Posts Tagged ‘David Eggen’


What follows below is the latest letter I have written to Hon. David Eggen, the Minister of Education in Alberta. It is in regards to the casting aside of compassion towards the disabilities community within the education system. It is about families that mourn, staff that mourn, and the inability of the system to step outside of their own prejudices to respond as they would to any school community in mourning. It is solution focused. I encourage all to write the Hon. Eggen (education.minister@gov.ab.ca ) to call out and begin to work to eliminate the last acceptable passive/active hate within our educational community. My words follow, mine only, but I am sure others have their own stories, solutions (or best practices that may exist that are working for true belonging) to share with a rather responsive education minister, unlike previous years and administrations where I have heard nothing. I will keep you dear reader, up to date as possible on this struggle for belonging that should not need to be, because it is 2018.

Today’s e-mail:

Dear Hon. Eggen,

I write you today as a weary parent. Weary of the battle for my child, and his education community of supports to receive equity in care and compassion by the educational system.  I was encouraged to write you once more due to the systematic Ableism (used to be called Eugenics, that is persons with disabilities and those in their lives had less value in inherent personhood, and we should just accept their demise). This came about, as there is a practice when a child with disabilities passes away within the education system that appropriate grief and mental health supports are not brought in for the staff and the other children. The response given is that “they do not comprehend” for the child, and to the staff “it is part of the job, they die” (probably nicer words used for staff, but having served in various non-profits I can see it being that blunt). The attitude is that death is to be expected, and not taken in as deeply as when a “typical child” passes away.

What is missed is that children no matter what professionals say are empathetic, and feel deeper than we ever will. They are more accepting of belonging, and know long before we do when their friend’s spot in the class will be empty. I cannot count the number of friends my son has lost in his short 6 years (grade 1 to 6) within the public-school system in Calgary, but I know the depth of his sorrow, he has soaked through many shirts of mine with his tears, and beaten on my chest in his anger.

The standard practice we have long fought against is the form letter. We worked with the local school to at least personalize the letter to share whom the child was in community, and supposed to receive a phone call if they are in the classroom from the principal (though it can appear favouritism by family on whom is contacted is played). But it leaves the families receiving notification, and then with very little extra-funding helping their child wrestle through loss and complexity, knowing  the staff are wrestling through their own grief with little administrative support, plus wrestling through our own fear and loss within the community of medically complex children.

I write with a four-fold practice for Alberta Education to remedy ableism that has been accepted down the line:

1)      Training and equipping of administration, trustees and school staff outside of those providing services (and those who provide) to ensure the erasure of passive ableism, and generationally held eugenic beliefs towards the community. We have practice for this with TRC and GSA’s. Time to break the last hate group down and expose it.

2)      The families of the student who passes needs to be provided (and have readily available within schools, like medical clinics) resources for the loss. I do not care what anyone says, it is not normal for a child to pre-decease their parent.

3)      When a child passes, staff need to be cared for. This is Principals, Maintenance, Administration, Teaching, Aides and volunteers within the school. It is not acceptable to say death distance is professionalism, when you build a community of belonging- the loss is felt and help needs to be brought in within best practice principles of debrief within the first 24 hrs, 72 hrs, and follow up protocols for staff that continue to struggle.

4)      Information for grief support to the families of friends needs to be distributed with notification, and I would say the school needs to host a form of celebration for the community member, so the children know that their friend belonged in the world and is not some coded statistic. Also along with this celebration, the same debrief needs to be used to provide grief support for the children, no matter how complex their communication or medical conditions are. They are aware of loss.

Why is this important? We are a scrapper family when it comes to rights, I am on multiple records for many battles to ensure full dignity and human rights for all citizens. To have to fight within a system to prove my son is cognitive enough so he can “earn” a spot to be on a wait-list for grief support if his behaviours around grieving become unmanageable is inhumane. It says to the family, the community, and most importantly to my son: YOU ARE NOT HUMAN ENOUGH for us to care about.

That is quite frankly wrong, and disregards so much of our human, charter and constitutional rights. Many good changes are happening to put students and frontline staff first within our education system of Alberta finally. I implore you to remember all children and staff/volunteers deserve the same care when a classmate/student passes, regardless of what society and professionals deem. All staff in the system also deserve the same level of care. Public Education is community, and as community we learn, grow and celebrate together, we also mourn together. Let us remember that.

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Ty Ragan

To close, my Facebook post from late June 6, 2018 when I was informed by an Ableist I had no right to anger at another white envelope:

Parents imagine at least once a month being informed that your child has had a friend pass away in their class. Then imagine there being no grief supports sent in for the kids or staff for coping, and the only communications is a letter home… when you ask why I am angry about people not seeing my boy as fully person–this is his reality. He cries on me. Screams why God takes his friends. Talks about how his buddy’s mummas, daddy,s and sibs can keep going…the emptiness. Our children belong, the world says they don’t because the world doesn’t want to have to explain how to heal from a once full chair, now being empty. The world, doesn’t know what to do with a child who asks where’s my buddy? Why do all my friends die on me. Instead they tell me that I have to prove my son comprehends life and death, and then they will think of aid. Is this the world we want? Where compassion and healing is an earned right? So yes I am angry. And yes we need to discuss Ableism (what used to be called Eugenics) openly, and call it out. To my religious friends, if you are not then you have failed. To my other friends, I am tired of a world that says earn your spot. I am tired of a world that says a child’s tears are okay because they don’t understand. I am tired of a world that tells those that walk with them, to accept it as part of the job. NO! We grieve, as we live, in community. I am weary, but I will be damned if I will accept this world as it is. Our children deserve better

 


$9.1 million a year allocated to our kids has been re-directed to pay for the Calgary Board of Education Palace says government audit, and reported in the Calgary Metro (here) since 2006.  Now math was never my strong suit, but that is looking like a minimum of $108 million redirected away from our kids. This from a board that during the 2017 election scape goated special needs students as the cause for the busing cost crisis (and this was the second time they have done that, they did it a few years ago as well)-and yes Hrdlicka, the incumbent for the wards with a special needs school aided in spreading this fallacy during her campaign (the second of two incumbents returned to the board).

To add to that, it wasn’t even done clearly in their books. As the constant refrain of “we need more money” rang from the CBE, they kept listing the $9.1 million but listing it under student funds (instructional).

One of two incumbents returned to the board, Board Chair Hrudman states this in the article:

Hurdman said the CBE has always been transparent about the total cost of the headquarters in its audited financial statements, but the board is prepared to place more of that expense under the line item for administration if that’s what the province directs.

“At the end of the day, what bucket it’s allocated under doesn’t make a difference to students because we can’t use that money for learning,” she said.

 

It does matter Chair Hrudman, for you are stealing from money directed to our students. Money taken to prop up and enter into a very bad lease deal, everybody since it was first brought up told the board not to enter into. The flippancy used that it does not matter which category it falls under is the fallacy that those comfortable with entitlement of power, and not good governance for those they serve use. This is what brought down Prentice’s PC’s provincially (Don Braid wrote an excellent book of this).

If the money is directed to one stream, and is being redirected, there needs to be a memo, a line correction, and full transparency to those that the money is to serve. Were parents notified before going to the polls that $9.1 million for the past 12 years had been redirected out of instructional costs before casting our ballots?

No. The government of Alberta and Alberta Education held off on releasing the audit until after voting. I am glad to hear that the new board is working well with Alberta Education, as Minister Eggen stated. Yet what is the plan to reduce ADMINISTRATION costs, and get that money back into the classrooms, for the students, regardless of labels, so Calgary Public School students have the best system to serve them. Hrudman’s flippancy shows that she does not comprehend the impact this mismanagement has had on students. This is a flippancy that should be rooted out of any service provider: public, non-profit, or for profit receiving government funds and be stripped of funding. Hrudman at this point needs to show good leadership and strong integrity. That starts as a   board chair  laying out a plan to reign in the bureaucratic bloat, and actually provide good service for students. If she is not equipped to do that, and will continue to hide behind answers like provided in the article, then it is time for her to resign and allow a by-election to find someone who will serve the students.

This is one parents opinion. A parent who is tired of administrators that blame parents, take money from our children for their benefit… the new board stated a new vision of promise. It has been 6 months, time to start seeing solutions.


The following is an e-mail that was sent out to parents of students in the Calgary Board of Education. It is there response to Bill 1- A Reduction in School Fees. Please note my pithy, yet thought out response will follow in bold italics. Also note that it is an organization using tried and true status quo methods of deflection in Alberta—when in doubt blame another level of governance for you inability to actually serve those you are charged to serve. As many have noted government is neither business nor non (not) for profit but a hybrid with a dash of exceptional. For far too long in Alberta we have settled for mediocre, and as the School Board Trustee elections approach in October 2017 I implore all Calgarians to vote for anyone but the incumbents for the future of our kids.

Now without further ado, their status quo deflection:

Update on Fees and Transportation for 2017-18

 

Dear Parents/Guardians

On Thursday March 2, the Provincial Government introduced Bill 1 – An Act to Reduce School Fees. This legislation will impact transportation service levels and fees for CBE families beginning this fall.

As directed by Alberta Education, on March 3, 2017 the CBE forwarded a letter from the Minister outlining some details about changes to transportation. At that time he wrote:

“Bill 1, if passed, will also remove bus fees for eligible students traveling to their designated school. That means that if your child attends his or her designated school and that school is more than 2.4 kilometres away from your home, you will not be charged transportation fees. In some circumstances – for example, if parents choose to enrol their child in a school other than their designated school – fees may still be incurred.”

We still have many questions about this legislation. We are working with the government to seek clarification and work through the details.

Until we better understand the impacts on fees and service levels for our families, transportation pre-registration for the 2017-18 school year cannot begin. We had planned to begin in late April. However, with the introduction of Bill 1 this process will be delayed. Early registration helps us plan our routes more efficiently resulting in fewer changes in the fall. It also allows us to share more accurate route information with our families sooner.

We know this timing may be challenging for our families. During our engagement last year families clearly stated they wanted information on transportation – including service levels, stop locations and timing – as early as possible to begin planning for the next school year. We will do our best to provide information on routes as quickly as possible.

We are also seeking clarification on instructional supplies or materials (ISM) fees. We need to understand if this includes bulk purchase of schools supplies for students in grades K-6.

We will continue to update you once we have more specific details about Bill 1 and what it will mean for CBE families.

 

My Response from my FB status April 7, 2017:

So CBE multi-million dollar organization is told to start doing their work within the grounds of the constitution, and they e-mail parents pleading poverty essentially, and that services may be cut to the kids—- hmmm… or do what responsible service providers do and look where cuts can actually happen– that is between budget disbursement and kids, look at the bureaucracy, the pay of CBE trustees, and quit threatening the educational mechanism on the front lines. Do not tell us you cannot start taking registration for busing, plan routes, or are unclear on being able to purchase supplies for our kids. Oh and did you remember this year to collect all tax money from the city? Bill 1 is not the enemy, Bill 1-an act to reduce school fees– is actually making life affordable for families, now do what you were elected to do and provide quality education, safe transportation for our kids.

P.S. The Bus Fee controversy is the CBE finally being called out on the smoke & mirrors they did a few years back to punish Special Needs kids and families. We never have a say in where our kids go to school, the CBE designates based on support structures (which makes sense). For this we paid a reduced rate. Parents of typically developing kids got uppity, but instead of working towards what the government has now imposed, short-sighted “fairness” un-advocates accepted raising bus rates for special needs kids, to the typically developing kids rates.

Now if you send your child to an non-designated school that is your choice, and yes you should pay for buses. But if the school, regardless of child, is designated and requires to be bused, I agree with the Ministry of Education, there should be no charge.

-30- for now.


This is an open letter to the Minister of Education David Eggen, and to the Calgary Board of Education from a father of a special needs child.

This is not a letter focused on the unconstitutionality of school fees; or the ridiculousness and injustness of paying busing fees when a coding system makes my son a number, and I have no choice where to send him because his local school cannot support him, although those are pieces of a system not seeing a full child.

This is from a father grieving with his young son over the loss of a best bud. Think of when you were in elementary school and your partner in shenanigans and adventures? Now think back to what would happen if they died?

What happens in the CBE special needs world?

A form letter home to parents and then nothing. You as a parent are left to tell your child that their friend will no longer be in school, or coming over.

What I know in the typically developing stream of public schools a death of a classmate, a school shooting would result in deployment of grief counsellors to support staff and students in the process moving forward.

But, the special needs world it is crickets we are met with. Silence, not even personal phone calls to the actual classmates families (c’mon you are looking at classes of smaller than 14); and then staff who are suffering in an abnormality of a child not out living their parents, and expected to still do their jobs same day and moving forward.

Speak of trauma? When the response is: well death is a normal part of this community. Pardon my language but Bollocks. This is about kids, pure and simple, that are there one day, and gone the next never to come back, and adults and students left to process or not process.

So this is one father’s plea. Please quit reducing my child to not a full person, he hurts, he cries, he can use support. When any child (regardless of coding) passes away in the school system, please please please, bring the resources around that community to heal and move forward. So staff, students, and in case of financial stresses, parents–can access on site support to help them grieve and heal healthily.

Because silence just perpetuates silence and silence is pain, and yes silence is neglect, and silence can be abuse.

We are better than this.

Thank you.

Sincerely

One Father who has shed far to many tears with his son for such a short life time.