Saturday, February 11, 2012

Too many parents miss one of the great joys of their kids high school days... watching them participate in sports. There is nothing more fun on a Saturday afternoon, than squeezing yourself into a bleacher next to other parents who are just as loud and enthusiastic as you and screaming until your voice gets hoarse, as your son/daughter competes against other kids.

Soccer moms can be overly- excitable... football parents get to watch and winch as their child gets smacked into the ground... basketball moms, dads and various relatives watch junior run up and down the court with dreams of the NBA/WNBA in mind.  Tennis parents... well don't get me started on my own sport!

But, swim families are special. Somebody has statistics that show that swimmers get better grades and are more successful in school than other athletes. That is because swimming is all- consuming. If that cute little boy or girl who used to belly- flop into the pool develops the passion to compete... they have no other life besides their books and training. They will also eat their families out of house and home.

An ordinary woman of my height, weight (don't go there!) and age should eat about 2,135 calories a day. A website calculation figures that a teenage boy in rigorous exercise daily, should eat about 3,500 to 4,000 calories daily! And, they do! Check out the refrigerator of any swim household..

But, back to the swim families. I just spent about 4 hours, jammed shoulder- to shoulder and hip- to- hip with parents stuffed into over-crowded bleachers, watching our sons swim. I have found these parents to be polite, sympathetic and very tolerant. After all, it gets really hot and humid at a swimming pool. We all wanted OUR boy to be the best... but, we also wanted him to DO his best. At a swim meet, the kid who comes crawling through the water... long after all the other swimmers have finished their laps and left the pool... gets as much applause as the winners. Swim parents also have to be understanding of swim traditions, like the kids bleaching and cutting their hair before big meets. Other sports have similar activities, I guess... but you can always tell when it is championship time in the high school when all the boys on the team, even the Black swimmers whose hair usually turns out red when bleached... come to school looking like Q-tips.

Parents, if you don't want to come to parent/teacher conferences... let your child get into a sport and go to the contests. That passion for winning can be turned into a passion for learning... and, you may even learn something about the school and other parents, too.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

That was all I could say when I heard that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in favor of the Milwaukee Public Schools and tossed- out the 11- year- old "Jamie S case."

I remember the day the suit was filed against MPS. It was September 13, 2001. I remember it well because of what had happened two days earlier. I covered that lawsuit for 7 years! Doing a story every 6 months or so at first, then only when something big was happening, like when the Department of Public Instruction settled with Disability Rights Wisconsin in 2008.

The suit claimed that  "Jamie S." who was only 8 when the fight began, and other special needs students did not get into special services in the district.  Later, it added that the DPI did not do a good job of overseeing MPS so that it would give appropriate services.

Over the years, I interviewed the mother of the plaintiff and talked to the law firm that MPS hired to defend its case. We probably can't add high enough to figure how many millions and millions of dollars were spent on this lawsuit. MPS said it was all covered by its insurance, but a lawsuit that lasts for 11 years is more than suing for somebody slipping on the ice in your driveway.

MPS has claimed victory and Superintendent Gregory Thornton told the media “We will continue to provide quality special education services for Milwaukee’s children”.

OK, well in the time it has taken for the lawsuit to crawl through the courts, thousands of students have come and gone through the Milwaukee Public Schools. Hundreds needed extra attention because of their special needs. Plans were created and things got a little better. Now, without a lawsuit hanging over its head, will the MPS give the kids with special needs all the help they deserve? Let's hope it doesn't take another 11 years to find out.