Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bureau Valley School Board overturns their decision and goes back on their word.

We heard last night that a teacher at Bureau Valley had been petitioning against the School Board’s May decision to allow our daughter to attend Kindergarten. Last night at the School Board Meeting she was present and at the second reading of the policy (which we were not aware was happening) the School Board voted 4 to 1 to overturn their decision made last month and therefore NOT pass the policy. Because it was done at the public portion of the meeting, a friend called us last night with the news.

In May we were contacted by two Bureau Valley Administration members and told that the school board had approved the policy change and that our daughter would register for Kindergarten this fall. This was based on a petition letter that I provided directly to the school board, including a copy of the State Law (which I had discussed with state employees for clarification) and also a copy of her recent pre-school assessment.

In May, I received a voice-mail from Mr. Butte, Bureau Valley District Superintendent, that says the following, and I quote,– “Good Morning Mrs. Johnson, This is Mr. Butte at Bureau Valley 340. I was getting back to you with regard to the letter you sent to us regarding the admission of your child into kindergarten that falls after the September the 1st deadline.  I wanted to let you know that the Board is going to change the policy and the change in the policy will allow you to enroll your daughter in school this fall.”  The (now retired) Principal of the Wyanet Building had called a few days earlier and told me that the decision was to be finalized at the May School Board Meeting.

The Board Voted in May and passed the policy change. We told our daughter that she was going to Kindergarten and the following week I called Happy Hands and told them to release her held preschool spot to another student who may be waiting. We had paid the deposit to save her spot several months ago. Our Daughter had her school physical, her shots, her dental checkup and cleaning, and the required vision exam for Kindergarten. This week she picked out a new backpack.

The School Board and the Central Office Administration did not contact us last night or this morning to notify us of the policy being overturned. I called the Central Office and also Keith Bolin, the President of the School Board this morning and left messages requesting a call back. After lunch I received a call from Mr. Butte confirming what we had heard… At the Second Reading of the Policy, the School Board Voted to overturn their previous decision to accept the policy, and our daughter is no longer able to attend Kindergarten at Bureau Valley this fall.

I calmly explained that we were very frustrated by this decision, and told Mr. Butte that we were told this was a “done deal” and that we had told our daughter she is going to Kindergarten at Bureau Valley. I told him that a 4 year old doesn’t understand that the “school board changed their mind” and that we had now relinquished our spot and our registration fee at the private preschool because we were told that she was going to be attending Kindergarten.  When I told Mr. Butte that I had hoped the school board would do the honorable and moral thing and allow her to attend this fall based on their prior word, I also told him that it was not going to be easy to explain to a 4-year old that now she couldn’t attend. His response was “I can only imagine.”

I have not yet received a return phone call from Keith Bolin or any other school board member.  When this policy was on the Board’s Agenda for a second reading, I believe that we should have been notified by Board Members or Administration Staff, and given the opportunity to hear the debate and also be allowed to answer and ask questions and present our point-of-view. Because we were told the decision was final, and were never told about a required “second reading”, we had no way of knowing what was to come.
When submitting the original letter to each school board member, I had decided to be at peace with whatever their decision would be, knowing that as a parent I had done the best that I could on our daughter’s behalf and that I had advocated for her to the best of my ability. I spent months researching the state laws and the policies of other schools, as well as having our daughter assessed and providing that information directly to the school board members. In April, School Administration explained that the Board Policy Committee first needed to review the information and write a policy that could be presented to the board, for the board to vote on. Mr. Butte indicated to me that there was some initial discussion by the policy committee regarding the policy and how it would impact the district. I was not told that there was any original opposition from Board Members to the policy and I assumed that is why it passed in May.

I am very upset by the actions of the school board, specifically having made their decision, having the administration pass that information on to us as a final decision, and then a month later change that decision and not stand by their word to us. I consider this a direct reflection of the character of the school board members and their morals. What kind of message are they passing to our community and our students if our school board will not honor its word? Is this the example we would like to set for our students? Even a four year old understands honesty and truth.

If the school board’s initial decision had been to not approve the policy change, I would have understood and although I would have been disappointed (of course, what parent wouldn’t?) I would have known that I did all I could. But to finalize something only to change your mind a month later, and to tell us the news… and then not stick by your initial decision… is weak.

I would like to Commend Former School Board member Jim Lilley. We have been told that his disappointment at the board’s actions, and the continued inconsistencies and issues with the School Board and administration, led him to walk out of the school board meeting last night and resign from the school board. Although Mr. Lilley is from Wyanet, I do not know him personally. I have only spoken to him once (over a year ago) regarding another school issue that I had questions about. But without personally knowing my family, or my child, he stood up for what he believed was right and was the only present board member to vote in favor of upholding the decision that had already been made. It was fortunate that we had a board member with such conviction. I have heard that Jim has stood up against administration and other board members in the past, for things that he did not believe were being handled properly. If you see Jim, please thank him for not being swayed by the majority.

As for us, it’s back to our original idea of private Kindergarten. It’s looking like we will be having a new baby and the kids and I will be driving to Princeton once to three times a day this next school year, so that both children can attend one private school- our three year old in their preschool program and our daughter in Kindergarten. Thanks to everyone who expressed concern about the stress this has caused, and who have provided knowledge, experience, and support as I was gathering my information to present to the school board in April. It is appreciated more than you know. Today I am resting in the belief that all things happen for a reason.  I am remembering that this is just Kindergarten, that their decision was out of my hands, and that we have beautiful, happy, and healthy children. That’s what is important.

I am attaching a copy of my original letter mailed to each individual school board member, as well as the copy of the Illinois State Law which allows a school board to make exceptions to the September 1st cutoff date based on Child assessment and readiness. If we were a year round school district, the rules for students after September 1st are even more lenient. A very wise woman with years of experience in Early Childhood Education, and teaching at the Preschool and Grade School level told me at the beginning of this journey that school administration would do what is right for the well-being of the child. I wanted to believe that but knew that other factors would go into their decision. Especially the added “work” that an early admission program or petition for early admittance might cause them (which has been the only negative I can think of when assessing a ready child, and something that has been mentioned to me by those in the education field.)

I firmly believe that if at this point, if your concern as a school official or administrator is solely in the additional “Work” that early admission might cause you, or a statement that was made that this policy change is a “Principal’s worst nightmare”- then you are working in education for the wrong reasons. 

Friday, April 5, 2012
         Dear Bureau Valley School Board Member:
I am writing regarding my daughter, (name). She will turn five this September 3rd, two days after the State’s set cutoff date for Kindergarten. (child's name) has attended private preschool at Happy Hands in Princeton for two years.
(child's) teacher, XXXXXX, is also the preschool coordinator at Happy Hands and has been a teacher there for 20 years. Prior to Happy Hands, XXXXX taught in the Wyanet District. She has assured me that (child) is ready for Kindergarten both academically and socially, and the high marks at her recent Parent/Teacher conference increased our concerns that (child) would not be allowed in Kindergarten this year.
I discovered information on the State of Illinois Website for Early Childhood Education. (www.IllinoisEarlyLearning.org) I called their hotline (877-275-3227) and was forwarded to Nancy in the Parent Support. Nancy further explained the Illinois State Law to me, clarifying that any school district in Illinois can waive the cutoff date of September 1st. Many larger districts offer “early admittance” programs with paperwork and screening processes. Because (child) qualifies for this exception, Nancy advised me to contact my local Board of Education and request that you accept (child) as a Kindergarten student in the 2012-2013 school year.
Nancy also clarified that if (child) is not accepted to Bureau Valley this year, she could attend an accredited private Kindergarten and Bureau Valley would then accept her as a first grader the following year.
 In March, (child) was assessed by the Princeton School District during their annual pre-k and kindergarten screenings. I was very pleased with the results, and in most areas she was testing at the 5/6 year old level.  The Princeton School District will not release the results of the test directly to me (So that I may include them with this letter), therefore I am having them send the results to the Secretary of the Bureau Valley Board of Education, so that you may view them at your convenience. If you require an additional screening done by Bureau Valley Staff, we would be happy to schedule one.
(Child) is now rhyming, sounding out words and pre-reading, and even doing simple addition. I worry that holding her back will not do her justice as she is excited and prepared for Kindergarten.  All of her classmates and peers are attending Kindergarten this fall and she wants to join them. She has always been a quick learner and very motivated, and I do not want her to become bored in a third year of preschool. I attended Manlius Grade school as a 4 year old kindergartner and graduated at 17 from the first class of Bureau Valley. I was a National Honor Society Member and High Honor Roll Student. I was active in clubs and sports and was the first president of the Bureau Valley FFA. I am very thankful of the opportunities given to me, and believe the same scenario would work well for (child).
Please consider this letter my formal request that the school board include my daughter, (child), in Bureau Valley’s Kindergarten class  in the Fall of 2012.
I am sending a copy of this letter to each Board Member. (child)'s assessment from the Princeton School District will be sent to the Board Secretary. In the interest of time, I believe you would prefer to address this privately but if it would be necessary for my husband and I to attend a board meeting to address the board, we will contact the central office and secure a place on the next agenda.  You may contact me telephone, email, or mail, using the contact information below.
Thank You for your Time.

Meagan Johnson
(contact information omitted for privacy)
cc: Bureau Valley School Board Members, Secretary to the Bureau Valley School Board

Attached: State of Illinois Code
    (105 ILCS 5/10-20.12) (from Ch. 122, par. 10-20.12)
    Sec. 10-20.12. School year - School age. To establish and keep in operation in each year during a school term of at least the minimum length required by Section 10-19, a sufficient number of free schools for the accommodation of all persons in the district who are 5 years of age or older but under 21 years of age, and to secure for all such persons the right and opportunity to an equal education in such schools; provided that (i) children who will attain the age of 5 years on or before September 1 of the year of the 1990-1991 school term and each school term thereafter may attend school upon the commencement of such term and (ii) based upon an assessment of the child's readiness, children who have attended a non-public preschool and continued their education at that school through kindergarten, were taught in kindergarten by an appropriately certified teacher, and will attain the age of 6 years on or before December 31 of the year of the 2009-2010 school term and each school term thereafter may attend first grade upon commencement of such term. Based upon an assessment of a child's readiness to attend school, a school district may permit a child to attend school prior to the dates contained in this Section. In any school district operating on a full year school basis children who will attain age 5 within 30 days after the commencement of a term may attend school upon the commencement of such term and, based upon an assessment of the child's readiness, children who have attended a non-public preschool and continued their education at that school through kindergarten, were taught in kindergarten by an appropriately certified teacher, and will attain age 6 within 4 months after the commencement of a term may attend first grade upon the commencement of such term. The school district may, by resolution of its board, allow for a full year school plan.
(Source: P.A. 96-864, eff. 1-21-10.)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

ISO someone to make me tiki torch metal brackets!!

So, I need something. Tiki torch brackets. And not jut ANY tiki torch brackets. The only ones that I have found that work on our fence are made by Enchanted Garden, which is the metal works/garden decor company that manufactures for Menards. We bought them about two-three years ago. My tiki torches look like this and are my favorite type.

They don't rot, they look nice, and they mount to the fence (or designed to be mounted to deck rails) so they stay away from the kids and dog. I have six of them, which is just right for our little yard. Problem is, I was only able to get three brackets. Since then I have tried the tiki brand brackets twice, and they don't adjust enough to attach to our fence rails.

Last year I checked every Menards store around and it appeared that that brand was no longer making tiki torch brackets (of course) and googling and ebaying didn't turn up anything. So now I have three tiki torches without brackets... And I am seriously disappointed an annoyed. Part of me thinks
That there is a man out there who can make me three of these. I would pay for them.

It's a metal squared "c" shape bracket with a screw to adjust to the thickness and clamp onto the deck or fence rail. Then there is a section of metal pipe that is attached to the side and the tiki pole slips down into it. Simple if you know how to create something.... Like that!

Volunteers? Other ideas of where to find these that will work? *sigh*

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

First day of New Chore Chart completed....

Well, we made it through today. For some reason it was rough on me. Ardyn was in a mood from the time she woke up and her mouth. never. shut. If she wasn't chattering, she was demanding, arguing, complaining, and debating. *sigh* My patience was worn thin if not completely gone by bedtime, and I can still hear the two of them back there.

We started off the morning with the new chore chart. It went really well, and I could see Marek beaming with each task he completed. He was especially excited to be the only one in charge of feeding Krypto and filling his water bottle. Ardyn of course found something to complain about in each chore. Some of the chores rotate so that they each do it every other day. Like one day someone is in charge of setting the table and the other child is in charge of picking up all the shoes and putting them away. And of course no matter what her chore was, Ardyn wanted Marek's chore and wanted to debate me about it and complain. I told her that doing her chores without complaining was part of getting a punch on her chore card, and that if she continued to complain she would certainly not be considered for a "best beehavior" Card which gives you an extra punch.... and she may lost her end of day punch even if she did do all her chores. It partially worked. But nothing like I had hoped. Marek didn't complain about a single thing. He was on his best behavior all day and the only time I really had to scold him was when I caught him chewing on a shingle that he found out by the pond. He even took a short nap, that was of course disrupted by Ardyn who woke him and me up because she was "bored."

We also invited a bunch of friends swimming today and ran to Walnut to sign up for swim lessons for the kids in July. There was really only one session that we could make because the others didn't have slots for two toddlers, and the only other one that did was the one that overlapped dance camp in Princeton. So we are signed up and the kids and I are both excited. After that we went swimming at Grandpa and Grandma's house and ate our packed lunches on the deck. Once again Ardyn had to fight with me about the rules. She wanted to get in the pool when no one was in, she wanted to sit on the side when she knows she isn't supposed to unless there is an adult in the pool. She was pulling on Marek in the big pool and fighting with him in the baby pool. Marek on the other hand, wore arm floaties for the first time and learned how to balance and keep his head afloat. He also did some really impressive back floating that had him excited. He did really well. Ardyn is pretty self sufficient if she has a swim ring or floaties but she still needs to follow the rules. She thinks she is invincible and I am constantly reminding her of the time that she disregarded directions and let go of the side of the pool and Daddy's friend Lee saved her from certain sinkage.

After swimming I was exhausted. Dragging them around is tiring enough when you aren't pregnant, and add in constant mental stress with Mr Argumentative and I was ready for a nap. Marek was tired too and he and I fell asleep almost immediately. Too bad it was short lived. Tonight I could tell that Ardyn was tired and would have been much better behaved if she HAD taken a nap, but her naps are few and far between these days, which is to be expected.

Tonight I vacuumed and mopped the porch. Dog stinks it up pretty fast. And while I was gone over the weekend he peed on his bed and I have washed it three times and am hoping that the smell will finally be GONE. Yuck! He also needs a bath but so do I, and I am not sure who will win.

At bedtime when I told Ardyn that she was getting one punch for finishing her chores and Marek was getting TWO, one for finishing his chores and one for excellent behavior, she was pretty PO'd. I explained that her behavior was not good today and that she continued to argue and complain about everything, and that tomorrow would be a chance for her to improve her behavior and see if she might make an attitude adjustment for an extra punch.

I hope that I also will be feeling less cranky tomorrow... because another day of that attitude will likely test my limits.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Shock the Pond, Catfish for supper, New Chore Chart, Broody Chickens, and the Garden :)

Today was an awesome day. It was fun to be home after a weekend away scrapbooking. I got SO Much done in the three days we scrapped. We went to Scrap Inn in Rockford. I had a great time. The food was delicious and not heavy. The bed was comfy, and the hostess was wonderful. Luckily they were only half booked so I was able to use a 8 foot table space instead of just 4 feet. I got 57 pages done, which was a huge dent in Marek's first year. I was hoping to finish what I had planned but I got just over halfway through. I can't wait until we go again. It is so great to spend a whole weekend with a group of friends like that, and no kids. It was very quiet, except for our gossip and giggling. I have an album on Facebook for you friends that want to see my completed pages and some iphone camera shots of the inn. I didn't take my DSLR Because I wanted to leave it home with the kids in case something exciting happened ;)

Today the pond at Thorn Valley was scheduled to be shocked. Around 11am we ran out to wait for the Herman Brothers Pond Management crew to arrive with their boat. I took the kids and the dog out because I knew that they would find it interesting. I was a little worried that the pond guys would find the kids in the way, but I couldn't be further from the truth. They were great with the kids, answered questions, let them touch the fish, and it was a great experience for all of us. Nate's blog is a cool place to check out, they have some awesome fish pics, and also some pics of a giant waterslide they built. Love. :)

Shocking the Pond at Thorn Valley with the Herman Brothers Pond Management Team
 Grandma and Grandpa were there of course, and Uncle Kyle, and Jill and Dave came, and Lukas too. They shocked and netted several bass and a HUGE Catfish that they decided to leave out of the pond. They speculated that someone had stocked 30-40 pound cats in the pond without thinking that they didn't have enough to eat, and the Catfish were eating all the Bluegill and Bass, especially the small ones. The Catfish that Grandpa Bob Netted was almost 13 pounds 32" long. They speculated that it had lost about 15 pounds because there wasn't enough for it to eat at the pond, and this was based on the size of his head compared to his body. I thought that was fantastically interesting. Learning about the pond was so interesting, especially if you are into stuff like that, like our family is. They were also checking out the duckweed and hoping to determine if it is affecting the pond and fish or okay where it is. The bass that were netted all had scars along their sides from being inside a catfish's mouth and escaping. That was proof that the catfish were too big and too predatory :) Fascinating. So the catfish that we netted did NOT get thrown back, and the kids and I took him to Grandpa Dave's because catfish is his favorite and we knew he would fillet him. The amount of fillet on that catfish was awesome, we had enough for our family for supper, and for great grandpa and great grandma, and for my mom and dad, and some for dad to freeze. It's in the oven right now, with a bit of Al's Fish Breading and Cornmeal... and we are having salads and rice and vegetables and noodles to eat too :) It's going to be a GOOD meal!

New Chore Chart

Tomorrow we start our new Chore Chart. We had the P.E.G.S. Family Tools Chart that I Bought at the Hearts at Home Conference two years ago, but it just doesn't have the room to go into the amount of depth that I want it to, especially for little kids to see pictures of all the things they need. Even I have problems removing the circles from the little pegs, especially when the circles get pushed back against the board too far. The kids can't read and they really need tasks broken down into steps. I pinned a cool chart on pinterest that has free printables, and I created my own printables for chores that we do around here (gather eggs, water the bunny, etc.) and for chores that my kids need reminders for (Hang up your bookbag, comb your hair, brush your teeth, etc.) I printed, cut, laminated, and re-cut all the pictures for the chart last week, and the pocket chart that hangs arrived today... so I set it up and tomorrow we start! If the kids get all their chores done each day, at the end of the day they get a punch on their chore cards, and they can also get an extra punch for best behavior at the end of the day. Kids who get their chore cards fully punched by the 12th get to go on the Zoo Trip with our new mom's group :) They can not wait!  I pinned lots of chore and chore chart ideas on my Chore Board on Pinterest, Check it out if you need some inspiration. I want my kids to get into the groove of their basic chores so that we can rotate and add in more as they grow, and before school starts this fall. I would like them to have a routine of expectations down so that by the time school starts and the new baby brother gets here, I at least don't have to hound them to brush teeth and pick up dirty clothes. They already do these tasks themselves, but I would like the chore chart to remind them instead of their mom. :) The homeschooling blog that my chore chart came from is full of awesome ideas for kids and moms. You should really start to follow her!

Our "Home Command Center" with our calendar, our clipboards (one for each kid) and our new chore chart

I can't remember if I have blogged recently about the chickens, but just to touch base, I have two broodies right now that think their only job is to hog the nestboxes and sit on the other hens eggs. they didn't get the "we don't have a rooster" memo, and therefore they are serious about hatching out those eggs. So every day I have to shoo them out if the nest boxes a few times a day, and also I have quarantined them to the old bunny hutch in case the broody is contagious (I've heard it can be :) and as of now my egg count is down from 6  day to two per day. Not sure of that means that four aren't laying (doubtful) or that at least two chickens are bitchy enough to scoot those broodies out of the nest box and two of the hens just go lay in the ditch or somewhere. OR perhaps the broody is contagious and there are four that have stopped laying. Either way, I had four egg customers plus our own eggs and now I can't support that with 1/3 the amount of eggs coming in. Stupid hens. So to bust the broodies I really want to get the antique metal nest box and mount it (even if I just temporarily wire it) to the inside of the front yard fence so that the chickens who don't have a place to nest can go there instead of the nest boxes in the coop. I will beat the broodies. They may be determined but I am smart and stubborn. I will win.

The SFG (Square Foot Garden) tonight

The Garden is looking nice, there is one big pepper in there and some wicked tall radishes that have no actual radishes as roots yet. For the past three years I have had little to no luck with root crops. This year the carrots got eaten by the evil Hens who flew OVER the fence into the garden to eat the Carrots right out of the ground. The Romaine Lettuce is looking good, and there is some chard and some head lettuce as well as some mache that the hens didn't get in their escapade. The peas and beans look amazing... and of course I am waiting impatiently for my beloved tomatoes.
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