My Son

My Son

Monday, September 15, 2014

DESE Commissioner Nicastro to retire

DESE Commissioner Nicastro to retire

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Dr. Chris Nicastro, commissioner of education, announced Monday she will retire at the end of the year. The announcement was made on the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's website.
"This is exactly the right time both personally and professionally for a change in leadership. I will work closely with the State Board and the team to ensure a smooth transition and will be available in the coming months and years as necessary. I will always be a relentless public education advocate in whatever role the future holds," Nicastro said in the statement.
Earlier this year Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D-University City) asked for the resignation of Nicastro, citing allegations Nicastro attempted to grant a lucrative contract to CEE-Trust to develop an improvement plan for the Kansas City School District without looking for other options. Nicastro was also accused of changing the words in her department's Fiscal note Estimate.
In July, Nicastro sat down for an exclusive interview with NewsChannel 5's Farrah Fazal. During the interview, she said our public schools are in crisis, and spoke about a new model for the failed Normandy schools for more immediate reading, writing, and math results.
Nicastro has worked as a teacher and administrator in Missouri for nearly 40 years.
Allison Sylte contributed to this report.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Lee's Summit R-7 School District: Letter I Sent To Tony Stansbury and He and The Entire School Board and District Ignored

Lee's Summit R-7 School District: Letter I Sent To Tony Stansbury and He and The Entire School Board and District Ignored

My son is 13 years old and has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS (when he was 5), Kanner's Syndrome (from the E-3 form through the Autism Research Institute)and Asperger's Syndrome, Inattentive ADHD, and Dysgraphia (through Children's Mercy Hospital when he was 13). He had not had a private or school evaluation since he was five years old, until this year, when I requested that his school give him one. I have never had a reason to have him reevaluated until now. That means that he had not been evaluated for seven years.

My son attended Prairie View, in Lee's Summit, from kindergarten until 6th grade. The educators at that school are amazing, caring, and wonderful people. I never had to ask for a thing for my son. They 
knew what he needed and they did it.  They did not address his autism or the issues that he has because of it.  

My son is now in middle school. In the spring of 2005 we met with the people from Prairie View and Pleasant Lea. We came up with provisions for his middle school years. His educators from Prairie View came up with 90% of these provisions based on their direct experience with my son.
He does not like to break rules and his 6th grade teacher STRONGLY suggested that he leave each class a minute or two early. That would keep him out of the halls during the chaos and help him avoid getting a tardy. She stated that, "If he gets a tardy it will ruin his whole day. He will be lost to you for the rest of the day."

They also said that he should have a set of books in each classroom and a set at home. 
This would also help him with getting to his classes on time. It would help with his organizational issues that 
all autistic people suffer from.

We also asked that he have music instead of art. His fine motor skills are not the best and art can be difficult. 

We asked that he have PE at the end of the day so that he wouldn't have to shower. According to the University of North Carolina, bullying can be at it's worse in the shower area. Autistic children are often bullied and my son has not been the exception.

Pleasant Lea did not do any of these things until January when I wrote to the Department of Education, the entire school board, the superintendent, and Project Access. He did not get to leave class early. He did not get a set of books in each classroom or a set at home. He had art. He has PE 6th hour.
He got seven tardies in a span of three weeks. He became depressed. He came home from school one day and put the thermometer in the microwave. Of course that didn't work out the way that he had wanted. He had wanted to make it look like he had a fever.

He ran to his room and put his piggy bank outside of his door. He wanted me to take money out of it to replace what he had broken. I went into his room and he was sobbing. He said, "I can't do anything 
right. Your life would have been better if I had never been born."I told him that a hole in my heart was filled on the day that he was born. He said, "You never would have missed me if you had never known 
me. A different child would have made your life better."

I immediately contacted the school. This was September and I didn't want the school year starting out like this. 

I had a meeting with two teachers, one co-teacher, and two aides. I had talked about this with the assistant principal, but she wasn't available on that day. Neither was the special education coordinator nor the autism coordinator.

I tried to explain his tardies. Five of them were directly due to his having to go to his locker after every class. This would not have been necessary if he had a set of books in each class. One tardy was 
because he couldn't get his PE locker open and he waited until a child from the next hour came in and helped him. One tardy was because he was late to home room. His bus had came back through our 
neighborhood, I witnessed this, twenty minutes after it had picked him up. A student had gotten sick on the bus and the bus driver had brought her back home. This meant that the students got to school 20 
minutes later than normal. He is AUTISTIC. He didn't understand that his schedule had changed by twenty minutes.

His co-teacher, Donetta Horkey,  would not even let me finish a sentence. I didn't get to state what I just stated above. She said that I was wrong and that his bus had never been late. She said that he was just being stubborn and wouldn't take his book to PE. If he took his book to PE, he would be able to go straight to his class after PE instead of his locker. She said that he had not had a problem with his locker and that it was stubbornness that made him late. The rule is that you don't take your books to PE. Once again, he WILL NOT break rules. Real or perceived. 

I told her that I would like to have a book at home, as per our spring conversation. She said that he didn't need a book at home. The information was available online. I told her that I would need a 
username and password. She said that I already had it. I told her that I did not. She said that I did. Finally, another teacher intervened and told me that he would get me the password and username. What if the internet was down? Why must I count on my server when I was supposed to have a book at home?

I explained that my son was depressed and related the incident of the thermometer. I told them that I knew that his depression was a direct result of coming to this school. The co-teacher said that he would be really stressed and want to stay home on Friday. She stated that he was going to have a test and that he was going to flunk it.

I asked her if he was being given tests in small groups as was stated in his IEP. She said that she would have to drag him out into the hall to do that.

My son has always gone to the learning center for his tests. Not once was dragging him out of the class required. As a matter of fact, he has never had any discipline issues until now.

The next day I called the autism coordinator to explain my distress after this meeting. Never have I been treated in such a manner. I am an adult. If the co-teacher treated me this way, how does she treat 
children? She is in charge of children with special needs.

The assistant principal called me that same morning to discuss my son's tardies. Because of the number of the tardies he was to be disciplined. I told her about my meeting. She said that she would talk to the co-teacher, autism coordinator, and special education coordinator. The co-teacher is also my son's home room teacher. They took all but two of his tardies off of his record. This will not change the damage that has been done.

They kept my son out of home room for two weeks and the main teacher took him out into the hall and gave him the test. He passed the test with a "B". 

One day his math teacher asked him to do an assignment. Then she started writing the answers on the board. He thought that he should stop. Her story is that she asked him three times and he didn't 
comply. His story is that he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do. He shut down and just sat there. 

She wrote him up. They call it a commitment letter. To my son it was a punitive action. He started crying. She called me to let me know what had happened and that he was crying. I told her that I would cry 
too, if every day that I went to work I was afraid that I was going to get into trouble and I didn't know why. If I didn't understand the 
rules and what was expected of me I would be stressed, too.
  When OCR investigated the district this letter was missing.  Proof that the district has destroyed evidence and committed a crime.

His teacher told me that she felt that he needed to live up to expectations. I told her that I agreed. But, not the expectations of "normal" kids. I told her that I had expectations the day that he was born. Those are gone. I will give you the results of his Vineland testing at the conclusion of this letter.

I received a call from the autism coordinator stating that she was concerned because Jake had become depressed and lethargic. She wanted to have a meeting to make a plan to help Jake. At this point, I had spoken with all of Jake's teachers, the special education coordinator, the assistant principal, and the autism coordinator. I had expressed my concern over my son's depression. At no time was he sent to the counselor's office. 

I went back for another meeting. They felt that we all just needed to be more positive and help my son to be more positive. They asked if my being anxious had caused my son to become anxious. I assured them that I was not anxious until my child began talking about dying.
It was suggested that I take my son to his pediatrician for the depression. I did this. My pediatrician was as confused as I was as to why the school was having such an issue trying to figure out how 
to educate an autistic child. She asked me if they were having budget issues.

We both agreed that my child should not be medicated for a problem at school. She decided that she wanted to call the school and speak with Jake's counselor.

I called the school counselor and told her about my son. My doctor called the counselor as well. It took a week for my doctor to get a call back. Still, my son has never been to the counselor. The school blamed my doctor for the time it took for them to call her.

I researched many autism sites and tried to find information on educating autistic children. Most sites stated that I should offer the school any information that I found so that we could work together on my son's education. 

I contacted Jerry Keimig, Special Education Coordinator for the Lee's Summit School District. I told him that I wanted to have my next meeting with the staff at the school and give them a chance to 
work this out. I told him that I would call him back after my meeting.

I emailed Mr. Keimig after the meeting where we discussed making Jake feel more positive. I told him that I would like to meet with him one-on-one to discuss my issues. I told him that I get easily intimidated 
when I have to face many people at one time. 

Mr. Keimig refused to meet with me one-on-one. He said, "I would be happy to meet with you at any time, but not without direct input from PLMS staff. I will ask that Emily Miller coordinate a meeting with 
the three of us and any additional staff that might have more background on your son. I have none." I would have thought that he could have read my son's file and gotten all of the background that he needed.

I called Mr. Keimig several time the next few days. He WOULD NOT return my phone calls. I wanted to let him know what my pediatrician and I had discussed. 

I met with Mr. Keimig for 15 minutes. I told him that I had read that most autistic children only respond to positive teaching. He told me that I couldn't believe everything that I read. I told him that I wanted my son in a class with a more positive teacher or in a modified curriculum. He told me that he may not be able to help my son in the future. I told him that my son was depressed and that being in this class was making it worse. He told me that it was a good life lesson for my son.
I informed him that I would be contacting Children's Mercy to have my son reevaluated. I told him that my doctor felt that my son's disability was not being addressed and that we would need professional help to draw up his IEP.

It will take six months to get my son even started on the evaluations. Children's Mercy suggested that I contact MPACT so that they could help mean in the interim. 

I contacted the superintendent to complain about Mr. Keimig's lack of understanding about autistic children and his inability to discuss my concerns without totally dismissing me. I was contacted by the principal of Pleasant Lea instead of by the superintendent. I told her everything that I have just stated. She suggested that I contact the assistant superintendent, Dr. Ann Starlin-Horner.

I contacted Dr. Horner. I told her of my concerns. I told her that I was having another meeting with the staff at Pleasant Lea. I told her that I would email all of my correspondence to her. That is when I 
found out that the public can not have access to Administration email addresses. I had to send everything to her secretary. 

Dr. Horner called me back several days later and stated that she had found out that I was having a meeting with the Pleasant Lea staff in two days. She went on to say that she hadn't known about that. By the end of the message she said that I had told her about it and that she had forgotten. She told me that she would contact me after the meeting. She stated that she was writing it on her calendar right 
then. She didn't call me back until I wrote a letter to the superintendent in December. Two months after my initial phone call.

Jake is very smart, but he is getting an "F" in science, language arts, and home economics. He has missed almost 20 days of school because he has been sick so much. I believe that the stress that he 
has been under has affected his health. I have, of course, received the letter threatening me because of his absences.

Jake has to go to his teachers for his make up work and tests that he missed. He never does that and that is why he is flunking. He is supposed to be taking tests in small groups, but they say that they 
will only do that if they "don't have to drag him out of class" to do it. He has never had to be dragged out of class before. It states in his IEP that he is supposed to take tests in small groups and that 
the tests should be read to him. His case manager didn't even know that that was in there.

I had another meeting in December. I must stress that the special education coordinator for his school is trying to do her best. I just don't think that the district has a clear understanding of how to 
educate this unique population of students. 

In our last meeting we decided that he needed a place to go when he gets stressed. It has been working and he is no longer as depressed.

His teachers are supposed to write in his plan book every day so that I know what his assignments were for that day and what we need to get done that night. Only his core classes do this. And they don't do it 
on a consistent basis.

He didn't get books in all of his classrooms until January. He wasn't able to leave any classes early, with the exception of one, until January. The staff felt that it was not necessary and dismissed it. 

My advocate tells me that he should never receive a tardy. She said that his paras should make sure that he gets his work turned in and that they should be responsible for getting his make up work to him. 
That is something I am going to work on for his IEP. I trusted the school to write an IEP that would be the best for my son. I have learned that I will have to have a great deal of input so that it will address my son's disability and the issues that come with it.

I had a meeting with Ann Starlin-Horner in December. We discussed all of these issues. Jake has started chewing again and he has gotten in trouble for chewing in class. They said that it could pose a risk. He is chewing on his fingers.

At our meeting, we decided that Jake should have something appropriate to chew on. They decided that a bracelet, such as Lance Armstrong wears, would be a good alternative. I told them that I didn't feel that it would be good because he would have his wrist at his mouth all day. 

Also at this meeting, Dr. Starlin-Horner said that my son needs to be held accountable for poor decisions. She said that his tardy in PE was an example of him making a poor choice. I told her that I disagreed. He was in a panic about being late and he couldn't get his locker open. He didn't know that he had any choices. His disability wouldn't allow him to focus on his choices. 

After Christmas break they gave him the bracelet to chew on. The first day that he wore it he got into trouble for chewing on it. His teacher told him that "bracelets are for wearing, not for chewing on."

I have been posting on the EFECT board. It is a board for parents of children with disabilities. At my last meeting I noticed that the autism coordinator had a copy of every post that I had posted. She 
tried to hide it, but I saw it as she was searching for a paper. This board is for parents to share concerns, thoughts, issues, etc. It has since been changed so that teachers can not access it.

My son has been reevaluated and a new IEP has been drawn up. At our IEP meeting the school admitted that they had not properly prepared for my son and it was the cause of most of his issues this year.

His co-teacher, that wouldn't let me speak in our first meeting, has now said that he has lost the two books that were kept in the classroom for him. He hasn't lost the books that he had to bring home and then return or the books in other classes. Only the books in her class. Now I have to pay a fine for that. When I asked the principal about this on March 31st, she never responded. I'm sure that they will wait until the day that yearbooks are handed out and then tell him that he doesn't get one because he owes fines.


Sherri R. Tucker

Jake's Vineland Scores

Jacob Tucker was 12 years 9 months old on the interview date of 
3/1/06. Jacob's standard score on the Adaptive Behavior Composite is 
64. The confidence level of 90 percent yields a confidence band of 60 
to 68. Jacob's percentile rank of 1 on the Adaptive Behavior 
Composite indicates that his score is higher than or equal to only 1 
percent of similarly aged individuals in the norm group. His adaptive 
level is rated as Low for his age group. 

1. Jacob's level of adaptive functioning within the Communication 
domain is Moderately Low for his age group. His standard score of 78 
results in a confidence band of 71-85 at the 90 percent confidence 
level. His percentile rank is 7. Thus, his score in this area is 
higher than or equal to only 7 percent of his peers in the normative 
sample. He has an adaptive level of Low for REceptive Communication, 
Adequate for Expressive Communication, and Adequate for Written 
Communication. The lower adaptive level for the Receptive subdomain 
indicates that Jacob has particular trouble with tasks such as 
accurately identifying some of the major body parts, following 
instructions that require and action and an object, or understanding 
an "if-then" statement. Be aware, however, that 17 percent of Jacob's 
Communication score was based on estimated performance. 
Jacob's standard score for the Daily Living Skills domain is 62 which 
results in a confidence band of 57-67 at the 90 percent confidence 
level. This score represents a Low level of adaptive functioning for 
an individual of his age. His percentile rank for the Daily Living 
Skills domain is 1. His adaptive level is Low for all three 

Jacob's level of adaptive functioning within the Socialization domain 
is Low for his age group. His standard score is 60 which results in a 
confidence band of 54-66 at the 90 percent confidence level. His 
percentile rank is 0.4. A look at the subdomain scores within the 
Socialization domain indicates that Jacob's adaptive level is Low for 
all three subdomains (Interpersonal Relationships, Play and Leisure 
Time and Coping Skills). Be aware, however, that 45 percent of 
Jacob's Socialization score was based on estimated performance. 
Jacob's standard score for the Motor Skills domain is 87. Jacob is 
over 6 years old and therefore the standard score of 87 is an 
estimated score. This score represents an Adequate level of adaptive 
functioning for his age group. His percentile rank for this domain is 
19. Jacob's adaptive level is Moderately Low for the Gross Motor 
Skills subdomain and Adequate for the Fine Motor Skills subdomain. 
Jacob's standard score for the Communication domain is significantly 
different from the average for all of the domains. This large a 
difference was also very rarely seen in the normative sample. Such a 
difference indicates that his communication abilities are a strength 
that he may use to compensate for skills in other areas. 
Although Jacob's standard score for the Socialization domain is 
significantly higher than the average for all domains, this 
difference is not particularly unusual. In fact, a difference this 
large occurred in over 16 percent of the cases in the normative 
sample. Such a difference indicates that social abilities are a 
weakness for Jacob relative to his skills in the other areas. 
Activities that target the development of social skills may therefore 
be useful. In fact, attention to socialization may help to raise his 
overall level of adaptive behavior.

I met with the psychologist and got Jake's diagnosis. I'm sure that 
you have already received the handouts that the psychologist gave me 
and that you got the news of his diagnosis, but I thought that I'd 
email you so that you would have the email. I went over it verbally 
and that is a lot to remember.

Jake has been formally diagnosed with: 

Asperger's Syndrome
Inattentive ADHD