The Toolbox is our firm’s full day training program about the discipline of students with disabilities. In the training we discuss ten “tools” that are available to help the school fulfill its mission. That mission is to serve every student appropriately, while maintaining a safe and orderly campus.
Several of the tools can only be operated by the ARDC. We have three tools that involve a change of placement, and that’s something that can only be done by the ARDC. The most important tool in the Toolbox is Tool #1—the creation of a BIP. That’s also something that the ARDC does. So the ARDC plays a crucial role.
That’s why the Toolbox includes Tool #9: Leadership at the ARDC Meeting, particularly the so called “Hard ARD.” When we have difficult decisions to make, and particularly when the parents oppose the school’s course of action, the ARDC needs to have good leadership from the principal or her trusted administrative designee. Here are five things to keep in mind about that leadership role.
1. It’s an all year thing. The principal cannot be the leader we need unless the principal is that leader all year long.
2. A strong leader builds a climate of trust among the staff, so that teachers, aides and other service providers will be comfortable telling hard truths, if that’s what’s needed.
3. The leader needs to remember that in special ed, leadership is much more about listening than dictating. The principal is not the quarterback, dictating the play for the rest of the team.
4. The leader should take the primary responsibility for good communication with the parent at the meeting. Body language matters. Seating arrangements matter. Staying for the whole meeting, and staying engaged matters.
5. The principal needs to be willing and skilled at bringing a meeting to closure when it is not in consensus.
We are about to launch a new school year. Hard ARDs lie ahead. Let me know if you are interested in a Toolbox training in your district or at your local ESC.
DAWG BONE: TOOL #9: LEADERSHIP AT THE HARD ARD.
Tomorrow: Have you ever used the expression “in an abundance of caution”?