It is the Mission of the Nebraska Family Forum (NFF) to promote education policies in our state that preserve and protect parental authority and the integrity of the family. In so doing, we will preserve the cooperative and respectful relationship between school authorities and parents, preserve a family-centered community, and provide a well-rounded education for our kids.
What began as a normal school
year for my daughter quickly turned into a nightmare.My daughter began having stomachaches in
August and from August 2015 to November 2015 we ended up in the emergency room
on four occasions.Six weeks after
school started I had numerous phone visits with the school social worker and weekly
emails with an administrator as well as requesting homework for Hannah to work
on at home.(Little did we know at the
time that my daughter would be diagnosed with eosinophilic gastritis, a rare
disease and usually lifelong and subsequent diagnoses of polycystic ovary
syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and possible endometriosis.).In December we had a meeting at the school
with four personnel from school about a collaborative plan.At this time, Hannah had kept up with 6
of her 7 classes and was receiving A’s and B’s in herclasses.Clearly she was doing well even amidst the
absences.29 absences were acquired by
December 22nd and even though we had 20 M.D. notes between October
and January, we were referred to the County
Our first court appearance
was in March 2016 where my daughter was placed on probation and given a court
appointed public defender. We had four
court dates we had to appear for between March and September 2016.My daughter was given a probation
officerwho “recommended” to the court
in May that my daughter go to summer school, see a psychologist weekly, and
have a tracker from Cedars.As part of
that recommendation this all became court ordered.Anytime my daughter was going to miss school
(which was weekly), I had to inform the probation officer.When my daughter was too ill to attend summer
school and acquired 5 absences she was declined from attending summer
school.The probation officer then
required my daughter to attend day reporting at Owens. I was very strongly opposed to this. It is a facility where troubled teens go to be
“monitored” Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.She was being mingled with teens that were
required to wear ankle monitors and talked about smoking, illicit behaviors,
etc.Only 6 absences before you are
dropped from the program and my daughter due to her illness missed that many
days and was not allowed to attend.The
next thing that was suggested was that she apply for a job to stay busy and
stay out of trouble and so they would “know where she was.”Are you kidding me?My daughter could not attend summer school
due to illness, how was she going to hold down a job?
The probation officer, the
judge, the county attorney and day reporting personnel all treated my daughter
like she was a “bad student,” “troubled teen.”For a young girl what message
does this send?If I was this stressed
about this entire situation, just imagine the stress my daughter was placed in
which I believe only exacerbated her illness.The probation officer was suspicious of her from day one.She left us on the defensive all the
time.The County attorney would glare at
us in court hearings.The Owens Day
intake reporter and leader was somewhat crude in his explanations, using slang,
and asking my daughter all sorts of questions encompassing behaviors my
daughter has never engaged in.
In June 2016, I emailed the
probation officer stating this was all wrong and that my daughter was not
skipping school nor was she a bad person running around doing illicit
behaviors, she was home ill and bedridden.
From June to October 2016, we
averaged two appointments per week between seeing a physician and
psychologist.For the first month of the
Cedars tracker we had to meet daily M-F.In this mix of appointments we still had a once a month probation
meeting.In the second month, we were
still meeting with the Cedars tracker at least 2 to 3 times a week.We were asked by the judge to go visit Bryan Behavioral
School for a possible
placement.All of these visits needed to
be managed while my daughter was feeling ill and while I am still trying to
hold down a full time job to provide for my two daughters and me.I used a lot of sick leave to take my
daughter to her appointments.I cannot
tell you the amount of stress placed on both of us and how horrific the stress
is for a single mother worrying about her ill child.The system took precious time away from me
caring more for my daughter because we were required to comply with court
ordered appointments.We were threatened
if we did not comply with court orders of attendance and appointments they
would place Hannah out of the home.
Our physician, who treated my
daughter for her diagnosis, wrote a letter to the court in August 2016 about
her rare disease and even then the judge did not drop the case.
From January 2016 to January
2017, we had 4 court hearings, were seen in the emergency room for 8 visits, 60
physician related appointments, tests, and I used over 78 hours of sick leave
from work as well as self-employment work missed opportunities during the
summer due to appointments as noted above.
I was not aware of the
amended truancy law that was in place until recently, nor was I informed that
there was an amended law during these entire proceedings by anyone at school,
the public defender, county attorney, nor judge.At present, my daughter is still on probation
and will remain so until March, 2017.
The following article was written by OPS parent Gina Miller in response to the Omaha World-Herald's editorial published on June 28. The editorial can be read by clicking this link: http://www.omaha.com/opinion/world-herald-editorial-ops-taking-the-right-road/article_73595e0a-409b-5514-8781-518b8e6e992f.html
This is an interesting editorial.I do believe OPS overall is taking the “right road” but I have some
concerns with this editorial.
subtitle is “It is a credit to the Superintendent’s vision, leadership,
and willingness to be an agent of change."This subtitle would lead one to believe
that the changes mentioned in this article lay squarely at the feet of Mr.
Evans.I would challenge that the
changes listed in this editorial lay squarely at the feet of an extremely
hard working, engaged, passionate school board and those changes have been implemented effectively by Mr. Evans, OPS staff, and classroom teachers.
look at the achievements mentioned.The first four bullet points lay out specific rates which have been
rising over the last 3 – 4 years.That is great but Mr. Evans has only been in his position for the
last 2 years.How do test scores
and academic performance increase?Yes, leadership and a clear mission is important, but it is the
magic that happens every day in the classroom by motivated, innovative,
passionate teachers and engaged kids.I find it disheartening that once again we have an article talking
about all of the achievements of a district without mentioning the
editorial mentions the “Public’s resounding endorsement at the ballot box
last fall” with the passing of the bond.Let us remember that the first referendum the public did was a year
before that, to shrink the board size and vote in a new board.The public said loud and clear that we
were done with a top down leadership approach of previous administrations and
that we no longer wanted a rubber stamp board.The public (parents, teachers,
taxpayers, community interests) wants a voice at the table.
editorial mentions possible divisiveness on the OPS board.“OPS board members need to pursue a
common constructive, collaborative approach”.
I challenge this author that the board and superintendent need to follow
this advice with the public.I
also challenge this author that I do not want a rubber stamp vote on
agenda items.I want to hear debate
and concerns from my board members and watch them work through
issues.I want my board member to
represent his or her constituents.
it disheartening that once again we are talking about how “administration”
is doing all of these great things and no mention of the hard work that
classroom teachers, parents and the kids have been doing.There would have been no bond if not for
the teachers and parents hitting the streets and supporting this
effort.There would not be any
increases in student achievement if it weren’t for the efforts of classroom
teachers and the kids.
on the move and heading in the right direction because of a lot of hard
work from EVERYONE.But the last
two years have not been without controversy.
leadership that still doesn’t seem to understand that parents deserve and
want a voice at the table, not just sometimes but for all critical
issues. b. A very controversial vote taken about extending the school day without notification
or consideration of parental or teacher input.
about teacher contract negotiations done in bad faith by the
student death at Nathan Hale that from all accounts put the family last
in the communication process.
parent harassed and threatened for participating in public comment to the
after OPS doesn’t meet federal regulations regarding suspension rates and
a lack of communication by the administration to the board.
and student assignment issues that still have not been addressed.
h. Public concerns with SRO’s that have not been addressed, although another school
year is about to begin.
There has been a lot of work done and there is a lot of work
left to do. I have been impressed with the OPS board but there are some warning
signs that we all need to be taking note of.The more administration and the board move forward on
critical issues without public input, the more chance there is that we
move back to the error of top down management that we fought so hard to
eliminate.I challenge this board and
this administration to continue to collaborate with parents, the community, and
teachers.We don’t move forward unless
ALL of the stakeholders are at the table and have a voice.
The following post was written by Gina Miller, an OPS parent who is actively engaged with her children's schools and the Omaha Public School Board.In spite of her ongoing communication with the board, Gina was one of thousands of parents and teachers who were completely blindsided by the board's vote last week to extend the school day, which takes already overstressed children away from their families, their rest, and their enriching activitiesfor an even longer period of time.
ATTENTION OPS PARENTS!
It is time to have a discussion about national education movements that are sweeping the nation and having a direct effect on our children and families.
I am tired of
our PUBLIC schools telling parents what is right for my child with NO
input from the parent. I am tired of our individual school districts
and states hopping on any National Ed Reform Bandwagon that comes along
with little to NO research for its effectiveness.
My long standing position has been that I am against an extended
learning day and taking any more time away from my family and adding
more to my already overstressed kids. I would have liked to have an
opportunity to hear from OPS administration on why they feel this is
necessary or a good idea. I may have changed my mind!
appreciated the other opportunities I have been given to give input and
hear feedback and to make an informed decision. So now I will DEMAND to
have my voice heard since they seem to have decided it was not
necessary in the first place.
I feel the OPS board did a great
disservice to its parents and its teachers by ramming an ill conceived
plan to extend the learning day without ANY input from the community,
the teachers or the parents! There have been many reports stating that
an extended school day will not improve anything. AND LET ME BE CLEAR
this is not an "Extended Learning day" (ie...add more recess, more
breaks, etc....) this is adding MORE "INSTRUCTIONAL TIME," in some
cases a whopping 2 minutes per class.
I will be using this
forum to inform OPS parents of our rights and our obligations to be
engaged. This was a single vote. It does not mean it is the final
vote, and does not mean we have to lay down and take it.
I am asking you to join me to remind this administration that WE DO WANT A VOICE AND WE DEMAND OUR VOICES BE HEARD!
Ignoring the pleas of tearful parents and the logic of
experienced teachers, the following five Omaha Public School board
members voted to extend the school day beginning this August:
Lou Ann Goding, Lacey Merica, Matt Scanlan, Katie Underwood and Yolanda Williams.
Three board members voted against extending the school day: Justin Wayne, Marian Fey, and Tony Vargas.
Teachers and some board members questioned exactly what learning gains
would result from tacking on the equivalent of three to five minutes to
each class period. One high school teacher stated: “...five more
minutes per class period is not going to make a substantive difference.
It might mean I get all the pencils back that I handed out at the
beginning of class … but in terms of quality teaching, that five minutes
is not really going to be used as extended teaching time.”
Several parents spoke against the proposal and explained how the
extended school day would negatively impact their children and their
Apparently the five school board members listed
above aren't concerned that this change will have little to no effect on
quality learning, but will have a significant negative effect on
children and families. So why pass the proposal? Is it possible that
Ms. Goding, Ms. Merica, Mr. Scanlan, Ms. Underwood, and Ms. Williams are
being influenced by an agenda other than the well being of the children and
families they were elected to serve?
The Omaha Public School board is considering extending the school day
by a significant amount of time--20 to 25 minutes per day--keeping the
youngest students in school until after 4:00 PM.
It is the
position of the Nebraska Family Forum that children do not need to spend
even more time sitting at a desk. They need rest, they need play, and
most importantly, they need family time. Keeping these kids away from
their parents longer, in a forced "learning" environment, will not make them "smarter" and certainly won't make them happier, more productive or more successful young people. It will also not solve the problem of poverty, which is the single most important factor in the educational achievement gap. All it will do is make children more tired, more stressed, and more distant from their families.
If the OPS board approves these changes, children who ride a bus could
have almost a 10 hour day, longer than an adult work day. And once that
10 hour day is over, there is still homework to be done. This
expansion of the school day is not only unnecessary, it's
harmful. What about fun activities such as soccer, baseball, or piano
lessons? What about religious education? What about time with mom and
dad? And what about sleep?
If OPS parents are concerned about
this continued encroachment into family time, it is imperative to
1) E-mail each OPS board member and express your concerns and 2) ATTEND
THE BOARD MEETING ON MONDAY, JUNE 15 AT 5:30 PM TO SPEAK AGAINST THESE CHANGES. If
you don't take this opportunity to make your voice heard, these changes
could be passed tomorrow and implemented this August.
would like assistance with organizing a response from OPS parents,
writing a statement to the board, or preparing a short speech, members
of the NFF are ready and willing to help. Please send an e-mail to NebraskaFamilyForum@gmail.com.