Friday, October 19, 2012

The natives were restless: My night at the PTA

It was an interesting parent/teachers meeting on Tuesday. I went reluctantly anticipating a mind-numbing waste of time (justified, based on past experience).

While it will probably prove to have been a waste of time, it was, surprisingly, far from mind-numbing. Parents vented their frustrations, myself included. We were a small group since the class totals 8 children and not all parents attended.

I related that last year C. only received her once-weekly physio sessions a total of ten times. Each time I had been given excuses like "The therapist was sick", "The therapist had a meeting", "The therapist was busy with wheelchair assessments", "The therapist's daughter is getting married this week" (Truly! The wedding wasn't even that day!), "The therapist is busy planning next year's schedule", etc. ad nauseum.

At the meeting, I also  noted that  this class is one of the two most profoundly disabled. So logically, it ought to have an extra staff member. Currently, the ratio of 3 staff to 8 students translates into constant  feeding, changing  and wheeling to and from their therapies (conducted in other rooms). There is no time for intensive, one-on-one stimulation.

Other parents supported and repeated that demand. I must concede, vindication is sweet.

The senior  staff (not our children's teacher and aide) went on the defensive. We heard those irrelevant and tiresome lines like "This class is no different from the others" and "There is no money to hire additional aides" and "Other schools have an even lower staff/pupil ratio" and  and the classic silencer "I hear you but it's not up to me so I'll refer it on."

As the only parent who walks her child to and from school (some are bussed from an hour and a half away) I was able to counter one of those excuses: "This most definitely is one of only two classes in this school where the pupils are profoundly rather than severely/moderately disabled."

There was no response from the "defenders".

Oddly, despite the school's financial straits, funds were found to hire a new staff member - "school counselor". From her performance at the meeting, it appears her assignment is "shielding the administration from the complaints of irate parents".  And staving off a parental uprising.

Bearing in mind that the school already employs a social worker and a psychologist, what else is this counselor meant to do? Advise the children about their career options?

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