PRESS DOWN FIRMLY, YOU ARE MAKING 4 COPIES

Rummaging though some old files I had left at my Godfather’s house (a former residence) I found what was left of my Father’s educational folders from my childhood. Why I have these files is beyond me, they seem like something that should belong in a baby book, like it’s something my parents should have held onto, or silently discarded. When it was thrust upon me a few years ago I had no idea what to do with it, so it got stuck in a cabinet only to be discovered by the next tenant years later. So what did I find?

(I found some memories, you don’t have to read most of it, you can skip to my realization that I was not expecting to do a journal type post and that none of this shit matters, down at the bottom. I like most of my posts to have a point. This one is different.)

Well a brief look showed my social security number, in a lot of places, on a lot of forms. I’m sorry to say (only sorry for history’s sake) that I’m going to be shredding any form with that number, not that anyone would probably want to read it now anyway. It was interesting to note that while College’s incorrect and illegal use of social security numbers may have taught myself and so many of my friends our own numbers, that blatant misuse of the said number stems from much earlier on and I was just unaware. I’m going to save stuff for my Baby Book too and hope my parents keep it. I always figured this was more their job as they would remember what went on back then better.

IEP: The Individualized Education Program – is a document I have many copies and versions of. Thousands of man hours went into this document over the years. There are multi page letters from my parents writing in concern for specific provisions the IEP grants both for not enough enough help and again for too much unneeded help. Resource room, educational waivers for languages, assistant teachers, and untimed tests are part of evolving plans the school and my parents set out for me. I only really remember the untimed tests, it helped in math because if I didn’t know the math I could take the time to figure it out using the questions as clues and English because I wrote very very slowly and had a hell of a time with spelling, grammar, and getting my letters in the right order. The first version I have here is from 3/8/95, I was 11.

*SHREDDED*

I’ve got an old faded fax on heat transfer paper from Anthony J Alvarado Superintendent who apparently had letterhead with two fonts on it. April, 1995.

Dear Parent/Guardian:

District Two is please to inform you that your child (“Francis” is scrawled in) has been accepted to the NYC Laboratory School for Gifted Education for sixth grade beginning September, 1995.

It goes on but I hated that school. Here’s an excerpt from a “MID-SEMESTER PROGRESS REPORT” during I think my second year there, so 1996. It was the only comment I got, and the form states clearly and underlined “Unless noted below, your child is doing a satisfactory job.” so I think I was pretty top notch. Subject: Spanish, Teacher: Mr. Pena didn’t agree.

Francis needs to make an effort when it comes to class participation and paying attention in class. Up to now, he has shown none. I’ll do the best I can to help him with his work.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: CLASS PARTICIPATION, COMPLETES HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENTS ON TIME, TESTS/QUIZZES/PROJECTS

Thinking back he was probably my age and I had trouble with languages and he had no experience with kids who didn’t learn the way he was taught to teach. But as it turned out his best was getting fired for biting another student while wrestling later on in that year. I had managed to schedule my resouces room to whever I would have his class so I didn’t even know until a day after he never came back. True story: I hate a bodega on Vanderbilt Ave. because it’s named “Pena’s. My report card had a couple of comments, but mostly praise in math and science, and even a good word in Spanish albeit a lower grade then everything else.

Ah, this collection is brought to you by my application to William Alexander Middle School 51, where I spent my 3rd and final year of Junior High. If I recall we had to argue with them to keep me out of the stupid kids classes, we couldn’t get me into “Regents Rainbow” but I got into “Rainbow” it was the same thing but I didn’t get to take the tests so I wouldn’t have to repeat the classes the following year in high school. I can’t tell you how much of my time was wasted over those years, that little tidbit isn’t even the half of it.

To: Gulotta, Francis B.
Class: 142
From: Pupil Personnel Services
RE: SPECIALIZED SCIENCE HIGH SCHOOL RESULTS
=========================================================
Taking the specialized High School Exam in Science represents a wonderful challenge and experience that you should feel positive about.

This year over 25,000 New York City students took the exam for only 4,000 seats (admissions). This represented a very competitive and difficult acceptance process.

Yadda yadda I got into “Brooklyn Tech” which wasn’t a bad deal. The real winner of such an environment was Kaplan who states their goal the following way “At Kaplan, our mission is to help individuals achieve their educational and career goals. We build futures one success story at a time.” I have to tell you, the amount of kids trying to prepare for that test was phenomenal. If you could afford to take that class and payed attention. You would probably get into a specialized high school. All they did (and they did it well) was to train you on basic verbal and math problems and let you practice taking tests about them over and over and over. They got our money we got into “special” schools and the Board of Ed got to create a cottage industry of people who could teach “examination skills”.

I just found my “SBST” documentation for a meeting they had, that stands for “School Based Support Team” I don’t know why I had one other then this one meeting. They were a diverse group a special Education Teacher (I didn’t like her), a General Education Teacher (Leaves of Grass is all I need to say about him. I really didn’t like him and he didn’t like me, but thankfully he didn’t let that get in the way of doing his job. I stopped actively hating him after this.), a district Representative, an Educational Evaluator, a school Psychologist, a Social Worker (normally, I apparently didn’t have one, which makes me sad), and a Parent Memeber (My mom). They met on 4-4-2000 to discuss… oh well this document doesn’t even say! I remember so never fear. Those 7 people and my Dad who waited outside managed to remove the language requirement for me graduating high school. I had tutors, extra books, private lessons in and outside of school, and I had worked my ass off royally to try to pass a single language class for a long while. And after that day I never had to worry about it again. I’d probably have my GED or some shit if it weren’t for this.

I overheard someone I didn’t know from that SBST say “Lets just move on this, I don’t want to have to deal with his father.” which was music to my ears. My dad didn’t want to be there, or something about it bothered him so he was on edge. This is how I remember it anyway. He communicated these facts to this SBST member before their meeting. And while he sat outside during the meeting, his presence was obviously present inside. He half explained it to me later as “Sometimes you have to make them not want to deal with you more then they have to.”

I just found a very nice letter from an old psychologist writing in support for waving the foreign language requirement. It’s odd how you don’t remember someone at all and then once you place the name or thought of the person, it’s like opening a hidden box of memories. She was an interesting lady, I don’t remember if I learned or was helped by her at all, but I enjoyed going to visit.

An updated IEP from 1999.

I got some odd forms here. One is an authorization from the Chancellor for my mother to be on the SBST, another is a declassification plan for me, and lastly a letter saying I’m classified as “NOT DISABLED”. Oh and another version of my IEP this one from late 2000. And now I’ve found another meeting of the SBST with much less people but my mother still being the only one I know. A booklet about Parents rights and another one about Parents of children with disabilities rights. Man, who knew all this was such a big deal? I recall some drama over it but I mean, I was busy trying to make friends and get good grades. I guess taking on all this paperwork is another thing I can be forever thankful to my folks about.

I found here some statewide Student Performance Report for my bother, sticking him in the lowest range of students when it comes to reading when he was 10 years old. Ha!

Another IEP this one from even later 2000.

My parents writing pages of letters requesting that I be released from some special resource room brooklyn tech was forcing on me. That lady was annoying and I didn’t need the help in math or science, but those were the only two areas she was trained in helping. My parents are pleading with her to remove me from her clutches.

Back to my first Junior High School. I’ve got a letter here written May 30, 1997 it’s 3 pages long and it’s from my parents to the school’s “Co-Principals” (they sucked) let me quote the opening.

Dear Ms. Breslaw and Mr. Menkin

The Lab School is failing utterly to protect the emotional well-being of its students or to enforce a climate of basic civility. The school does not avail itself of resources developed by the Board of Education in its mediation programs or Peace Process which might facilitate the psycho-social environment of the school. As a result the school has become a bastion of prima donnas and students who are afrait to act humanely because there is no encouragement to do so.

Wow! And my Dad(?) wasn’t wrong. I blame this kid Alex. I don’t blame him a lot because he’s dead now. He had a disease that was going to kill him in a few years and only he knew it. He was the bitterest son of a bitch you could have met. He snapped at everything. Everything was a mortal offense. And I was his friend. I was also depressed (who knows why) and way overweight (I loved my milkyway bars) and had a dandruff problem I didn’t know how to fix (discovering how to properly wash my hair probably saved my life, it’s taken years but I now am able to leave the house without a shower if I want to with out fearing I’ll return to *that* kid again) and who knows what else. I needed a big change of environment and people in my life and leaving that school did it. Reading this letter my folks wrote I can’t blame them for being angry. In two years I went from bright and happy to failing and fucked up and I was like 12 years old.

I’ve seen my own son transformed from a popular, happy and well adjusted top student to a child who huddles into a ball with his teeth chattering from anxiety every morning before school.

Apparently the “Vicious tone” went beyond my memories of Alex and me being an easy victim. According to this letter, several parents brought this up for discussion individually during PTA meetings. And other kids are quotes as saying they go along with it because they fear being the next victim. Part of me wants to play my experience off as being whiney and lacking social tact, but reading though this letter shows there were a lot more problems there. I know I wasn’t the only student to leave that year, but I had no idea the level of fucked up bullshit going on there. While it would have only had been a start the DOE’s mediation program while intended for gang violence seems to have been the parents solution to the “white collar climate of harassment that is prevalent in the Lab School.”

Our son may leave, but the problem remains. For the sake of the children, the staff and the students should receive [mediation] training.

I think I’ll save that letter for my Baby Book as a reminder how to kick someone’s ass across the pavement using a pen as a way to stick up for your child. I wish I knew these people who were CC’ed but there’s a few of them.

More quips from Mr. Pena about how I’m falling behind in Spanish. A note from a math teacher saying that ever kid can learn math and I am no exception, I just need to be prepared for class and organize my notes better. I think by that point I had 1 notebook because I had to, but I was doing fuck all, all day long. I wanted nothing more then to die. Which is how I remember it. I didn’t want to kill people or leave, I didn’t think I could leave. I remember wanting to die. Fuck that school for making me think things couldn’t change.

More notes about how I could do better if I prepared myself.

My special ed folder. All that from before wasn’t even in the main folder. What the hell am I supposed to do with this? Do you know how long it’s going to take to shred all this crap? Ok I’m done. I had planned to write this about some funny Rowan Orientation crap I found in this mess. I didn’t expect to find or write about the Lab School or how we had to work the system to get basic shit out of it. Old report cards, student loan documentation, how I was a depressed and suicidal 12 year old, fuck all of it. So much drama attached to it all.

It’s funny how almost none of it is of any consequence.

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