Monday, May 20, 2013

In the merry, merry month of May

It has been just a roller coaster of a month.  I've been all over the place with activities.  My daughter's health issues are, fortunately, treatable with over-the-counter medications, so that's a good thing.

My daughter's Girl Scout troop is saving up to go to Italy and Greece in two years.  We had our first official fundraiser (after deciding to put all their cookie money towards the trip) a couple of weekends ago.  Eight girls/families participated and raised over $900 (a little over $100 per girl), again, a good thing though exhausting for the adults.  One thing that was really brought home during the yard sale was just how good my daughter is with little kids.  Surprisingly good.  She watched over and played with a couple of the younger siblings the entire morning and never flagged.  I'm going to investigate local babysitting courses, not so much for her to go babysitting in the neighborhood -- she's not ready for that -- but for Girl Scout/church "babysitting" events.  (One fundraiser closer to Christmas is going to be a "drop and shop" event:  The girls (with adult supervision) will watch your little one(s) while you go shopping locally.)

Note:  I just registered her for a Safe Sitter class in July.

The next weekend after the yard sale was the Executive Functioning Workshop.  The presenters were the authors of Late, Lost, and Unprepared.  My tasks came the two weeks or so before the workshop -- a lot of busy work, but since I haven't used my degrees in over 16 years, it wasn't too bad.  And I learned quite a bit about hosting a workshop, none of which is likely to get used in the near future as all the non-public-school co-sponsors are out of money.  However, I've got some ideas, for both fundraising and a new conference, that I'll put on the back burner for awhile.

Now I'm getting ready for my son's IEP meeting tomorrow.  Because we had a planning meeting a few weeks ago, tomorrow's meeting should go relatively smoothly -- just a few clarification questions about the draft that came home.  (Planning meetings are so useful, in my experience.  I go in with a much smaller team and work through all the points; they write a draft and get it to me early for review, and then when the actual IEP meeting is held, there are few surprises and little strife.)

However, there is one area that I don't think will be resolved tomorrow:  How will my son's IEP be implemented for all the summer assignments he'll have?  I don't believe in summer assignments in the first place, not anymore -- please tell me what university demands that students turn in an assignment for a grade on the first day of the semester?  It doesn't happen.  (OK, I've heard of it once, and it was shocking to all involved.)  It's not practice for the real world, and if you try to convince me that it's part of the college course for AP classes, I won't believe you.  My son has several IEP accommodations and a big goal to work on time management/executive functioning skills, yet he's left to flounder his way through summer assignments (which are sometimes easy enough to be of no concern (e.g., read a novel and log it) but have also been wickedly complex and/or unclear as to what the expectations are (go here to see what he had to complete the summer before 8th grade)).  He can't even get clarification from teachers because high school summer assignments in his experience haven't been finalized until the last day of school for teachers, who, no blame here, disappear for the summer.

That's tomorrow.  This coming weekend, I'm taking my daughter to my sister's in New Jersey.  My sister is planning a family picnic for the holiday, and I'm looking into what my daughter and I can do in Philadelphia or thereabouts.  More planning on that after tomorrow's meeting, but I am so looking forward to it!!

I'm also trying to fit in morning coffee dates with my friends before the end of school.  That and all my doctor appointments.  I have no liking for taking my children to their doctor appointments; I have no desire whatsoever to take my children to mine.  Then I just have to figure out what we're going to do all summer. 

For someone who didn't know how she was going to get her daughter through the school year, that last item isn't too bad.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The county budget

I usually speak at my county's annual public hearing on the budget.  (I missed last year completely -- it just wasn't on my radar.)  Last night was this year's hearing.

Typically, county government people go through the proposed budget and the procedures for public comment (often takes about an hour), and then starts the parade of people who signed up for their three minutes to speak.

Here's what I said during my three minutes:

I’ve spoken to this Board six of the past seven years, always asking for funding for St. Mary’s County Public Schools.  This year my topic is still funding for SMCPS, but I have to start out with a big “Thank you” for the funding already slated.  This funding means that teachers can continue to do the status quo “more” with less.  They won’t need to do more “more” with even more “less.”

My focus with SMCPS and St. Mary’s County as a community is on special education and appropriate service providers for people with special needs.  I usually drive to Baltimore and D.C. to get the specialists my children need (as do many other families in the county).  However, not everyone can afford to do so in terms of time or money. I am encouraged to hear of the new facilities in the works on Great Mills Rd. that will increase the number of local providers.  I’d like to emphasize that meeting needs now will significantly reduce the money spent when children become adults.

I also rely on SMCPS to meet the educational needs of my children.  My family is impacted by multiple mental health and medical needs, most significantly by Autism.  It was with great interest that I read Dr. Martirano’s Letter to the Editor in the April 24th edition of
The Enterprise.  In it, Dr. Martirano presented a lengthy list of supports that SMCPS offers to students/families impacted by autism.  In my opinion, each of the points in the letter may be accurate, but when you string them together, you hide the gaps. What's in between the points are the problems with services.  I will follow up on those gaps in services for students/families impacted by autism with Dr. Martirano.  That’s my job as a parent, as a community member, and as the coordinator of the Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland.

Why I bring it up here is because without further funding of the school budget, the services listed in the letter cannot be systematically provided, as needed.  Therefore, when these children exit the school system at 18, 19, 20, 21, the cost of care and services becomes a huge drain on
county resources.  This Board of Commissions seems to be all about paying now to avoid future expenditures at higher rates.  It only makes sense, ethically and financially, to do the same for our children.

Again, I thank you for what you’ve done.  I ask you to consider the true costs of paying less now to educate our children only to pay more when they grow up.  Thank you.