Via email from my son’s school, I found out that the Charter School Advisory Board has recommended that the state revoke the charter for the only public school in North Carolina especially for special needs/exceptional children. This sounds like a bad joke.
When investigators sent by the state pointed out problems with paperwork, codes and administration, the school quickly righted them. Unfortunately, because of all the backtracking involved in fixing files and computer codes, the school missed out on state money usually granted to charter schools in their first year.
None of this is surprising. It’s the first year for a school run mostly by parents concerned for their special-needs children – exhausted, desperate, intelligent, hard-working parents who completed extensive training but missed crossing a couple of T’s, leaving a significant financial deficit for the year.
In January, advisory board members granted the school until May to right the financial deficit. As parents, we rallied. We pledged to pay tuition, raise funds, host a gala, a road race, a charity auction, write grants – basically, we were ready to sell our souls to keep this school open for our children. The principal even offered not to draw a salary for the rest of the year.
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Because we need this school. Our kids need this school – right now and for future generations. North Carolina is seriously lacking in support for exceptional children. Underfunding, oversized classrooms and a huge push for mainstreaming used as an excuse to further cut funding to special needs kids have all left a giant hole in the system that no one can fill.
Ask any of the hundreds of parents on the N.C. Special Needs Home School email lists or clubs or boards. We gave up on the system and pulled our kids out – those of us who could anyway.
But those of us who couldn’t had to watch our children struggle in schools where they were forced to sit at desks in often crowded classrooms, mind-numbing worksheet after worksheet put in front of them. Pull out for speech, pull out for OT, back in for everything else – most of it going right over their heads. Bullied at recess, bullied in the bathrooms, bullied at lunch.
“There is no recourse available. Just help him learn how to get through it.” These were actual words spoken to me by a teacher whose hands were tied in the case of a very large student who decided to make my son’s every day a living hell.
But you can’t blame the teachers. Our teachers work their fingers to the bones for a fraction of what they should be paid. No. This goes all the way to the top.
Every suggestion the state made has been met. The money is slowly trickling in, with promises of huge donations and fundraising in the next six weeks, and yet the board still recommended to shut the school down.
Why would they close this school when my son is finally happy, finally feels he is in a place where he belongs? He is finally out in the world without his mother and thriving. He is finally learning with his peers. He is growing and making friends and even leading discussions – something that would never have happened in a traditional public school setting.
He is finally happy about going to school. He even got up on a recent Saturday morning and was disappointed to learn it wasn’t a school day. When in the history of school has that ever happened anywhere ever?
I’m stunned, heartbroken and completely jaded now. The only answer I can see is one my friend suggested. The county has failed. The state is failing our exceptional children. And they can’t stand to see anyone else succeed because it would make their shortcomings glow like neon at midnight.
Where are all those lawmakers so dedicated to education now?
I’ve been fighting this battle for nine years now, and I’ve seen nothing improve except the opening of more charters. But what is the point of that if you make it impossible to succeed without a huge national charter school brand name to back you up?
You’ve beaten a group of exceptional children and their parents down to the ground, North Carolina. Bravo.
Jennifer Holt of Raleigh has a child at Dynamic Community Charter School.