Evergreen Villager: The homeless first started arriving in Evergreen about 3 months ago. At first they were only a few of them, asking for change, sleeping in the parks. But then more showed up. And we realized there was something different about them. They fed off of our change to the point that they could actually start renting apartments. We knew it wouldn’t be long before the homeless actually started buying homes. And then we’d had no idea who is homeless and who wasn’t. People living in the house right next door to you could be homeless and you wouldn’t even know. Nobody could trust anybody. Fights broke out, war! That’s when I starting suspecting my own wife, who I’d be living with for 20 years, was actually homeless. So I had to burn her, in her bed, while she slept.
—South Park, “Night of the Living Homeless” (4/18/07)
Changes are afoot in Baltimore City Schools, but they aren’t all good.
I’ll do the good stuff first, since I’m so used to ragging on BCPSS that this will be a nice change of pace. By now you may know that BCPSS has posted significant gains on the Maryland State Assessment, pretty much across the board. A lot of people will try to take credit for this and I say: what the hell. Let everyone have a moment in the sun on this one. A lot of people have worked very hard for a long time for this (i.e. Alonso gets close to zero credit), and it’s good to see all that effort finally starting to pay off. You can click here to see how your youngster’s school did.
In the meantime, there are changes taking place in Special Education. As I’ve mentioned, there were previously nine areas in BCPSS: Areas 1 and 4 were Elementary schools, Areas 2 & 3 were K-8 schools, Area 5 was Middle schools, 6 & 7 were high schools, 8 was Charter schools and 9 was the “reconstruction” area, where schools had previously done poorly by NCLB standards. This all changed on July 1, when Areas 1-4 were rolled into one big area, 5, 6 and 7 were put together, and 8 and 9 were divided according to whether they were elementary/K-8, middle or high schools.
Each area has a Special Education Coordinator, and at the Elementary/K-8 level this is no different. There are still four coordinators, although they now have about 122 schools total among them, which is up from 98. So the Coordinators’ overall caseload has increased. Each Coordinator also has a Lead ITA, of which I am one. As of today, we maintain space at the old Area I office, where we share the room with the Area 4 Coordinator and her Lead. The Area 2 and 3 Coordinators and their Leads had space at Edmonson-Westside High School.
In order to ensure that the Coordinators were more consistent with each other, it was finally decided that all four of them should be located in the same place. The bad news was that they were all going to the Puzzle Palace at North Avenue. The worse news was that the four of them are going to be sharing a space that’s roughly the same size as the space that’s just occupied by me and my boss at present. Four desks, no bookshelves, no file cabinets, no privacy at all. You need to call a parent about a sensitive matter? Tough. You need to counsel an ITA who’s being disciplined? Let it all hang out, baby. Oh, and you’ll be sharing electrical outlets to power your respective computers, monitors, printers, fax machines and whatever else you have there. Hope you know where the breaker panel is, and don’t forget to save your work often.
The Lead ITAs? In a word, homeless.
That’s right. The Coordinators’ right-hand people have been given no space whatsoever. Desk space? Nope. Reference binders? No where to put them, so they’re out. Mailboxes for incoming documents from other schools? Forget it. Storage for archived technical assistance reports? Nuh-uh.
It’s bad enough that the Coordinators, who are supposed to be fairly high on the food chain (roughly Principal level; maybe a little higher but I’m not positive about that), aren’t being treated like the professionals they are, so much as they’re being reduced to this weird-ass Bob Cratchit state. It’s almost as nice as the photo above.
But now we’re learning that the people upon whom they depend will have no place at all to do their jobs in a couple of weeks. And it’s not as though we can temporarily move our stuff to the schools to which we’re assigned, because that’s still a state secret: we don’t even know what schools we’re assigned to yet.
Why is this happening? Possibly some people are doing it simply because they can. Possibly they’re doing it because they didn’t really think ahead and to make a change now would be an admission of failure somehow (this is the “Dubya” model, which worked out pretty well in Iraq, right?). Possibly the people who could exert some pressure to give us space have more or less checked out of their jobs because they’re retiring, or transferring, or whatever, and don’t really give a damn anymore. Possibly because in the eyes of the Puzzle Palace we’re all just so much cattle rather than the educated professionals we thought we were. You make the call.