Friday, November 25, 2016

I haven't posted much

In part because life is crazy busy and in part because I am assured things are changing AND I see evidence of these changes coming, so I am trying to just wait and not complain while hoping it gets resolved before the end of my oldest's senior year (this year)

So the first thing they are doing is updating the system which is 14 years old. Instead of having prospective volunteers typing in our own info on a website and using the honor system to screen out those willing to tell on themselves, now everyone (volunteer or not) will simply scan their state issued ID on the way into the school. This is far better than what I was asking for which was a change in the screening guidelines (which I am told is also coming soon)

Currently, at large events that do not require you to be a dividend, dividends sign in on the computer (which, again, only screens out those willing to tell on themselves on their application online), but those who are not dividends just sign in on paper and then take a little nametag sticker and write our name on it. Nobody checks your ID to see if it matches the name you wrote, or checks your name against any kind of list. You just write down a name and walk right in, This means that literally anyone, even registered sex offenders (because some parents ARE) can just walk up in your kid's school as long as they aren't trying to volunteer and are just attending a school event they aren't getting screened in ANY way before they are around students.

With this new system, every single person on campus will be checked against the sex offender registry, regardless of the reason they are there because everyone will scan their ID first thing when they arrive on campus. This is a huge step and I applaud the Seminole County School Board for it because it will make the guidelines more universally followed in all the schools throughout the county and that is a great thing for our childrens' safety and a HUGE improvement to the current system!

I am admittedly a little nervous about using it to scan my own ID for the first time, if it uses the current screening guidelines. I had some nightmares of alarms going off after I scan my ID, lol.

But I am told the overly strict volunteer screening guidelines will be going away soon too. I am hopeful while trying my best to remain patient.  I am tired of being on the same "banished from volunteering at schools forever" list as sex offenders.  Even though my own PTA has worked with me to find things I can do, there is always this black cloud hovering over me and this nagging voice in the back of my mind when I'm helping out asking am I allowed to do this?  Some days I can handle it, but other days it really gets my anxiety worked up. Social stuff is hard enough without this extra layer of worry on top of it.

I am pretty confident things are headed in a positive direction. I will update if I hear anything else. Thank you all, for following my story over the last several years. It means a lot to me :) And to my fellow non-dividend parents, hang in there!  Changes are coming!!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Ok, first off am I the only one who thinks it's obnoxious how they keep explaining the policy over and over again as if the problem is clearly that I don't understand that I am a big scary criminal on the never ever to be forgiven list and I should just go away and stop trying to help out at my kid's school and just settle for showing up at parent teacher conferences, at event that anyone can show up at (but don't help out, we can't have you looking like a member of our community!) Maybe if they just explain again carefully just how unfit to be around children I am, I will shut up and go home with the rest of the criminals that were properly shamed into giving up.....
But also, I can't be the only one to notice that the screening policy remains unchanged yet this policy is blamed as the reason I am "ineligible" for a Professional Standards Committee Review, but the only reason I requested one is that was the process they put me through two years ago (supposedly under the same policies and guidelines) I to be screened like an employee or like a volunteer? And which was it two years ago when I was eligible for a review? And which part of the policy/guidelines changed to make me ineligible for that this year?
Take a minute. Help stop the nonsense!
Schools are in desperate need of volunteers.
Counties are actively turning away decent parents with social exclusion under the guise of "safety" while teaching kids that excluding others based on their background is wrong.
My crime was not violent and it did not involve children. Unless you count my stupid, immature self.
Habitual Reoffenders don't go 15 years with no new offenses.
Stop slamming the door in volunteers' faces and then wondering
why there aren't enough parents willing to step up and help out.
Look at your own numbers for volunteers/hours!
Do the math!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cover letter

This was the cover letter of the documentation packet I prepared and delivered to the school board.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Patience, persistence, and idiocracy

I just wanted to post a little update for those of you that have been wondering and asking. Currently, I still have my kids in Seminole County Public Schools and I am still planning to present to the board.  I am up to my ears in different documents and statutes and character reference letters (Thanks to all, I do have to many people have the luxury in this world of knowing exactly how their friends feel about them AND that they feel that way strongly enough to put it in writing. If nothing else comes from this, at least I get that for my self esteem.  You guys are all awesome!!)

There has been a lot of silence lately on my part, and for many reasons. 

1. I had another baby in June <3  In some ways this makes me even more fired up and ready to go to war to prove I deserve to be a "normal" mom included in my child's school life just like the other moms; and in some ways this makes me want to pull back and consider whether I want ANY of my kids involved in a system  (This part is tough, because we selected our house for this school system) that teaches this level of exclusion and total lack of forgiveness, despite the fact that over ten years have passed since my non-violent drug arrest (in 2002) and despite the fact that I completed all that the law required of me, and that at no point in time have I EVER been legally restricted from being around kids, and my arrest didn't involve any kids....but depending on the severity, someone with a DUI or domestic violence charge will be approved as a dividend as long as it's been more than 5 years.

2. The PTA board and school staff at my daughter's current school is great, and have found ways for me to help out even though I'm not a "approved dividend" (without breaking any rules or having me around kids, which is a great compromise that should honestly be implemented county wide to accommodate parents such as myself in the event that the current discriminating policy is not changed) Anyway, I would hate to go present to the school board and have the few opportunities I currently get to help out be taken away in retaliation.

3. There is a lot of red tape, research, and organization involved. This requires spare time, which I don't always have available (you know, between all my "non-volunteering" and raising a baby and my other kids and such) I wish I had the time and energy to share all the emails back and forth with various county employees!

I have found some hope in that Pinellas County just changed their volunteer screenings from similar what Seminole's policy says to something more like the minimum required by state statute.  But, gasp, what about the safety of the children? You ask? Never fear, they will still screen the riff raff, but they changed some of the parameters so that someone like myself could actually volunteer after going 10 years without any additional arrests, instead of 25 like it was before (which was still better than Seminole, who has me on the "NEVER" list as if I were a sex offender)

4. Maybe it would just be easier to home school. There, I said it. Maybe rather than trying to fit into this community that wants to shove me as far to the outer edge of our village as it can (and board members quip #ItTakesAVillage while ignoring that a certain portion of the village exists and may be interested in helping out - Last I checked the saying wasn't "It takes most of a village" or "It takes only the good parts of a village") Maybe it would be easier to just teach my kid myself. And in all honesty? A large portion of the material she's covered so far in K, 1, and 2 is stuff she already knew from her dad and I when she started maybe I should just do that. I shouldn't HAVE to, but I'm beginning to wonder if my daughter will be graduated before I have accomplished anything. I'm not a fan of bureaucracy, or idiocracy, or anything else that is slow or inefficient. ;)

One of these days, all the stars will align at the right time and I'll head on down and make my first presentation.  Until then I will leave you with this question:

WHY are we talking about division when we talk about our school volunteers?

Dividend implies splitting something into pieces, or making smaller pieces. I don't think that fits with the Title I requirement for  "encouraging parent participation", which is a shame since we already don't have enough active volunteers as it is. Really, we need all the help we can get, and beggars can't be choosers. 
Is it better/more effective to get 10,000 parents to sign up and add to the total number of dividends yet not put in a single volunteer hour?  Or to deny the application of one volunteer that put in over 250 hours last year even though I am #NotAVolunteer?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

As I conduct my research in preparation to speak to the school board...

I find myself with less time to write about the meeting in which I was told there are zero activities in which I can participate at school as a non-Dividend and the silly runaround of emails it took to get them to actually summarize the discussion afterwards via email.  It was actually kind of comical. One of these days I may get time to write about it in detail.

In the meantime, I thought of an easy way to keep posting and having things for people to consider while I am in this research phase....

Each post, I plan to share one or two (or maybe more, depends how much time I get each day) of the recommendation letters I submitted with my application this year. These are from real people and parents in Seminole County who know me and who (like me) think it is phenomenally stupid that I am on the "not good enough" list to volunteer at my childrens' schools.

Here are a few to start us off...there are plenty, which is why I plan to just post a few at a time. These were either; 1.Never actually read at all, or 2.Read and completely disregarded as insight into my character.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Am I good enough?

Don't we all wonder that?  Apparently I am lucky enough to live in a county where I can be judged and then told whether or not I am, in fact, "good enough".

Tuesday I was given the honor of being reviewed by the “Professional Standards Committee”

What that is, isn’t made exactly clear, except that it is apparently the group of people that get to judge whether or not parents are good enough to be volunteers at the school. 

I was given a perfunctory phone call in which I was told the committee was reviewing my application, but I do not think they were going to tell me I had to be there if I hadn’t asked.

There is no link for the committee on the county website. There is no listing under staff for this department, a posting of their policies, or even a mission statement.  And why I was not granted the ability to speak to them LAST year when I begged the dividend program members, the school board, the superintendent, and everyone I was redirected to in between for appeal or review? 

The policy currently posted on the website (which was NOT posted last year, in case you were wondering) is the same policy they supposedly followed last year.  I can’t be sure since that policy was not posted last year but IF that is the case and the policy is unchanged, then where was my Professional Standards Committee Review last year?? 

Surprisingly, I was one of three women there. One was applying to be a teacher and one to be a dividend.

It was mentioned before the review that all decisions by the committee were final. Yeah, I don’t think so.  When they tell me no, that is just the beginning of the plans I have been waiting all summer to set into motion. Not an end, by a long shot.  It was cute that they tried though. I laughed in my head.
They started their meeting about 10 minutes late (not very "Professional" if you ask me) and I sat for an additional hour before it was my turn for scrutiny.  I may have been outside the room, and I may not have been given the names of those who judged me, but I have ears and I DID hear a man say "Look at me, I'm a hardened criminal!" In what context it was used, I don't know.  But it was heard.

I brought quite a sizeable stack of recommendation letters (thank you ALL) many of which are from moms in Seminole County and some who had children at my daughter’s school and even in her class last year and some printouts of the various endeavors that I currently do, which include a litter pick up team in my neighborhood, fostering baby animals, raising chickens, painting and interior design, and sewing.  I explained that the only way I could think to show them that I am different than the person who got arrested twelve years ago was to simply show them the things that I spend my time doing. 

And that’s it. I waited all day for a phone call and didn’t get one. I was told I could call the next morning so I did, and got voicemail.  This morning I called again and was told that my application was denied (big surprise there) so now I can move ahead with my plans to address the school board.

I wish I didn’t have to waste time on steps that I already know the outcome of. Got to love bureaucracy.