We Interrupt This Vacation ...



I know I am not yet finished with my relaxing vacation posts and sadly I have to interrupt it with a wrath of mom post... (So much for relaxing!)  But the wrath of mom is NOT directed at my son (who can breathe a sigh of relief), but to the middle school administration...

School starts in two weeks.  Just this week the middle school released the student schedule.  And I was definitely NOT happy with what I saw.

Before I begin my rant, let me say two things:
  • This has NOTHING to do with the teachers.  In the course of his school life, my son has mostly had very good teachers.  Some were great and some were so-so.  This rant is NOT about the teachers.  
  • My son's school is relatively small.  The middle school houses 4 grades (5-8) and there are less than 200 kids in each grade.  However, the school is divided into houses and each house has its own Principal and Guidance Counselor.  So if there were 200 kids in his grade (and I'm pretty sure there's not that many), with the house method, each administrator would only have to deal with 100 kids per grade.  
Down to business...

When the parent portal was "opened," I looked at his schedule.  Gym first period?  Yuck!  But that's not a big deal.  What WAS a big deal was his elective classes.  There are 4 marking periods and for each one the kids (supposedly) get to select what classes they might get.  This is not guaranteed and I understand that.  Issue #1: for the first quarter he has been assigned to Math Lab.  And this has me steaming...

Now it's NOT that I have anything against Math Lab.  Last year, AFTER the elective classes form was turned in, we were called and told that they wanted to put my son in math lab.  Since he is not strong in the subject this was supposed to help him.  No problem.  But this WASN'T a selection on the elective sheet and we weren't told about it until AFTER the sheet/form was filled out.  Shouldn't the family be advised BEFORE so that it can be discussed?  That was a bone of contention with me and I said exactly that to the Principal.

My son reluctantly had Math Lab.  He didn't hate it.  He got an A in it.  But his math grades for the year still rounded out to C+  (I will say the quarter he had Math Lab, he got a B- in Math and all the other quarters he got C+)  I'm not sure how much of an impact the lab made.  When I discussed it with my son last night he said that it was an okay class; more of a study hall than an actual class. (Proud Mommy Moment:  My son handled all the scheduling news that I threw at him with grace and a maturity that most adults don't have.)  I have nothing against a study hall, but when my son ELECTED to take other classes, I think his opinion should be respected. 

Issue #2:  The 2nd quarter he has Health (This is NEVER an option and you are told about this up front.  You are allowed to select 3 classes and EVERYONE gets Health.)  Finally 4th quarter he had Art.  Does it seem like I missed something there?  No, I didn't miss something.  There was NO quarter 3 elective listed.  How do I know what elective he got (and what he didn't)?  Before "releasing" all the information to the parents SHOULDN'T there have been a check?

Now, I realize that mistakes and errors do happen.  (Heck I make them all the time!)  But then, I decided to check out some of his core teachers.  Since my son is an only child, I know nothing about the teachers he's going to have.  On the 8th grade page for his house there are links to each teacher's homepage.  Only 2 of those links don't work!  So I went around the site and found both teachers webpages a different way.  Only one teacher has absolutely NOTHING on her page other than her name.  Can you understand why I'm not really happy about any of this?  Shouldn't this stuff be checked out by someone?

When there are issues, I believe in going to the source.  Hence I sent an email to his Principal.  I had a reply within 24 hours requesting a phone call.  As a result:

Issue #1:  Supposedly his math teacher last year was supposed to get in touch with us regarding this.  She did not. (Although shouldn't a good administrator make sure that this was done?  Or is that be too much micromanagement?  I'm not sure.)   I made my case that I didn't feel that Math Lab was much of a help when it came to his grade.  We agreed to take him out of Math Lab and place him one of the electives he had asked for.  We can track his math progress during the quarters and see if we ALL feel that Math Lab might be warranted later in the year.

Issue #2:  The Principal was looking to this and said she would fix.  She did.  When I checked the scheduling later there was a third quarter class.  Now my son has all the electives he asked for.  (But I let him know that it could change if he slips in math...how's that for an incentive?)

Issue #3:  I was told one of his teachers does her web page differently which is why the link doesn't work.  (Huh?)  The other teacher doesn't have anything under her name because she is new.  Not to the school system; she taught at the high school level for two years (I found this out by doing some Googling.)  For some reason the technology hasn't transferred her information over to the middle school web page.  (This does not give me a lot of confidence in the tech systems that the school has in place.)

The morale of this story?   You've got to look out for your child because you can't trust the school system to do so?  (Not a very good moral!)  What if I HADN'T checked the portal?  (Ok, those of you who know me KNOW that that would NEVER happen!)

One final note regarding the school administration that has absolutely NOTHING to do with my child, but in my opinion has EVERYTHING to do with practicing what you preach...

The house website says the following:

We expect the following from our students:
1.  Treat others with kindness and respect.
2.  Be responsible for your work and actions.
3.  Come to class on time and prepared.
4.  Complete your assignments on time.
5.  Always try your best!

Were these guidelines followed not just putting together my son's schedule, but every students?  Are these guidelines followed when new employees (be they teachers or anyone on staff) are vetted and hired?  

Everyone in the school system: from student to superintendent should be following the guidelines listed above.  Because if the staff isn't, why should the students?  How can we expect high marks from our students if we aren't getting the same from EVERYONE on staff? 


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