Chapter 6: Graynle Jr's Education and Impact of Least Restrictive Environment
13:58:10:06 - 13:58:43:07
Lisa: And my name is Lisa Sonneborn. I'm interviewing Dr. Graynle Edwards on March 8th, 2013 at Temple University in Philadelphia. And also present is Stephen Crout our videographer. And Dr. Edwards, do I have your permission to continue with our interview?
Dr. Edwards: You may.
Lisa: Thank you. (Pause). Dr. Edwards, we ended our last conversation with - talking about the Joseph Hill School.
13:58:43:07 - 14:06:20:16
Lisa: How was Graynle Jr.'s experience at the Joseph Hill School?
Dr. Edwards: Well I thought it was a really great experience because that was the first time that he had an opportunity to interact with the same group of people, uh, on a daily basis. Uh, that is both the student body as well as the teachers and support staff. Uh, the other great thing about that was the, uh - they did a lot of looping. He had the same teacher for about two and a half to three years. Uh, I can't think of her name right now, but the aid was a person who really embraced Graynle - Van Hardy was her name. And, uh, she embraced him to the extent that at the end of the day he would go home with her. And when I left school I would go by the house and pick him up. And her son Steven - they were almost like brothers in terms of the way that he connected with Graynle. And, uh, Graynle... They did not hold back at all in terms of expectations for Graynle, and as a result, Graynle really grew. I haven't had an opportunity to interact with that family of Van and Steven - Stevie we would call him. Uh, so that was a very positive part about the Hill program. I think the negative part about the program was that the overall instructional... uh, the overall instructional program did not - was not as sophisticated as it could have been in terms of not just the curriculum but the kind of supports you'd expect to see - the artifacts that you'd hope to see in that kind of setting. They just weren't there. And I began to grow in terms of what could be because I became a principle of a school that services a significant number of intellectually disabled students. So I saw what could be. And Nick Protunda - I'll never forget him - he was my unofficial supervisor at that school and we had the chance to interact with each other and I had a chance to learn from him. In fact, he's well aware of the fact that my success at that high school as it related to my special needs population was directly attributed to the kind of support and information that he would give me - on-going kind of support. So, I took some of that information under advisement and began to think about how Joseph East Hill School could change. And we began to meet with parents because the Hill School was really an old building. Uh, there's a need for a new building. And a number of parents and myself got together, we met periodically, and over the course of two and a half to three years, we were instrumental in getting a brand new building built right behind King High School off of Stanton Avenue. Um, so I'm making a leap now - I'm going from the old J.E. Hill School to the new school. Uh, now that had everything that you would want. Support staff, the kinds of instructional, uh, the kind of artifacts that you would want students to have. They had an outstanding prevoc—uh, prevocational program with a teacher, uh, who worked very closely with Graynle. And you could see how his manipulative kinds of skills - dexterity and what have you - began to grow as a result of his experience in the new Hill School. And in fact he used to bring homework, uh, well they would put homework in his bag and I would work with him in terms of "Graynle, you gotta do this." And, oh man, that was painful because after about five minutes he didn't want to do anything okay. But in school he was a pretty good worker in school. But his problem was he couldn't sustain himself for long periods of time. In fact they used the term "prompt." In other words, with a "prompt" Graynle would perform the task, but if you didn't give him the prompt, he wouldn't do anything. So his instructional program was "prompt" laden. But he would perform. He would perform and after, uh... When I mentioned support staff, they had a social worker there, they had a physical therapist there, uh, they had a guidance counselor there. They had everything that you as well as the, uh, the different kinds of rails and things for students to, uh, ambulate throughout the building. Uh, the, uh - it was just everything that you would want to see. And, uh, under the, uh, egis of least restrictive placement they decided to dismantle a significant part of the program and sent the older students to regular high schools. Some to Olney. My son was dispatched over to Germantown High School. And of course we fought that, but he was in his last year when that occurred. So, the, uh, I guess you might say that the, uh, the fight was kind of gone out of us after so many different kinds of battles. So, let him do his last year at, uh, Germantown High. And, uh, unfortunately they were not prepared to service that population. They had a room in the basement. From the least restrictive placement, they'll put him in the basement somewhere. Okay. Uh, it was really an outrage to be honest. But as I said before, uh, by the time we really began to think about the prospects of what could happen, we knew it would be for such a short period of time. So we just kind of washed our hands until he finished his last year. In fact he went to Germantown under Armstrong because that was the extended year that he was entitled to. And, uh, and then he left the system - public school system. Now if you have anything specifically - anything specific you'd like me to respond to as relates to Joey - Joseph E Hill School then... let me hear you.
14:06:20:15 - 14:07:01:27
Lisa: Well the one thing I want to ask is what year Graynle went to Germantown.
Dr. Edwards: Uh, boy, he was in his 21st year. So that would be... that would had to have been 1981-82 school year. Yeah... Except that... it might have been the 82-83. It was one of those years.
14:07:01:27 - 14:13:08:16
Lisa: Could you tell me a little more about the concept of the least restrictive environment and how that played out in the school?
Dr. Edwards: Well the thing is, uh, it was happening all over the Philadelphia school system and other places as well so that was just not unique to the Philadelphia schools. It was a mandate I think at the federal level where you had students in isolation in buildings. I remember my high school that I ran up in New Brunswick, uh, they had special education on the doors. Can you imagine that? On the doors in big bold print - "Special Education Classrooms." And what was happening was that kids were being isolated who should not have been. Uh, you had situations where you had, uh, children who might have been learning disabled, uh, were treated a lot differently than regular ed students in terms of either being placed in Resource Room programs, uh, where they spent too much time in the Resource Room or the, uh... when you had the, uh... when you went to the, uh... special art, gym - things of that sort. Too often they had art for special needs. Uh, the, uh, the kind of instructions, uh, instruction that took place because teachers weren't trained properly - it made it too often students had to go to the special needs teacher for math, science, and English. And the fact of the matter is while a student may have been deficient in one content area, they could perform quite well in others. I'll give you an example - social studies. Uh, the, uh, there is no reason why a good number of special needs students could not function in a special—in a social studies classroom given the proper program, you see. But again we're talking about training of the teachers. So we're talking about, uh, uh, uh the need to implement a, uh, least restrictive placement on one hand, but not training the teachers on the other hand. You see, so, uh, that was a real problem. And oft—too often those special needs students were not accorded the same kinds of opportunities as the regular ed students. I think I gave you an example of the, uh, of the, uh, students, uh... teachers coming to me asking if their students could go on the senior trip. And, uh, my first reaction was: "Why not? Why not?" "Well in the other school they wouldn't allow us to do so." I said: "Nah, no, no, no. You get the parents' permission for their children to go on the senior trip and they will go. It was really a no brainer. You see, but yet I'm almost certain that my sensitivity to this whole situation as probably influenced by the fact that I had a special needs child. Uh, and too often, uh, that is not the case. You have administrators who are almost oblivious to the needs of special needs children and see them as a kind of problem as opposed to an opportunity to serve, you see. And, uh... So. So that whole business of separate but equal was something that was born of lack of opportunities that special needs students were entitled to and that weren't given to them. So when they started moving kids to expand those opportunities they were moving them into places where the staff was not prepared to service them. See, THAT was the problem. You see, and it's a problem even today. You see, the, uh, I guess all of the special needs instruction across the universities of America probably want to castigate me. The, uh, some of these poor folks who would come out of special needs... Teachers aren't well trained. You see, and maybe their response would be "we don't have enough time to train them the way that they should be trained." And there's probably something legitimate about that. You see, there's probably something very legitimate, but we don't... (clears throat)... the course work is such that you have the general education and it's very difficult to get all of that in in a four-year collegiate program, so I'm not gonna make excuses. I'm just talking about the facts. Some folks who have special needs potentially... I just need to back off of that because you see the same thing among administrators, general education teachers, uh, just haven't been trained well. In fact, that's the major, uh... from the federal perspective this whole notion of quality instructions - quality education programs for our teachers needs to be upgraded.
14:13:08:16 - 14:15:08:10
Lisa: So let me take you back Doctor to the time when Graynle was in Germantown--
Dr. Edwards: Mm-hmm.
Lisa: --when he was going through high school and public school system. Did you feel that teachers were unwilling to be trained or did teachers actually have the desire to have more training and more competent surroundings?
Dr. Edwards: Oh I think it's no question about teachers wanting the training. No question about that. The problem was finding time and money to do it. You know it's amazing the way you can maneuver to get - to squeeze out what I call "job-embedded instructional activities." Or "job-embedded training." The, uh... sometimes you can shift a number of students just a half a day one day. Just one day. And you might do that twice a month to free up X number of teachers to go for training. And you might do it in such a way that in year one we're going to target this group of teachers. And year two - this group of teachers. Then you have a lot of turn key going on. So you're building capacity to service the lion's share of the students in a relatively short period of time. But often time we don't do the training because, uh, we don't have the time or the money. Not the time nor the money. And, uh, you know, I've been a principal long enough and had enough experience to know that you can squeeze out time. There are ways of doing it. It's just a matter of, uh, people in charge taking the initiative to make those things happen. It can happen. Yeah.
14:15:08:10 - 14:15:31:22
More Interview Chapters
- Childhood and Family
- Dr. Edwards as a Student | Professional Aspirations
- Birth of Graynle, Jr.
- Graynle Jr.'s Educational Experience
- Impact of Disability on Relationships
- YOU ARE HERE: Graynle Jr's Education and Impact of Least Restrictive Environment
- Joining a Community of Advocates
- Lack of Opportunities Post-secondary School
- Dr. Edwards Advocacy for Children and Adults with Disabilities
- Challenges for Parents Today
- Relationship with Graynle Jr. and Reflections on Advocacy
About Graynle Edwards
Parent, Adjunct Professor in Environmental Sciences, Lincoln University
Fathers, Education and Least Restrictive Environments, PARC, Parents, Employment and Workshops, Waiting List