Wednesday, July 29, 2015

AM~Erica's Boiling Point Reached

So anyway...

As many of you know, I have shared my disdain for how our school district has handled a lot of things in the last couple of years. Last school year really had me questioning many things. (A reminder HERE <<=== then read the link with it, too, for additional background - then the blogception that will happen. A rabbit hole of background, if you dare.)

With that said, and put BACK out there in the same type of position, again, I feel another open letter is in order. Why the open letter? I need to see what other parents had anything close to what we dealt with. Also, these kids need advocates for them thru this madness. I'm willing to step up & say something in hopes that others will step up to speak up, too. Also, finding anyone from the district, on the school board, or the superintendent are not exactly easy to just find & meet up with.

So, here goes:


Dear Independence School District, ISD School Board, and Dr. Dale Herl,

As a frustrated parent, I am finding this is becoming much more of a regular occurrence than not. Which is not a good sign. The levels of disappointment and anger I have reached are beyond measurable at this point.

Finding a positive, the school district does try to make strides in keeping up with the times. However, I am not sure how tested these methods are.

A couple of years ago, when class registration for high school's upcoming year, there was an idea to do it online. That's fine. But all the students who needed to sign up for classes had to show up to the school AND use any available computer in the library while being on a server that could not handle that much traffic at once. It also included classes no longer available, as well as classes that were supposed to be available, but not listed. The students were frustrated. The parents were frustrated. The counselors were frustrated. The server system was frustrated.

It was a total mess.

Now then, as my son enters his senior year of high school, he has found that he has had to make a schedule change, right off the bat, every year so far except for his freshman year. But he does say it's because he was just starting out and didn't know any better.

For this upcoming school year, the seemingly "optional" online registration (new this year) seemed like a nice amenity to have. So imagine our shock when we went to register our youngest just to find out online registration was mandatory. This is fine, but we took the wording in information to be optional. We found an onsite Chromebook (not our favorite to work with), since we didn't want to head home to register online, just to have to go back up to the school to finish enrollment. (more on this in a moment)

Imagine our additional shock that we had to create yet another online account to set this up. We already have an account set up on Power School to see our kids' grades, and even register for online summer school, but we still had to set this up completely separately. But we still used our kids' ID number from Power School to be able to connect our new account to be able to ensure their mandatory online enrollment. Confusing, but we went with it.

Some of the information in the online fields were pre-filled out from past information we'd given on forms in years past. A little freaky, but fine. Just keep hitting "Save" on all the areas so you could move on to the next page.

This included refilling out information for the health forms, now part of the online process. Odd, but fine. We had to go with it, or the kid doesn't get registered for school. I get it.

When all of that is complete, we can go to the school's office for residency verification & be assigned a teacher (for elementary).

By now, we get it. We realized why we didn't get a large amount of forms mailed to us for our high schooler, like we would usually get. We had to go to the newly set up account, add a kid with their student ID (the one that matches on Power School, but the account isn't attached to the Power School account, remember?) to go through the same process as our youngest.

As I got to the part about Primary Contact, and all my info had been pre-filled in (just like before), I had to put in a couple of things. I tried to save it. It wouldn't save. I tried changing things that might need to be changed, but nothing. I couldn't move on.
I gave it a rest & tried to come back.
The registration process for our high schooler said, "In Progress." It took me right back to the page I'd left off. Still no saving. My stress levels were building. Nothing seemed to be working. So I had to break down and call for help.

When I called the number, I spoke with Edna.

E:   *answers introducing herself*

Me: Hi. I am trying to register my son online, and I seem to be having trouble.

E:    First you have to fill out all the fields, make sure they are saved...

Me: *cutting her off* Excuse me. I wasn't finished & I need you to listen.

E:    Oh, I'm sorry. Please continue.

Me:  I am on a page where everything is filled out, but it won't seem to save. I've tried changing some
        some things, but it won't seem to save.

E:   Well OK. If you don't mind, can I log in to see what's going on?

Me: Sure!

E:  OK, I'll need your email address.

Me: *recites email adress*

E:   Thank you. Now, can I get your password?

Me: Hold on. Let me go to another room so my kiddos can't hear it.

E:   *laughs* Oh, I understand.

Me: OK. *gives password*

E:   Thank you. Now which child are you wanting to register?

Me: *face palm* Umm...[Teen Boy], the one in progress.

E:   Of course. Oh, I see the problem! You need to put in an employer.

Me: I've been trying, but it won't save. I put it in on [Lil Guy]'s registration & it took fine. I've filled
       out everything else, but it won't seem to save here.

E:   Well, this does seem to be acting like a booger...
       Oh! I see the problem. You have a space after your email address, and this system is very sensitive.

Me: Are you serious?

E:   OK. It's saved now.

Me: *a bit irritated how that worked out, but not at Edna* OK. Thank you very much! know those pre-filled-out fields? That's what screwed me over. I couldn't move on because of an extra space in a pre-filled-out field. How frustrating!! I'm thankful Edna could help me, but what hangup in the process! But I got to move on with the rest of it, including the health form section.

But it's done & now I can get my son to the school, on the selected day he was given, to do residency verification and get his schedule. Fine.

Here's where it gets really hairy...

First, we approached the "Start Here" table in the main foyer. A couple of students, apparently part of Student Council, were there to get us "started." We were asked, "Did you register online?" We answered with a yes, and were abruptly handed a salmon-colored form & told to head down the hall to the library.

There's a line that had formed, even so quickly after the hour & a half lunch break had ended. We took a moment to look at the form, make sure we had our residency verification in hand, as well as the mandatory dance contract that has to be signed to have on file. The salmon form had a list of check-off points to stop by, only 3 (or four, if you count "register online") were required.

As we moved our way SLOWLY into the library, we were SLOWLY approaching a table where parents were signing half-sheets of paper stacked on a clipboard & being handed a booklet of papers. When we finally got to the table, we were asked by a woman in scrubs, "Have you registered online?" Umm...yes, or we wouldn't be there in the line, but yes. Then she proceeded to say they needed me to fill out one of the super-simplified half-sheets to have on file if the student needs major health needs within the first week of school because they won't have access to the health info we put online.

But we filled it out just to hurry & wait to SLOWLY make our way around to residency verification. We finally got there! We were to sit down across from one of the four staff members checking documentation (which is not how it worked at the elementary school, but I digress for now). The first question we were asked was, "So have you registered online?"
UGH!!!!!!! *ahem* Yes. Yes, we registered online. It's noted as "REQUIRED" on your salmon sheet. We couldn't move on to going through the process at the school if we hadn't done the mandatory pre-registering online. Why do we keep getting asked this?
Anyway, we were not asked for the student's name, but instead asked for our address first. It was a weird part of the process. But we got through it fine, and then went on to the next on our list: getting the bus pass.

As we got up to the table, there were 3 people working the table with stacks of papers. The woman stepped away to apparently take some sort of bizarre call, so it left a couple of men to handle the families. When it was our turn to step up, we were asked, "Last name?" (glad it wasn't if we'd registered online) So I replied, "[Boy], first name [Teen]." The man in the middle seat detested, "Whoa! A step at a time! We have files to go through!"
The other man kindly picked up on it, then asked if he was going to be a senior. We acknowledged that he had the right student, but the man in the middle was still sorting.

MiM:  What's the first name?

Me:       [Teen].

MiM:  Ah! There he is. So, a freshman?

Yikes! After we went through that weird station, it was time to head to get his schedule.

Remember when I said that my son has just come to realize he will have to change SOMETHING on his schedule? We could not fully brace for what we encountered...

One of my husband's staff also has kiddos at THS. She gave him a head's up that both of her kids' schedules had major missing entire blocks: like no 2nd block class listed, as an example. Apparently it had happened to others, too. So we tried to brace.

When my son got his schedule, he was almost immediately handed a schedule change form. And for good reason...
As he looked at his schedule, he was missing 2nd block, 4th block, and had two 8th blocks. Then he was told that if was taking Advanced Placement World History, then they were scheduled completely wrong, so that would have to be changed. And he didn't see any of his 2nd semester classes listed. On the gold form to make schedule changes, my son had to make notes on 4 of the 5 categories to do so. That's insane! And? The room was full of other students doing the same thing. We didn't see a single student leave that room with a schedule that was fine. Not. A. Single. One.

This never should have happened. For a district to, not only add yet another class to the already crowded high school schedule, but to also force online registration all at the same was too much.

My question really is whether or not this was all tested out to make sure any glitches were taken care of.
Also, for a district to want to cut back on budgeting, like paper usage, there was so much paper & ink used to have such a large populous of the student body schedules to be screwed up.

Oh, and we won't hear anything until August 7th...but start calling if we don't hear anything by the 9th.

All. The. Paper.
All. The. Ink.

Half-sheets & screwed up schedules all due to not matching up with the online registration. That was mandatory.

WHAT A WASTE!! Waste of time. Waste of resources. But teachers need to watch their budgeting & such. Especially on those resources. Right?

In this mess, what was actually accomplished?

Then, when my son made his changes to turn back in, he looked so defeated. He showed me something on his schedule that made my heart sink to my stomach...
He got a new counselor. Again.
See, this will be his 4th year at this high school. This will be his 4th counselor.

He's worked so hard to try to build a relationship with his counselor. Not just for helping him through his high school experience, but to help get him a good reference for college. One of the requirements from his top colleges he wants is to get a reference from their counselor. This is crushing right now. Especially since we just visited his top choices & this is what they are looking for.

As he walked out of that room, defeated, we realized we were still holding on to that dance contract. No one had ever asked for it! We finally ended up asking the "Start Here" table students what to do with it. The girl asked him if he'd already gotten his schedule. Well, yes. Then she shrugged, said she just handed hers to the principal at some point & didn't know from there.
So, we are still hanging onto that stupid dance contract!

It took us over 30 minutes to do what should have taken 5-10 minutes.

Realizing that he has a new counselor, it just hit us the amount of turnover in this district within the last couple of years. It's heartbreaking. My older son was reminiscing that, not only is he on his 4th counselor, but his 3rd principal.

When our youngest went to register, we already knew many of the teachers were planning on hightailing it out of the district. Lil Guy's teacher is new to the district; three of the four teachers in his grade are new this year.

Appears exciting, but that is a lot of turnover!

To use a levy to make it look like all of these new teaching jobs are being created, and baiting teachers from across the state boarder to try to fill positions, is really sneaky. There is no consistency, and I'm concerned for all the new teachers entering. Do they have any idea why there were so many teaching positions? It's not because there was a new school building or two to staff.

When we left the high school today, I was infuriated! My son was so let down. When we got into the car to head home, my son, a gifted speaker & debater, could barely finish a sentence about how crushed he felt. I'm not sure he did finish a sentence for most of the way home. He was choked up with so much defeated emotion.

The more I bring up about the direction this district is going, the more frustrated I become. I want my kids to have a good education; I want them to go to good schools. Because of the fact we were sent here, and then provided a wonderful place specifically to get us to these schools now has me concerned about where this district is headed. There are people from here who had/have faith in the district. And they are seeing it crumble as we are. And we have to attend here.

With that said, I will fight for my kids to have better in the district we were made to believe it once was. Because we don't see it. Today had me at my boiling point. My rising senior, too.

My son's final year in this district, and he already wants it done.
That's heartbreaking!

I'm concerned that decisions are being made based on only trying to move forward with times & for the sake of power, but not with the wellbeing of the students or any faculty in mind. That needs to change!

And it needs to change NOW!


~ A Very Concerned Parent Trying to Advocate for the Kids & Faculty


People who are part of this, raise your voice. Get word out there. Email, blog, call, show up to meetings, etc. ANYTHING we can if you care about your kids in this district. For anyone who grew up here & wanted your kids here, it's not what it was when you went through. It's also not the same leadership, if you want to call it that. If you don't take off blinders, you're kids will fall through the cracks. Not just of our system, but any higher education plans afterward. This is going to affect your kids if they are in sports, too. I guarantee it.

So, anyone else want to speak up? Our kids should not be going through this. At all.
Neither should the educators.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

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