Deployment Gnome Strikes Again

Funny how a few days ago I was thankful for the deployment, because now it’s back to pissing me off and this time it has very little to do with my husband being in a war zone. On Thursday last week, the local school district put out the dates for the “Preschool Round Up”, which is the day and time you bring your pre-assembled packet to the school you’re hoping your child will get accepted into for the following preschool year. Did I mention this is for PUBLIC preschool, not private? That’s right, there is an application process to get into the preschool program at the school my daughter already attends and my son is receiving speech services at. So I asked the typical questions, “Is an LES a valid form of income verification or do we need that in addition to the other two forms you require?” (because the LES is MANDATORY for children of service members) and “Will or how will placement effect my son’s IEP services if he is sent to a school other than the one currently administering services?” (FYI: We live in walking distance to the kids current school, but my son may still be sent to a school 20 minutes drive away because of the way the preschools are funded at the different PUBLIC schools in our county, ain’t it grand?)

My questions were met with “Here’s the number to the preschool coordinator, contact her with your questions.”

Well, thanks Mr School Board Man for not knowing how your own programs are run.

I emailed the woman, I will call “Ma’am”, though personally, I’d much rather call her a much less nice name at the moment. This is the email I sent to her:

“Ma’am,

My son has an IEP that is being applied and monitored by (You Study Here) school staff, twice a week. How will pre-k placement (or lack there of) effect his IEP status? My daughter is a student at (You Study Here) but my son only receives services there. Will pre-k placement effect where and how he receives his services?
Also, we are a military family. My husband is currently deployed to Afghanistan and wont return until AFTER the application date. Since his deployment status alters his LES, will these changes effect our son’s application? Is the LES considered a Verification of Income, or is it required in addition to two other forms of verification? What forms of verification would you recommend for a family, like mine, that lives on the single income of the Active Duty Soldier?
I am very confused about all of this, having never gone through a process in which we had to apply for school. Any assistance you could offer would be much appreciated. I am able to provide all documents pertaining to my son’s date of birth and residency status, as well as immunizations and proof of physical. I am just very confused about the Verification of Income aspects of the application process.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Mrs. R. Noba”
Straight forward, right? I have concerns, I’m being nice and polite. I’m seriously confused because when my daughter went through this process, she was evaluated by an IEP team who put her in Kindergarten at the age of 4. This is our first experience with preschool at all.
So that was Thursday and we had a “bad weather day” on Friday, so I didn’t get a response back until this morning. This is what she writes back:
“Good Morning,
First priority is given only to the economically disadvantaged, a mandate from the D.O.E. Other criteria are considered only if space is still available after placement of this specific group.
We must have proof of the household gross income, if your sole income is your husband’s then the LES is one and a W2 or 1040 would be the second.
Ma’am”
Okay, well, I guess that sort of answered my question. But no, it didn’t. She never answered any questions about the IEP at all, but at least, I only need an LES and a W2 for his packet. Now I just need my husband to email those from Afghanistan, at his earliest convenience and all will be right with the world… But wait? He’s deployed. The LES changes when that happens… More questions = one more email.
I reply back:
“Good Morning, Ma’am:My next question is kind of odd, but which parts of the LES are used for determination? I ask because my husband is deployed right now and will be until this summer. As such, his LES is not reflecting typical income when he is stateside and I’m concerned that the current LES would disqualify us because of the allotments and entitlements that we receive while my husband is in a combat zone that we don’t get while he is home. This is creating a lot of confusion for us during this process and we want to be able to have a back up plan in place in the event that our current predicament disqualifies our son from free public education during the preschool year.
Any light you can shed on this matter would be greatly appreciated. I’m sure you can understand the confusion and uncertainty for us.
Thank you for your time,

Mrs. R. Noba”
You with me so far. No address has been made to the IEP related questions and now we’re to the point where I’m worried the LES could keep my son from having a FREE PUBLIC EDUCATION.
Several hours go by and I get this response:
“When looking at the LES, all monies coming into the household is included, so  deployment pay is included.”
Excuse me? So regardless of the fact that my husband will be returning BEFORE the start of the next school year and ALL of those allotments and entitlements will be revoked as soon as he gets on the plane to come home, you’re still going to use them against us when reviewing my son’s registration packet? I’m having huge issues with this. The federal government doesn’t tax my husband’s base pay while deployed, add to that the combat pay, the hazardous duty location pay, and whatever else they are tacking on, we’re bringing in over $1000 MORE than we do when he’s stateside. We live paycheck to paycheck while he’s here. Since he’s been gone, after bills are paid, I’m supporting myself and the kids on $600 a month. (I give myself $300 a paycheck, the rest goes to pay down debt, like our credit cards and my SUV.)
So I send another email, that I admit, probably could have been less biting, but I’m pissed and the fact that I’m still calling her “Ma’am” at this point is a huge restraint on my part.
“So despite the fact that we will be bringing in maybe half that by the time school starts, my son could be disqualified because my husband is in Afghanistan. Thank you for answering my questions. I guess we’ll hope for the best but also start looking into whether or not we will be able to afford private preschool.
Sincerely,
Mrs. R. Noba”

I haven’t gotten a response back. I don’t think I will. At this point, I began looking up preschools in our city and did you know the average tuition at a 4-yr state university can actually be LESS than what you could be paying in preschool tuition? The prices for preschools in our area ranges from “OUCH!” to “OMGWTF!?!?!?!” (not kidding, the lowest is still over $2000 a year and one school was topping over 7K for preschool, just in tuition. That’s not including all the other random things they nickle and dime you for.)

I hate this. It’s bad enough my husband is in a war zone fighting to make sure our country stays safe, but once again our family is being punished because he’s gone. It’s not like he had a choice whether to leave or not. It’s not like he’s on vacation. And now, he has to worry about shelling out thousands of dollars in tuition because the public school system has policies that are ill equipped to deal with the transitions from deployment to non-deployed. I hate this. I’m pissed off, stressed out, discouraged and if I had that kind of money to throw down on tuition, I wouldn’t have dropped out of college for the third time this past fall. We aren’t exactly swimming in cash, half the time our heads are barely above water and they’ve just handed us another rock and told us to “Swim faster against that current”…

So while my husband is defending our country, I can’t even get my son into a PUBLIC elementary school preschool program…
That Gnome is probably laughing his ass off right now, but if I find him, I’m gonna wring his stupid little neck!
Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Deployment Gnome Strikes Again

  1. Dear Ma’am of “you study here,”

    It has come to my attention that there has been some confusion regarding LES and a military family in your District. I am sure it must be confusion because those charged with helping students thrive are generally caring individuals who are sensitive to the various home environments of their student body.

    The issue is Combat Pay. The father and sole wage-earner in this case is in Afghanistan. He has pledged his life to help keep his family and total strangers like you and me, safe. He has agreed to go wherever the Army sends him, to face and endure whatever they ask him. He is in harm’s way. Thankfully, this is a temporary situation. So Combat Pay is a temporary bonus. Therefore, I request that you do not consider it permanent when determining income for preschool eligibility (his Combat Pay will end before the next school year.)

    Ma’am, parades are nice. Yellow ribbons are lovely too. However, genuine support of the troops requires understanding and, at minimim, kindness. We can’t stand shoulder to shoulder with this troop, but we can give him the peace of mind that we care about his family. You may not know this but, while he raised his hand to serve, THEY sacrifice too. Every day in ways big and small.

    I have seen your letters to this military Mom and there seems to be no understanding of this sacrifice. No acknowledgement of her unique situation (the one we all benefit from.) As a civilian who has helped support over 800 troops, I can say with certainty that this lack of understanding adds stress to this family at a time when they carry more than their fair share.

    If you knew how your words would be felt and heard from this perspective, I doubt you would have chosen them. Again, I ask you to reconsider inclusion of Combat Pay. More than that, I ask you to imagine yourself in this Mom’s shoes and how your community can let them know for sure that you stand with them.

    Sincerely,
    Gina

    • Thank you, Gina. You are always a source of peace and strength. I’ve had a little time to calm down, but I still have no idea what I’m going to do if my son is denied preschool based on our income. I’m hoping there would be an appeals process but I doubt it. I’m trying to have hope and faith it will work out, but my logical brain has trouble processing hope. Hope causes disappointments. I’m trying and will let you know what happens. I have little less than two months to sort all this out. We really cannot afford private preschool. ~sigh~

      • I’m sorry you have this “deployment gnome.” And I know sometimes hope can feel like a risky proposition. So, without getting hopes up,
        I just found a page on military.com that has a scholarship and grant finder for military + family. You plug in your criteria (they have dependent) and it will search multiple sources for you: http://www.military.com/scholarship/search-for-scholarships.do
        I have NO IDEA how promising this is or not. But it may be worth looking into. Other orgs I’ve checked out don’t cover anything tuition-related. If I run across any brilliiant (or even semi-brilliant) ideas, I’ll let you know.

      • Thank you dear, you are a good friend. I have found many scholarships that are designated for children of those wounded or killed, but thankfully, we don’t qualify for those. I’m going to keep looking. If I find something that will cover private school, I may just put my daughter there as well and see how the district likes having less money because two of the federally funded military students are no longer enrolled.

        And the “gnome” tends to be a running joke among Army wives. He appears to be the cousin of Murphy and both appear make their presence quite known while our husband’s are away.

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s