Monday, April 18, 2016

Tony Brandenburg: Contemplating the Focus Point Academy (part 1)

Mod: I thought I should add an introduction to Tony Brandenburg's post because a lot of people are not going to be familiar with this topic. Focus Point Academy, which serves as a kind of apartheid-style central dumping ground for special needs students in the Pasadena Unified School District, has become the subject of a class-action lawsuit on behalf of those families whose rights were sorely abused. Recently the Pasadena Star News published an article about the Focus Point lawsuit, and I am including a portion of that with this post. To read the entire PSN piece click here. Tony's article follows that.


Tony Brandenburg: Contemplating the Focus Point Academy (part 1)
Having a disability isn't a crime. Manifestations of a disability are also not a crime.

Squirrel Cage
I have never been especially fond of the idea of Focus Point Academy. Never. I have always considered it a sub-par half baked idea with a good heart and a lousy disposition.

I want to believe the good heart piece was that people in the PUSD want to see children with behavioral challenges have success. The reality, however, is my personal opinion that this is simply a squirrel cage. A squirrel cage- for those of you who care- is a trap designed to catch small animals, generally squirrels and gophers. A squirrel cage is also a meaningless and repetitive task. You choose the definition you like, as they are both appropriate.

My Generally Biased Pre-History
Forgive me. I must always preface my disdain for many of the PUSD special education services right up front, and I will hold many Sierra Madre pre-school and primary educational staff responsible for the damage caused to my child and family due to their arrogance and lack of empathy. That said, if you want to skip this background information scroll down.

A few years ago my youngest child became the target of a community roasting and lynch mob.  I was called a sociopath, my 7 year old child was called much worse, and my wife MJ was subjected to four years of dirty looks, whispering, and general shaming.

Welcome back to high school.

Anyhow, when the smoke cleared there was a new Special Education Coordinator, a Board Member was called to the carpet, and a general shake-up was had by more than just us. It would have been comedic if it wasn't so ugly. We tried our best to have fun with it. The end result was that we determined our children were better of somewhere else outside of the public school sector. And, yes, we ultimately found that they are.

Focus Point was placed on the table for my child when he was 7, then quickly removed when the then Special Education Coordinator (and I assume the advocate for this program originally) Elizabeth Blanco decided it was 'not appropriate' for our child. More likely, she knew that MJ and I would be so noisy that the 'school' would never fly under the radar.

Advice
My advice to teachers and staff: If you are an educator, listen. You are a service provider. Get off your mustang, Napoleon, and work with your families. All of them. They know their kids better than you, so stop telling parents what they need to do, and start telling them how you can support their children. Don't fall prey to gossip and lies, and, most importantly, try looking at things from a parent's perspective.

My advice to parents: If you are a parent, and you believe your child needs supports, start setting up and documenting your meetings. If you feel your child needs more intensive support, make a formal request for testing, and keep a dated copy of it. Talk to your child, and talk to professionals who provide services to kids. Don't wait for the school to do it. They are slammed, and they may or may not actually follow through.

My advice to the community: If you realize there is something going on at your child's school or classroom, a little empathy and genuine concern for the other family and child can go a long way.  Get over yourself and offer a hand.

Focus Point Basics
You aren't going to find much about Focus Point Academy on the PUSD web site. If you go to the archived website, you might find this:

Focus Point offers a small, highly structured special educational program that incorporates daily supportive counseling and specially designed academic instruction for students diagnosed with emotional disturbances and specific learning disabilities in grades 1 – 12.

However, if you go to the current PUSD website, you will not only fail to find much about Special Education, you will also find little about Focus Point, and not much about it in general (click here).  You'll need to dig to find stuff. As for special education, it's probably called something else now.

The biggest complication I have found with the Focus Point paper trail is that because it is technically defined as a therapeutic center, it is not technically a school in the traditional sense. That's where everything in this equation gets screwy. The variable is out of whack. Either it is a school, or it's not a school.

By their definition, they provide specially designed instruction. This is the Ed Code definition (click here) which is a complicated quagmire that essentially lists how instruction can be delivered and where. The goal for all children is the typical, general education program. This is additionally clarified by the California Department of Education (CDE) (click here and here) which does little, really, to clarify and clear up the how and where part.

That is the ideal: the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). From there it can get fuzzy, because, according to some people, the LRE might actually be somewhere "better" designed to meet their needs.

It's All About Me
My personal belief is that any service model can be delivered on a typical school campus just as easily as on a sheltered/segregated/separate school. School districts tend to lean toward separate placements.

This is where the breakdown begins. Districts tend to say "It's temporary," but what often happens is, as I was told by an employee at the non-public placement Five Acres a few years back, "They can earn the right to go back to school."

I've got some news here folks: no one in this country has to earn the right to a free public education.

More to come.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

26 comments:

  1. are you straight edge?

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    1. Emo. So what time did you get home last night?

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    2. Don't bully me.

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    3. Does The Tattler have a safe room?

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    4. Yes. It is a panda bear motif with candy and soda.

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  2. Mod
    Awful story. Glad you stood up to bullying Education Authorities. But the price your family had to pay was unconscionable.Shouldn't happen in USA.But welcome to the future?
    If your situation had occurred in Europe it would have been considered normal. That is the result of generations of Socialism .In that system your children are relly the property of the State. You just get to keep them for a while. And when you are old, they do not care for you because for generations the State has 'relieved' them of any old-fashioned family responsibilities. That is what you & your adult children pay taxes for!
    And so the real evil of Socialism is revealed in the misery of both young and old - the most vulnerable in any Society.
    I labor these points because this only occurs because the State has obscene amounts of your money from taxes. And they spend it on social engineering . That is why it is important we minimize the amount of tax Govt collects.
    I admire your family's tenacity .It must have been very hard.
    No on UUT.

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    1. what in hell does this have to do with his story

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    2. 8:58 is telling us that he doesn't use our socialist infrastructure (roads, airports, bridges, tunnels, electrical grid, water system, police/fire, military protection, etc.) He's also saying he will be rejecting any social security payments. The irony is that he's using a socialist communication network to tell us these things.

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    3. That is because what is now called Socialism is really fascism. Think about that ,visit countries destroyed by so-called socialist dreams and report back ?
      BTW there is nothing uniquely Socialist about infrastructure. Free Enterprise did a great job of providing that in the good ol USA faster and better than anywhere else.It fell apart when Govt got involved.

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  3. This is a great article. It reads like a cross between George Orwell and Charles Dickens. Frightening.

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  4. they are all a bunch of crooks

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  5. I wish it were possible to put all kinds of kids together in a classroom, but it's not.

    A child who predictably has emotional breakdowns, or doesn't understand physical boundaries and touches all the other kids without their permission, or is repeatedly stopping the classroom's progress on specific skills development, changes the dynamics, so a teacher ends up teaching to that one child, and the other kids are put on hold for however long it takes.
    Special ed is a real field, and teachers who are committed to special ed are the hardest working people in education.

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    1. This was not handled well. Special Ed kids need to stay on campus. Concentration camps don't work.

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    2. Agreed,
      The problem is that the people who decide what to 'do' with a child who is different are sometimes more interested in following a political agenda than just plain commonsense.
      Teaching has become highly politicized and authoritarian. So if a parent acts like Parent instead of meekly accepting the latest psycho-babble child development plan espoused by the Education Authority - their response is draconian.
      These politicized teachers invariably win because they have much more power than a mere parent.As it should be in Socialist Nirvana? Socialism needs to destroy traditional values like Family, Church, self responsibility etc. to reach it;s ultimate aims.
      Where does this lead in an erstwhile successful democracy ? Look at Venezuela, and any E.European country for a prediction.

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    3. Why not look to the Northern European countries? Because it works, disproving your point.

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  6. Generally the reason people don't think the service model can be delivered at any school is because it seems like it takes a certain type of personality to provide what these kids need. In other words, you could train 10 people properly, but only 1 person would be able to actually do it the right way.

    For example, in the grade year Tony complains about and the time period he was complaining about, there's only one teacher that I think had a personality to deal with the kinds of situations Tony described, and he did not get that teacher. Regardless of training, it takes a certain personality to communicate well with Tony, a certain personality to communicate well with parents who are afraid of kids with disabilities, and that doesn't even get into the personality it takes to deal with different types of kids disabilities. Combining that all is even rarer to pull off.

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  7. Badly behaved boys were usually just bored because they were smarter than the average kid in the class. Putting a troble maker in a smarter grade often fixed the problem. But that is so dismissed as old fashioned !

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  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  9. Are you a fan of socialism, check out how well Venezuela is coming along and get back to me.

    PS Bring your own toilet paper. The stores are all out of it.

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    Replies
    1. I've used Sanders flyers. Needless to say, I've felt the Bern.

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    2. Yes, the Venezuela example is awful. As recently s the 1990's the country was still livable. The ravages of socialism are an inexorable decline that eventually inflicts misery on almost everyone. And all the time the politicians and favored Govt employees will blame Free Enterprise.
      I remember Venezuela as being very Americanized and a great place to live. No more. The damage and misery are hard to imagine. This is the path that others seem to be choosing for our children.It starts at school - if you allow it.Thankfully some stalwart souls resist.

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    3. If only the historically oppressed peoples of the world were more Americanized.. They would be much more attractive for us to visit

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  10. Interesting article in PERSpective re Myths vs Facts about CALPERS costs at page 4. https://www.calpers.ca.gov/docs/forms-publications/perspective-spring-2016.pdf

    Keep your emotions in check; Citable facts please. Or just have at it! (Mod wiling, of course.)

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    1. You mean to say CALpers says nice things about itself on their own website? How shocking!

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    2. CalPERS to study possible reinvestment in tobacco
      http://www.reuters.com/article/us-calpers-tobacco-idUSKCN0XF2TY?feedType=RSS&feedName=domesticNews

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