Out There

SLP Caseloads

Posted in SLP, teaching, Uncategorized by Pete on March 14, 2016

I’m copying and pasting something from an SLP forum that I lurk on.  This is about caseloads and thought it was a good perspective and I wanted to be able to access it later so I’m pasting it in here.

I have posted this more than once. My rule of thumb is my caseload cannot exceed the number of hours I work over a week. So…if I work 38 hours, I can’t have more than 38 students. In that 38 hours, you are ALL entitled to 30 minutes of duty free lunch daily, and whatever planning time is given to the professional staff in your school. If you are working through lunch and planning time, you are NOT doing anyone any favors…and that includes the district and your students. You are allowing yourself to be taken advantage of.

So back to my rule of thumb. Where I worked, I had 30 minutes of lunch and 30 minutes of planning (planning was averaged out over the week…so really 2 1/2 hours per week) per day. So that left 28 hours in which to do everything else…therapy, testing IEP meetings, consults, classroom observations, report writing, meetings…you get the picture. Even with 28 hours to do all of that per week, I sometimes found myself stretched. When I read about caseloads that are double or triple what I had, I wonder just how FAPE is being met. And I wonder about the real quality of services…and I wonder just how quickly some of you will burn out.

It took me a while to get to the point I was at…that caseload of 30 or so students. Back in 1973 when I started, I had 13 schools and well over 100 students. It was a job that could NOT be done….period. I was at each school once every two weeks. The kids didn’t even know my name.

I immediately became a strong advocate for decent services for my students. NOTE…not for me…for my students. BUT in advocating for my students, I also advocated for myself, and our profession.

Our administration understood that the apraxic, low cognitive student with multiple issues…and multiple weekly consults…took much more of my time than even a multi sound artic case. And I needed to have the time for these things.

I understand that some folks don’t want to make waves because of job security and the like.

But read what you are saying….your admins expect you to make up time with students when you are absent for a day…but they also think it’s good quality services for you to be seeing 60 plus kids per week? I guess I think those are contradictory statements.

If they are REALLY worried about FAPE, they should get more staff…so ongoing services can be better.

Where I am, districts with these larger caseloads also have HUGE turnover in SLP staff…because folks simply move on to districts where the working conditions are better. And yes…that sometimes means a huge cut in pay. But I know a few people who went from having over 75 on their caseloads to under 40 and also lost over $6000 a year in salary. They say…it was well worth the reduction in salary to be able to provide a quality service to their students.

As a profession, we need to stand up and be counted. Do the special ed teachers in your district see 60 or 75 kids per week? How about OT and PT? If you are in a primary school….what classroom has 60-100 kids?

Please…advocate for quality services for your students. And for heaven’s sake…stop short changing yourselves by working through lunch and planning times…and taking hours of work home nightly.

OK…off my soapbox.

-S

And someone replied with:

I think everyone can reply to this question but not much can be concluded.  Numbers do not reflect workload.  I think that is where administrators loose perspective on appropriate staffing.  So much goes into determining workload for any specialists.  Everything from severity of students to universal supports provided in a school system.  I personally could service 30 articulation kids over a couple of days with my eyes closed but give me 30 more involved students and the game changes.

We all need to advocate for reasonable workloads and numbers.  The amount of work, paperwork and meeting time that is required for each student also need to be taken into consideration.  I also find that administrators have little to no understanding of the process of language development nor how decreased language abilities impact academics.

This past year I published a book,  The School Speech Language Pathologist,  An Administrator’s Guide to understanding the role of the SLP in schools along with strategies to aid staffing, workload management and student success.  It’s just a start in educating administration.  Available on Amazon and through my publisher Booklocker.

I think it would also be interesting to know how much turnover occures because of workloads/caseloads that are too high an unmanageable.  My 30 years of experience can also state that staffing levels have not grown over the years but numbers have.  Think about that.

I didn’t write either of these but they are good food for thought, for me at least.  I’ve wrestled since before I became an SLP with the service delivery model used in the Alaska bush (at least in my home district of LKSD) and this applies to that issue.

Advertisements
Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Kindergarten Truancy

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on February 18, 2015

This is meant as an open letter to the Alaska legislature, Governor Walker, parents, and educational leaders across the state.  Alaska law currently makes school attendance mandatory for kids between the ages of 7 and 16.

Here is the statute:

(a) Every child between seven and 16 years of age shall attend school at the public school in the district in which the child resides during each school term. Every parent, guardian or other person having the responsibility for or control of a child between seven and 16 years of age shall maintain the child in attendance at a public school in the district in which the child resides during the entire school term, except as provided in (b) of this section.

I’ve come to think this is a problem.

All too often I see kids who are enrolled in kindergarten who attend extremely sporadically and are then retained.  Today in one of the rural school districts I work in I was asking the kindergarten teacher about one of the students on my caseload, trying to get a feel for the student’s standing relative to their classmates, their progress this year, and any teacher concerns.  The teacher reported that the child can perform about as well as their classmates when they are paying attention and physically in school.  She mentioned that three kids were retained from last year’s kindergarten class (including my student), and she wants to retain 4 more from this year’s class, and she believes the reason for why all those kids are behind is truancy, with some of her kids attending about 2/3 of the time (40 absences by mid Feb).  I asked if the school has filed truancy reports or anything and she reminded me that until the child is 7 there is nothing the teacher or school can do.  I’ve been involved in education in the bush for over 10 years and I’ve seen this happen with kindergartners time after time.  But today it just struck me as illogical and silly that we go after parents who let their 4th grader or 8th grader stay home, but we allow it with kindergartners.  Truancy is a huge, chronic issue in the bush.  If we allow it to be a habitual thing for the first 2 years of school with no penalty, should we be surprised that it remains an issue for the rest of that child’s life in school?

I believe the intent of the law is to allow parents to decide when their child is ready to start kindergarten, so the state isn’t forcing 5 year-olds to begin school.  I don’t take issue with that.  However, I do take issue when the parents decide it IS time to start school, but then the child shows up half the time.  If it is obvious that it isn’t working for whatever reason, the parents should withdraw the child and try again the following year.  Or at least have a conversation with the teacher where it is acknowledged that they aren’t really trying to go to first grade in the next year and that the school shouldn’t be trying to move heaven and earth to get the child the extra help required to make it happen.

The law in section (b) makes exceptions to mandatory attendance, for things like illness, private school, living far from the nearest school, etc.  Then way at the end there is this:

(c) If a parent, legal guardian, or other person having the responsibility for or control of the child elects to enroll a child who is six years of age in first grade at a public school, after enrollment, the child is subject to the provisions of (a) and (b) of this section. If the parent or guardian of a child who is six years of age and is enrolled in first grade at a public school determines, within 60 days after the child is enrolled, that the best interests of the child are not being served by enrollment in the first grade, the child may be withdrawn from school, and the provisions of (a) and (b) of this section do not apply to the child until the child is seven years of age.

I think it should be changed to this:

(c) If a parent, legal guardian, or other person having the responsibility for or control of the child elects to enroll a child who is FIVE OR six years of age in KINDERGARTEN OR first grade at a public school, after enrollment, the child is subject to the provisions of (a) and (b) of this section. If the parent or guardian of a child who is FIVE OR six years of age and is enrolled in KINDERGARTEN OR first grade at a public school determines, within 60 days after the child is enrolled, that the best interests of the child are not being served by enrollment in the first grade, the child may be withdrawn from school, and the provisions of (a) and (b) of this section do not apply to the child until the child is seven years of age.

This is a small change but would help to combat runaway truancy, while not taking away from the spirit of the law which allows parents the freedom to determine when their child begins kindergarten.

Pics from Down Under

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on March 27, 2014

Wanted to include some pics of the engine and suspension and other stuff underneath.  I have a couple of guys helping me out with advice and I can help them help me by providing pics.  So here we go.  With a bonus shot of my lovely secure 1-car garage!  (which, I’ve heard through the grapevine, may have gotten hooked up to AVEC power today!  Don’t know for sure because I’m writing this from Tununak.  Power would allow me to actually plug in the oil pan heater, battery blanket, etc although lately its been so warm they haven’t been super necessary.  Still.  Power is nice to have.  Lights!  : – )  Note the outlets on either side of the truck and the overhead light receptacle.

conex garage 1

The ultimate triumph of function over form – the CONEX!!  What is not to love?  I hope to have this and the one to the left of it insulated by end of summer.  Might even take down the common wall and make one big garage.

 

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImagerImageImage

tn_DSC_0090

 

 

My Ridiculous Ride

Posted in suzuki samurai by Pete on March 26, 2014

tn_DSC_0071  tn_DSC_0072 tn_DSC_0075 tn_DSC_0074tn_DSC_0073

Finally uploading some pics of our little Suzuki Samurai that I barged up last summer from Seattle.  Many more stories to follow, hopefully.

Simple Solar Heating System

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on March 21, 2014

Simple Solar Heating System

Wow, I love this.  I definitely have an inventor streak (P is for “possibility,” right?) and this thing just seems like a no-brainer.  Here is another link of a home-made copycat version that a guy put on his super-cool container home (which itself is worthy of another post – I believe he built that entire thing start to finish for like $20,000).  Note the youtube video near the top of that link.  Basically a bunch of pop cans in a box with a clear lid facing toward the sun.  Drill holes in the pop cans and line them all up end to end in several rows.  Then a hose going from the wall near the floor in your home goes in one side of the box, and another hose goes out the other end of the box into your home near the ceiling.  Add a small fan and you get a free heat increase of over 50 degrees F.  I’m actually considering buying one of these – I could mount it on a south wall of my little conex garage.  Beats paying over $7 per gallon for stove oil.  I’m kind of surprised I haven’t seen or heard of any of these in rural AK and it *really* makes me want to try it and see how it would do here on a sunny day in January with only 6 hours or so of light.  Would even make a great student project – like a secondary science class thing.  Cansolair!

Big Alcohol Spread in Alaska Dispatch

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on October 4, 2013

Big Alcohol Spread in Alaska Dispatch

Alcohol has really been in the news as both the Anchorage Daily News and the Alaska Dispatch have launched extensive efforts to cover the issue as it pertains to Alaska with a lot of scrutiny.  The ADN in particular is going above and beyond by launching a year-long effort with funding from a few different sources.  They view it as a follow-up to their pulitzer prize-winning series from the 1980s called “A People in Peril” that also dealt with Alcohol in bush Alaska.

Here are the 3 recent articles from Alaska Dispatch.  I can’t say I agree with all of the author’s thinly-veiled opinions, but it is a dialogue that we desperately need to have.  

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130903/perils-prohibition-alaskas-failed-war-booze

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130904/perils-prohibition-drowning-past-rural-alaska

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130905/perils-prohibition-history-repeats-alaskas-failed-attempt-stamp-out-booze

I’ve written extensively on my views on alcohol in our part of the bush in the past and you can easily search the blog to find those posts.  I don’t take much time out to blog these days and don’t have much time now, but the one thing I’d add is that prohibition here IS different from prohibition in Chicago in the 20s and 30s because it was impossible to keep the illicit alcohol out at that time.  But there are no roads to the dry villages.  If Bethel was dry like all the villages around it, the only booze would be homebrew and stuff smuggled in luggage and by mail.  And the price would go way up, which we know prices some key segments of the population out of the drinking pool.  Like the 12 year olds.  This issue is especially relevant right now as yesterday we all got our PFDs from the state of Alaska, $900 for every man, woman, and child, and that $$ is burning a hole in a lot of pockets right now.  The next few days are notorious in Bethel for all kinds of rowdiness and worse that goes down every year.

Tagged with: , , ,

domestic violence in bush Alaska

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on April 10, 2013

There has been a lot written in the news lately about rural justice issues after an unarmed VPSO responding to a domestic disturbance was shot and killed in Manokotak.  I kind of want to hang on to these and remember them beyond a bookmark in my browser, so I’m pasting them in here.  Some are editorials, some are more “newsy,” and most are from Alaska Dispatch.

The sexual assault epidemic in rural Alaska, and the response it generates, compared to the Steubenville story.

The brouhaha over Lisa Murkowski excluding Alaska natives from the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Lisa’s response.

And a response to the response.

And an editorial reminding us that on some level, we all share in the blame.

Phew!  Lot here.  I’m glad I can at last close these tabs though.  ; – )

 

bush groceries

Posted in teaching by Pete on February 8, 2012

I help answer questions over at the ATP Forum, which is a place for prospective teachers in Alaska to ask questions.  A common question people have is about budgeting for food, as they try and get a better idea of what a move to Alaska would mean for them financially.  I’ve put a lot of thought and work into grocery shopping in the past and thought I’d put up some of that on here and tag it as ‘advice’ so it might be helpful to someone doing this kind of research.

If you choose to shop in a major hub like Bethel, Kotzebue, Dillingham, Nome, Barrow, etc you will probably have a couple of stores to choose from, and they may not look very different from a smallish lower-48 grocery store except for the prices.  Here is a youtube video someone made of a recent trip to the AC store in Bethel.  And here is a link to the weekly specials for Swanson’s grocery store that appear in the Delta Discovery newspaper. These give you a small idea of pricing.  Of course if you live in an outlying village as we do then you need to pay another fee to have the boxed groceries delivered to an air carrier and sent to your village (our village is only a 15 minute flight and the fee is about $.50 per pound), or have a friend pick up the box for you.  Both AC and Swansons will shop your list for you and box it for no extra fee if you fax or call them with what you want, and pay by credit card over the phone.  They are both based out of state.  I believe Swanson’s is owned by Omni Enterprises out of WA state, and AC (Alaska Commercial company, which has quite a colorful history in the state dating back to the Russian days when they had a monopoly on the Pribolof seal harvest – try google) is now based in Canada.

Of course you can also shop in your village itself, which helps the local economy.  Village stores vary widely in quality and selection, based on factors like distance and number of flights from Anchorage, and management.  I’ve seen villages with three stores, while others have none.  Most common is one or two stores.  Some village stores have surprisingly good quality of dairy and produce, while others have only a few half-rotten choices.  But usually there is not a lot of variety, and things run out of stock on a regular basis, as in “there are no eggs today.”  It can be difficult or impossible to get a lot of dairy items like milk, cream, whipping cream, cheeses, ice cream, etc.  Some village stores (esp in larger villages) have these things, but most do not.  Same goes for veggies.  Our store in Kasigluk most often has root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, or onions, but also tomatoes and cabbage  and apples are fairly common, though the quality might be understandably below what you’re used to “outside.”

Our local store pricing is actually not very different from the prices in Bethel.  This is because the cost to mail goods from Anchorage to Bethel is the same as mailing from Anchorage to Kasigluk.  The main difference is in the variety and availability of what you might be looking for.  As for cost, it is expensive, no doubt about it, although if you have a line of credit with the store and pay it off in full every month you enjoy a 10% discount on everything.  But the price is still high, particularly for items that cannot be mailed such as bleach.

As an example, I recently brought in a “hazmat” barge order from Anchorage consisting of paint, bleach, motor oil, fire extinguishers, etc and sold off the bleach and motor oil in order to cover the cost of buying and shipping the paint which we were using to spruce up an old school bunkbed our kids started using as well as some other stuff like painting our conex container.  Anyway the bleach at costco in Anchorage was $6.24 for a 2-pack of clorox jugs each weighing 182 oz.  One of those jugs sells for $47.31 at our store in Kasig (yes, about 15x as much).  With barge fees my total cost ended up being about $8 per jug to Bethel, and then I found a way to get everything to Kasigluk and sold them for $20 each and all 20 of them sold in a week or so.

One avenue for fresh produce that has become very popular in the bush lately is Full Circle Farms and other CSAs.  It ain’t cheap.  We pay something like $60 or $70 per box of fresh produce.  But the quality is outstanding, as is the web-based interface where you select exactly what you want for each delivery.  We get mangoes, kale, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, fresh thyme, oranges, kiwis, zucchini, pie crusts…you get the idea.  It is Expensive with a capital E but in my view worth it when you consider how difficult/impossible it is to get otherwise.  We get a box every other week for our family of 4.

Another recent option that has come along is buying groceries on amazon.  When we first came here in 2003 this was an option, but then they changed the rules so groceries could not ship to AK.  But just a year or two ago they made it available again.  Generally speaking this option is a little more expensive than paying a company in Anchorage to buy and mail it to you.  But it is easier, and sometimes the prices are competitive or even better than if you go through Anchorage.  For example I’ve found that the prices for cereal are quite competitive with what you would pay a middle man to buy it at Costco and mail it to your village.  But on the other hand, laundry soap is far cheaper via Anchorage.  Some of this has to do with shipping.   Shipping from Anchorage costs about $.35 per pound for a heavy box going parcel post, say around $20 for a 50# box.  From the lower 48 the same box costs far, far more to send and takes longer, which is why going through Anchorage is generally cheaper than amazon.  But it’s tough to beat the convenience and selection on amazon if you don’t mind paying a bit more.

This is long enough, so let me just link to our old website (that cannot be updated) for information on shopping in Anchorage.  You can do it yourself, or use a middle-man company to shop and mail it to you, and this website explores these options in some detail.  This information is all 5 years old or something, but still useful.  The company I most highly recommend based on price, JB Bush, still exists but has changed their name to Alaska Bush Shoppers, not to be confused with Alaska Bush Service (same initials but different company) who I compare JB Bush to on the website.  Confused yet??  🙂  Hope this is helpful information.

one economist’s perspective

Posted in grim stuff, politics by Pete on September 30, 2009

“In Galena and the six related villages the annual average suicide rate was 141 per 100,000 over the period 1979-1989. In Nome and the 15 related villages it was 89 per 100,000. In Bethel and the 48 villages of the Yukon-Kuskokwim region it was 56 per 100,000. Galena was awash in booze, with a store in Galena, one in Ruby, in, and one on the Yukon near another village. The Nome villages were dry, on paper. But residents brought booze in from the liquor store in Nome and arrived home drunk from its bars. But the Y-K region had no liquor stores or bars, except for the store in Red Devil, 150 miles up the Kuskokwim from Bethel. The three studies, which included accidental deaths as well as suicides, showed alcohol was involved in over two-thirds of all the deaths they reported.  What else should these suicide rates be compared with, besides each other? The annual average suicide rate in the U.S. has been around 12 per 100,000 since 1900. It fluctuates a little, but not much, through two world wars, the Depression, the entry of many more women into the labor force during and after World War II, increasing drug use, race riots, anti-war protests, a huge influx of immigrants, and other major social changes nationally.”

Here is the link to the full article.

alcohol issue (local option) coverage from ADN

Posted in grim stuff, politics by Pete on September 20, 2009

Hey, the ADN has a big spread on the current movement in Bethel to do away with local option. This would essentially remove the monthly alcohol importation limit (It would not, as I understand it, necessarily mean that alcohol could start being sold legally in Bethel). OOPS!  Quoting from the article:  “If the vote passes, Bethel would be eligible for two bars and two liquor stores based on its population, according to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board that awards the licenses.” As I’ve pointed out previously in this space, the monthly “limit” is absurdly high.

Here are the ADN pieces: article, audio slide show, and short video. Good stuff, hopefully Bethel voters see it and do the right thing.

Just had to add this from the article:  “”We want the citizens of Bethel to be able to choose what they want or don’t want on these alcohol issues. We don’t want the state to continue to flog us with these rules,” said Tom Hawkins, 60.”  Yeah Tom, it is BRUTAL being limited to 20 drinks a day (not an exaggeration, that is the current limit if you do the math).  I feel so flogged.  This is the sort of person I was referring to when I wrote:  “If your desire to cling to your “right” to import ludicrous amounts of booze every month is so much stronger than your compassion at the state of your fellow man (even if they have made many crappy choices), then you have a serious problem.”

Or how about this guy:  “Meet 33-year-old Jeremy Westlake, a mechanic and pilot who by his estimate handles at least 70 percent of the legal alcohol that arrives in Bethel through a contract with ACE Air Cargo.  Westlake, one of the petitioners who put the question to a vote, says it’s a smaller-government thing. “I don’t want the state involved in our day-to-day life.””  HMMM, no conflict of interest there.

“If the liquor vote passes, authorities will lose control over how much booze arrives in Bethel, [trooper] Evan said. “I can imagine we’re going to see a lot more problems out in the villages.””

Precisely.