All Jacked Up

Okay, so here’s the scoop.  The last two days I’ve been battling the school district (Norristown Area School District, specifically) over transportation issues for the boys.  Since we moved from East Norriton to Norristown, we decided to do the honest thing and let the schools know of our new address.  (We were slightly proud of the fact that we went from renters to taxpayers who now made an actual contribution to the school district’s coffers.  We’re also paying through the nose for that privilege; our property taxes are over $3K per year.)  I asked for—and got, amid much ballyhoo, begging and pleading—a waiver to keep Ryan at his middle school because with the new address, we were now zoned for a different school, but it didn’t make sense for him to have to change schools with 6 months left in his middle school career.

I found out on Wednesday afternoon that honesty isn’t always the best policy.  Because we were now zoned for a different middle school than what he was attending, Ryan was “no longer entitled to transportation services”.  Tell me where that makes sense.  We now pay taxes that contribute to the cost of transportation, yet we’re “not entitled” anymore. 

I’d say that nasty emails were exchanged between myself and several employees of the school district—in particular, Peter Matticola, the Transportation Manager for NASD—but I was the one doing most of the writing.  After I launched my first heated email on Wednesday afternoon, on Thursday morning Mr. Matticola passed a message to Ryan’s school to pull him out of class to call me and say he was not allowed to ride his bus anymore.  Anyone who knows 13 year olds will have an idea that standing out from the crowd is NOT a good thing (not to mention he was enjoying the project they were working on in science class), let alone fearing he did something wrong when he was called to the office, AND having to call his mother with that bit of information.  Mr. Matticola (and I use the term “mister” loosely) employed poor judgment and blatant unprofessionalism (not to mention immaturity) when he decided to delegate his job to a 13 year old boy, and for that, I expect an apology.  That and $.85 will get me a cup of coffee.

The second bit of this story comes about because the school district also required that Alex change his bus.  Anyone who knows jack about autism knows that these kids thrive on consistency.  I’m lucky in that Alex adapts to change well (probably better than I do), so after the initial “Why?” (“No, honey, it’s nothing you did wrong”), he accepted the change in his morning routine fairly well.  However, the bus meets him at an exact point in the morning when no one is available to stand there in the cold and wait for it to get there.  On any other day, I’d have left for work already; John’s in the shower; I’m not sure I should trust Ryan, at 14  (on Sunday) to get his brother on the bus.  I can’t let Alex sit in front of the house alone; he’s already eloped once.  My only option is to wait with him and go to work half an hour later than usual, which puts me in the teeth of Norristown morning rushhour.  I’m his mom so I’m going to do what I have to do, but nobody said I had to be happy about it.  Fortunately his “new” bus driver, Danielle, is a sweetheart and I’m happy to see her again.  She’ll give us an extra 5 minutes if I’m late getting back to Norristown after picking Ryan up at ENMS because he’s “no longer entitled to transportation services.”

No one said I have to be quiet about this.  I copied in Carl Rotenberg of the Times Herald (but got no response) on the emails I exchanged with officials at NASD, none of which was Peter Matticola;  he never returned a single one of my emails.  (Coward.)  I let Ann Rohricht know that I want Matticola to apologize to Ryan for putting him in that awkward position; of course, I’m also not holding my breath expecting that to happen any time soon.  No one has yet explained to me WHY this was such an issue.  What was the problem with the boys staying on their original buses?  If it’s just policy, shouldn’t someone audit the policy for COMMON SENSE?  Had I been dishonest and NOT reported that we’d moved, no one would’ve been the wiser and everything would’ve remained status quo through June.  But no, I did the honest thing. Foolish me.

This is what happens when a school system preaches intolerance of bullies but won’t practice that same philosophy.  We were bullied into this change and no one has yet explained what purpose this change serves.  We weren’t asking for anything special, and keeping the status quo wouldn’t have cost anyone a dime (except me; I sat for 20 minutes waiting between Alex’s bus arrival and Ryan’s, before I drove the boys home to Norristown; for those 20 minutes, I read aloud to Alex; we’d just started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on Wednesday). 

Next time I’ll do the smart thing.  I’ll lie.  Isn’t that a great lesson to teach one’s kids?  Honesty gets you nowhere, but lie and you get what you want.  Thank you, Norristown Area School District, for making me wish we’d gotten a bigger house and paid less in property taxes in a different school district.