to be a lot, is that the good administrators view their main job as meeting with their constituents: students, staff, parents, and community. This means being out in the hallways at all times; being visible in classrooms, cafeterias, playgrounds; being the spokesperson for his/her school; sitting in on every meeting with a parent and/or student NO MATTER WHAT. Those three words are so critical. Nothing, no meeting with a superintendent, no meeting with another teacher, no meeting with a textbook company, no meeting with a golf tournament planning group should ever supersede meeting with a parent or student. All plans get dropped.

    Don’t give the principal so many committees to serve on and show up for. Keep him or her in the building. At my last school in Indiana, my principal was out of the building 4 out 5 days of the week. There was one day a week when he was in there all day. The students and staff all read that loud and clear as “this guy’s not important for the day-to-day functions of the school community.”

    My perspective is not relevatory or insightful. Until we stop making principals CEOs, probation officers, emcees, and start making them managers of their schools, we’ll continue to see them walk out of all-important meetings. Priorities, right?

  3. I agree and in my 31 yrs. of working in the Az.public school system not one of the principals
    really cared about the kids, or teachers…just
    the parents who might sue the district or at least call the superindent and complain about her/him.
    My opinion is this: there are more women principals now than ever before and they’re very
    power hungry and become principals because they couldn’t stand being in the classroom with kids!

Leave a Reply

My Heart Can't Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome is available from Amazon and 
Changing Hands Bookstore
. For information about readings and other events, click here.


All content ©Amy Silverman | Site design & integration by New Amsterdam Consulting