Friday, December 10, 2010

School is so Much Easier When Parents Stay Away

I'm the room parent for Youngest's class. [Yeah, I know, what a shocker.] I'm supposed to find out which parents are willing to do what tasks, and I'm supposed to communicate to them about what they've foolishly volunteered to do.

One program is to have parents hang with the kids in the classroom during lunch on rainy days. [Yeah, I know, we have no cafeteria, which is ludicrous, and, yeah, I know, the teachers' contract as none of them required to watch kids during lunch or recess. Go unions. Why, when I was a kid, there were lunch rooms and teachers took turns watching the kids.]

At a cost of $50,000 the PTA built a structure which protects kids from all but the harshest of rains and that's where they've been eating lunch since it was finally done three weeks ago. Before that, they ate in their classrooms when it rained. And then they messed around and tried not to get busted by the yard duty people patrolling during the 45 minutes the teachers were no en casa.

The Parents At Lunch program -- PALs -- was started five or six years ago by some parents concerned that their kids were left inadequately supervised during lunch, with just four or five yard duty supervisors wandering the halls and checking on the kids in 20 classrooms. And it was going along fine and dandy...


The email from the room parent coordinator saying:

Hi everyone,
This is just a reminder...until further notice, the PALS program is on hold. Because of the new overhang structure-the kids are able to continue eating lunch outside with yard supervision.  Thanks to everyone who has helped out in the past, and to all that have been checking in to see if volunteers are needed! You guys are great!

To which I emailed to her in response:

But if it's raining too hard, once they're done with lunch, they go into the classrooms, beginning at about 12:35. Speaking as one of those yard duty flunkies, I'd say I'd darn appreciate having parents in the room for that period of time (or about 30 minutes). Who's idea was it to do away with the whole thing? Oh, wait a minute, I'm guessing I probably know.

To which she emailed back:

Really good point...even for a Y.D.F!!! Have you spoken yet with anyone in charge? Any chance of going back to the way that worked?

To which I emailed back:

Oh, I thought this was coming from you (not that you made the decision, but that you communicated it directly from a "power-that-be"). Who told you this? I'll send a note to that person.

To which she said in reply:

No-I believe it may have come from PRINCIPAL and PTA PRESIDENT...I think that CO-CHAIR 1 and CO-CHAIR 2 were just as surprised, being the PALS co-chairs. I just had to relay this to the room parents, I'm sure people were calling the office about it, and they wanted to inform everyone. 

Has your head exploded yet? Because this is where it gets really good. Because I emailed to the principal and the PTA president the following:

I received a notification that the PALS program is on hold until further notice. Two people asked me personally about it and had the same thoughts as I did. According to the email sent to all room parents from ROOM PARENT COORDINATOR, "Until further notice, the PALS program is on hold. Because of the new overhang structure-the kids are able to continue eating lunch outside with yard supervision."

My response back to her -- and what I've been hearing from others -- was, "But if it's raining too hard, once they're done with lunch, they go into the classrooms, beginning at about 12:35. Speaking as one of those yard duty folks, I'd say I'd darn appreciate having parents in the room for that period of time (or about 30 minutes)."

She replied back that she had heard from a few parents as well. I put this out there for your consideration.

So the principal emails back:

I am not against having pals during rainy days when children are spending recess in the classroom. I was trying to be respectful of parents’ time. I would like to also request that if we have Pals, that people not call the office to see if we need their services. This creates confusion for us as we receive many phone calls and we aren’t meterologists. If people want to be Pals, they have to show up on their own using their best judgment. Just a reminder, everybody needs to have a TB test on file.

And the PTA president, in a separate reply back, said:

I have discussed this with PRINCIPAL and I just couldn't come up with a way for it to work WELL:

- We used to tell parents to come to the school if it was raining, now we would have to tell them that they are only needed when it was "raining hard" - how do we identify "hard" to the point where SECRETARY OFFICE MANAGER isn't fielding 20 calls a day?
- I also am concerned about 20 or so parents driving to SCHOOL to find that they are only needed for 15-20 minutes if at all and then get an earful about how we are wasting their time. 
- My understanding is that we should be getting additional yard supervision due to the Jobs Act that would help to add eyeballs during this time. 
- If we can find a way to continue the PALS program in an efficient way that respects everyone's time, that would be great. I just couldn't think of one. That is why we said that it was "on hold" because if it didn't work and/or a brilliant thought popped up - we can always reinstate the plan. 

To which the principal replied on that email trail with:

We were allocated an additional three hours per week for yard supervision. Even last year when it was easier to determine whether or not we were eating inside, we fielded continual phone calls. As I said, earlier, people need to show up using their best judgment, if they want to participate in the program.

So I ignored what the principal had to say and just sent a note to the PTA president that said -- seriously, is anyone reading this anymore because this might actually count as my f#$kin' longest post ever with very little original writing in it:

Thanks for the insight. I've never seen more than a dozen parents doing PALs, and that was on the best of days, so 20 or so parents driving or calling seems highly inflated, but I guess the PALs chairpersons have likely given you that number, so I guess it must be true. And anyone too stupid to call SECRETARY OFFICE MANAGER after having been explicitly told to NOT do so is likely too stupid to be expected to amuse the kids in the classroom.

Additionally the "raining hard" isn't the issue now. If it's not "raining hard" they eat under the structure, then they go back to their rooms. Intensity of rain has nothing to do with them being stuck in their rooms after eating, save for the lightest of drizzles possibly freeing them. As for that three hours each week of extra supervision, that's going to be toward lunch and morning recess, so I don't see a major uptick in adult presence.

This is not a battle I'm interested in fighting. I was surprised by it being put on hold, as were the three other people who mentioned it to me, and the ones who talked with ROOM PARENT COORDINATOR.

I've sent your note and PRINCIPAL's notes onto the PALs chairpersons to do with it what they will.

And what did I say to those fine ladies? The ones who were running the whole program and the room parent coordinator? Why, let me tell you:

I sent a note to PRINCIPAL and PTA PRESIDENT regarding the PALs program being on hold. I got three responses. First from PRINCIPAL (which is way down below), then one from PTA PRESIDENT and a tack on from PRINCIPAL which I've copied and pasted above the first response.

PTA PRESIDENT's point about "20 or so" parents driving to SCHOOL and both of them saying SECRETARY OFFICE MANAGER fielded many calls (with PTA PRESIDENT saying "20 calls a day") is outright laughable. I've never seen more than a dozen parents at any one time doing PALs, and that's on a good day. But, hey, whatever.

The point remains that there is about 25 minutes of in-classroom time on rainy days. I know the only reason I ever did PALs was to spend time with my kid and ensure limited chaos in the room. Of course, I live blocks from school, so it was no big deal for me to pop in. I don't know if you just want to call PALs dead in the water or what. I just didn't want to leave the impression with parents that there isn't time in the classroom when kids are without an adult in the room at all times.

Frankly, I am of the belief that we have someone on campus who would do anything rather than have to communicate with parents. In person! Face-to-face! EEEEEEK!

I'm copying ROOM PARENT COORDINATOR on this email as she was the one who first told me it was, to use the politically correct vernacular of the day, "on hold."

Oh. My. God. I had to howl at one of these fine ladies' response to my email:


well....the whole thing is a giant mess I think.....
WHY they decided this year to suspend it is beyond me....another STUPID thing that works fine that PRINCIPAL has to focus on......where she should be focusing on the TRAFFIC CIRCLE NIGHTMARE!!!!  ...but wait...according to her "that's a PTA thing"...seriously????  who is in charge of the freakin' school??? if PTA...then we should send her ass to the unemployment line.....obviously I'm not a fan of hers AT ALL.......

we never had a PALS meeting for people who volunteered....and I guarantee you that is why people were calling SECRETARY OFFICE MANAGER.....because in the meeting we specifically tell them to NOT call SECRETARY OFFICE MANAGER and ask if they are needed or if it's raining at school...

I think saying 20 parents is ridiculous!!!  we usually have less than 10 parents EVER!!!!!!!

and on the Friday of Halloween when I walked into the multi to see how many hundred kids sitting on the FLOOR with their lunches on NEWSPAPER eating in there...REALLY??   

PRINCIPAL made absolutely NO EFFORT on this...and she's let a really GREAT thing go by...

never mind that she's horrible at giving the tours to prospective parents...I had a friend go on a tour on Tuesday...and she threw some good hard questions at being "what makes SCHOOL the school it is?"  was my friend's question...and PRINCIPAL in her Snow White voice said "well, I was thinking of that this morning in the car on the way to school" friend about choked at that reply....

again...can't we get her fired and get FORMER PRINCIPAL back??????????????????
You still here? You mean you read all that? When I could have just summed it up, all twitter-like, with something like, "Principal at Youngest's school continues plot to eliminate all parental presence at school. Next step? Eliminating the students." 


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're back posting. Yeah, I read it all. And just shook my head and thought, "Yet another reason I'm glad we chose not to have kids." I loved the "Snow White voice" -- Snow White was an idiot, as well, so it seems appropriate.


tiff said...

i can't believe i read it all..but then again i am a teacher and my husband is a is funny to see the going ons of other schools...this sounds a wee bit similar to my school...however not my husbands school, as he is middle school.

unions...unions...unions...we don't have one...we are told we do, but it is really just an active group that has no power...ha...gotta love that!

as for the recess...i agree...i would be concerned mostly about supervision of children in their is a HUGE issue! seems like when you got a good thing keep it going...i am continually surprised by folks choices...w/ no reason...i can't believe it is mostly based on PHONE CALLS to the school! UGH!

as for Snow White...well i shouldn't say more...too close to the tours in our school!!!!


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