A Follow-up to the Open Letter to the ISD 77 School Board: Part II: Hit and Run
Picture it: You’re invited to a meeting. You bring a fellow advocate along. When you arrive, there are individuals gathered near the front desk. They look at you and scatter. You sit down in the waiting area. The secretary tells you that the individual you are meeting with is running late following a meeting. Five minutes pass. Ten minutes pass. You make small talk with your fellow advocate. Another five minutes pass. The individual you are meeting with is now 15 minutes late. You check your email. You check the time. It is now 18 minutes past when the meeting was supposed to begin. Suddenly, the door opens and the individual you are meeting with walks past. There are only 2 people sitting in the waiting area, and it is you and your fellow advocate. The individual does not acknowledge you, but walks abruptly by, with a full Venti Starbucks Iced Coffee filled to the brim in their hand. You begin to wonder if they were actually in a meeting or if they just spent the last 18 minutes acquiring their latte.
You are invited into the meeting room, where 2 individuals await. You are expecting an apology for their delay, but none is offered. You anticipate open conversation about how our community can better work together. You have no idea you are about to witness a series of hit and runs by a bus.
The Bus Drivers: The drivers of the bus wear multiple hats, but they have an important job. Their job is to ensure that the passengers on the bus arrive safely to their destination. It is their job to navigate the roads, invite people onto the bus, move passengers as needed on the bus, and ensure pedestrians and others around the bus remain safe.
So, you’re in a meeting with the Bus Drivers. They invited you in to better learn how they can navigate the roads to better connect the community. They ask your perspective on how the system works and how it can better work. You share your perspective. One of the Bus Drivers seem upsets, grabs a passenger on the bus, throws them off and runs them over, but they save their coffee from spilling.
The 1st Hit and Run: You’ve just experienced the 1st Hit and Run. The first victim is a teacher. The Bus Driver tries to convince you this is where the problem lies. The teacher assigned to your early learning setting, must have misspoke.
You and your fellow advocate begin to defend the teachers and other personnel who have been helping you. Your fellow advocate shares her frustration by sharing a personal story, while retaining confidentiality, of a particular child and family who needs help and more support. She describes how the situation unfolded and how we might better come together to provide support. One of the Bus Drivers once again becomes upset, grabs a passenger on the bus, throws them off, and runs them over, but they save their coffee from spilling.
The 2nd Hit and Run: You’ve now experienced two hit and runs, and you’re beginning to see the pattern. The second victim is a parent. The Bus Driver tries to convince your fellow advocate that, “without breaking confidentiality”, that parent you mentioned wasn’t actually ready to commit to additional help, so the bus company was not at fault.
The other Bus Driver intervenes as the tension mounts. This Bus Driver asks how we can better work together. You and your fellow advocate begin to explain how more training and a different approach to assessment, development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), and communication may be beneficial. The other Bus Driver veers to the right and references a strainer type system for parents to navigate all of the various resources within the community. The referenced system will be coming from the state in 5 years. You reference stronger training and partnerships between child care providers and the school district as 5 years is too long to wait. The Bus Driver looks you in the eye, grabs multiple passengers on the bus, throws them off and runs them over, but they save their coffee from spilling.
The 3rd Hit and Run: This Hit and Run is personal. The casualties are the teachers within you and your fellow advocate’s early learning environment. The Bus Driver questions you both on how you determine which trainings your teachers need and how you arrive at that conclusion. The Bus Driver blames the Hit and Run on you and your fellow advocate.
At this point in the meeting you realize that nothing is going to actually change. You start to question the purpose of this meeting. One of the Bus Drivers who has remained mainly quiet during this time asks if there are any other areas to discuss, or questions. You refer to the process for determining placement of paraprofessionals within certain early learning environments within the district. The other Bus Driver interrupts, grabs you, throws you off the bus and tries to run you over, but you spill their coffee.
The 4th Attempted Hit and Run: You and your fellow advocate begin to question the process of determining which early learning environments are a Bus Stop on the route. The Bus Driver repeatedly attempts to hit you with the bus, but you and your advocate throw speed bumps down, questioning the Bus Drivers.
The meeting abruptly ends. The Bus Drivers seem frustrated as they have more to say. But you and your fellow advocate have things to do. The Bus Drivers made a choice, and it was coffee. You and your fellow advocate head back to your early learning environments, feeling shamed, angry, and frustrated.
The culture on the Bus is in need of repair. Passengers have the knowledge to repair the bus, but they fear the Hit and Run consequences.
The Future: The Bus Drivers get on the bus and pull up to the bus stop. They open the doors, but no one gets on the bus. The passengers are tired of being run over. The Bus Route is old and outdated. Hit and Run, but at Least you Didn’t Spill your Coffee.
There is an African Proverb that states, “If you want to go fast go alone; If you want to go far go together”. We must come together. If a change to the culture does not occur soon, we are looking at a future with no teachers. A future where children and families are impacted, rather than empowered.
An open, honest conversation regarding change needs to occur. I again am asking to see documentation regarding the criteria for determining a site where paraprofessionals and certain Student Support Services are provided. The response provided to my fellow advocate and I was “They are a Preschool”. We are a Preschool as well; a 4-Star, Curriculum guided, On-Going Assessment, quality early learning environment that partners with families. When I spoke with the Minnesota Department of Education today regarding the claim that “The state sets the guidelines and parameters for selecting sites for certain services”, the individual at the MDE stated otherwise. She indicated “Districts provide local discretion. The only regulation provided by the state is that IEP Services must be provided”. The teachers at Here We Grow are educated, passionate individuals. They deserve better. They do not deserve to be thrown under the bus. My teachers and I will not be the next Hit and Run, while you save your coffee.