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Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtues consistently. You can't be consistently kind or fair or humane or generous, not without courage, because if you don't have it, sooner or later you will stop and say, "The threat is too much. The difficulty is ...too high. The challenge is too great. ~ Maya Angelou

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


ADA Advocacy


Link here to information about the lawsuit:  Family Sues Eanes ISD 

May 2009 - School district has failed to fix architectural problems, including buildings without accessible safety exits and ramps that are too steep. 


If Eanes ISD doesn’t respond to seeing a child in a wheelchair stuck behind a chain-link fence watching her friends play at recess ... imagine what they do to children with invisible disabilities.

- Dianna Pharr, March 2008 


Rowling, who was given an honorary doctor of letters degree, urged the Harvard grads to use their influence and status to speak out on behalf of the powerless.

"We do not need magic to transform our world," she said. "We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already; we have the power to imagine better."

Imagination gives one the ability to empathize with others, she said.

"Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation," Rowling said. "In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity; it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared."

Rowling described a low point seven years after graduating from college, when she was a poor single mother.

"The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are ever after secure in your ability to survive," Rowling said. "You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity."

She called such knowledge "a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned."


 

Private Camp Providers and Eanes ISD Cannot Discriminate Against Children With Disabilities

You may remember that the KidVenture Camp with whom EISD has contracted to take over the Summer Fun program told me that my child could not attend unless I provided a full-time aide at my expense because she is in a wheelchair.  Charging people with disabilities extra fees is specifically disallowed by the Americans With Disabilities Act.  When I complained about this to Nola Wellman, Cindy Martin, Bill Bechtol and my school principal, I received no response.  I therefore then filed a complaint with the US Dept of Education Office of Civil Rights alleging discrimination against my child on the basis of her disability.  Read more here ...

Link: NOT THE FIRST TIME


Attention Eanes ISD:  It's time to end the district's long practice of discrimination. 

What happens when a school district refuses to allow a gifted child with disabilities to access AP classes?

This just in from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights:

December 26, 2007 - I am writing to advise you of an issue involving students with disabilities seeking enrollment in challenging academic programs, such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes or programs (accelerated programs). Specifically, it has been reported that some schools and school districts have refused to allow qualified students with disabilities to participate in such programs. Similarly, we are informed of schools and school districts that, as a condition of participation in such programs, have required qualified students with disabilities to give up the services that have been designed to meet their individual needs. These practices are inconsistent with Federal law, and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education will continue to act promptly to remedy such violations where they occur.

The practice of denying, on the basis of disability, a qualified student with a disability the opportunity to participate in an accelerated program violates both Section 504 and Title II. Discrimination prohibited by these laws includes, on the basis of disability, denying a qualified individual with a disability the opportunity to participate in or benefit from the recipient's aids, benefits, or services, and affording a qualified individual with a disability with an opportunity to participate in or benefit from the aid, benefit or service in a manner that is not equal to that offered to individuals without disabilities. 34 CFR 104.4(a), (b)(1)(i), (b)(1)(ii); 28 CFR 35.130(a), (b)(1)(i), (b)(1)(ii).

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST:  Access by Students with Disabilities to Accelerated Programs


Steamroller Blues 2008

March 19, 2008 - As I stood taking these pictures of the athletic practice field in front of the WHS ninth grade center this afternoon, the lyrics of an old James Taylor song kept running through my mind ...

Well, I'm a steamroller, baby, I'm bound to roll all over you ...

The painfully real visual of a steamroller ripping up a sports field of fancy (and expensive) sod, to be replaced with fancy (and even more expensive) Astroturf left me feeling as though yet another napalm bomb had exploded (in this taxpayer's wallet). It is hard to comprehend a public school board that is so willing to prioritize something so frivolous, while at the same time willing to remain intentionally indifferent to the discrimination against students resulting from the district's long standing ADA noncompliance. (Note: click here for "before" photos and a 2007 KeepEanesInformed report on this bond expenditure.)


The 'Think Safety' sign in front of this construction site certainly doesn't seem to illustrate our school board's sense of priorities for our district's children. I doubt another Astroturf practice field is a taxpayer priority. If safety is truly a concern, our bond money would be better spent on providing access to basic needs ... safe exit during fire drills, access to playgrounds and bathrooms.  'Think Safety' would be a decision to spend our bond money on ADA compliance;  a decision that safeguards children and reduces our district's risk of an costly lawsuit that could result in the loss of federal education funding. 'Think Safety' would be a decision to provide equal access to all facilities and a quality education for every child attending school in Eanes ISD.   - Susan Bushart

Here  goes: click here, turn up your volume and join me as we continue to sing the Eanes ISD 'blues'  ...


 Eanes ISD Leadership Priorities

March 2008 - Eanes superintendent Nola Wellman is "LOOKING AT" emergency exits with stairs instead of ramps while "SPENDING" millions to cover sports practice fields in Astroturf.  Note to Eanes leadership:  Compliance with ADA laws is required; football turf not. 

Excerpt here:  "We're looking at any items that might be sticking out, or ramp angles that might not be appropriate," said Superintendent Dr. Nola Wellman. "Or exiting of buildings where the exit has stairs instead of ramps."

Parents say money being spent on astroturf for Westlake's practice field and new film lab could be used to make buildings more accessible, or hire more staff to work with special needs children. 

Click here for K-EYE TV news article and click here to watch video

Important:  When Nola Wellman began working in Eanes (January 2004) she had a fresh 2003 ADA noncompliance     report in her hands as well as reports from previous years also outlining the noncompliance with federal law.


EANES ISD ADA ISSUES BY CAMPUS

WHS        WRMS        HCMS        BPE        BCE        CCE        FTE        EE        VVE

Note:  ADA Task Force priority categories are not included on these reports.

"SHW" refers to 2003 study.

"2007 Consultant" is the Registered Accessibility Specialist licensed by Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to identify Texas Architectural Standards (the equivalent of ADA) compliance.

"Task Force Observations" means district personnel/parent identified issues and/or notes.

Link coming soon:  2007 report outlining 1900 violations will be posted soon.  


PRICELESS

New turf and lights for practice field: $1.2 million

Amount spent in recent bond to install the grass just destroyed: $400,000

Architect's estimate to bring Eanes Elementary ramps to code during last bond: $200,000

Architect's estimate to bring Eanes Elementary ramps to code today: $500,000

Amount allocated to bring Eanes Elementary ramps to code: $0

Amount allocated during March 2008 board meeting to WHS film lab: $700,000

Amount superintendent says she will spend on ADA: $1 million

Items she will address: unspecified

Current bond project coded to ADA: renovation of baseball dugouts

 

Child's right to access safe and appropriate education:  Priceless.

 


Personal Emergency Evacuation Planning Tool

 for School Students with Disabilities


If your child attends Barton Creek Elementary School, Forest Trail Elementary School, Valley View Elementary School, Hill Country Middle School, West Ridge Middle School, or Westlake High School, you need to read this. These schools have been identified by state-licensed inspectors as having code compliance violations related to emergency evacuation for people with disabilities.  
 
Because of this serious safety issue, ADA Task Force Parents found and gave this National Fire Protection Association "Personal Emergency Evacuation Planning Tool for Students With Disabilities" http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PDF/Fact%20sheets/EvacStudentDisabilities.pdf to Superintendent Wellman, with the recommendation that individual emergency evacuation plans be immediately instituted and parent permission obtained for copies to go to emergency responders. To date, Wellman has not instituted this policy, nor presented it to the EISD Board of Trustees.

What you can do:   Tell Ms. Wellman to institute this policy. Ask for this in your ARD.


Priorities at Eanes

Re: March 13 article “Parents: Eanes isn’t ensuring access for all.”

I am a sports fan and follow local high school teams closely. However, I find it appalling that the Eanes school district can afford the excellent sports facilities but can’t provide proper access to its playground equipment for disabled children.

The Eanes parents are to be commended for the extraordinary support they showed the late young football player from San Antonio who was paralyzed in a game against Westlake High School. The school district needs to show this same compassion to its own students who happen to be physically challenged.

Eanes is looked upon as a leader in many ways, but it needs to get its priorities in order.

RICHARD COOPER

Cedar Park



ADA UPDATE - "The to-do list is long — about five inches thick — and lands with a thud atop Eanes school district Superintendent Nola Wellman's desk: 1900 modifications ..."

March 13, 2008 - Austin American-Statesman article here "This is a case of misplaced priorities," Fries said. "If you don't have enough money (for accessibility projects), then you shouldn't be building a new softball complex and a new film lab."

March 11, 2008 - Dianna Pharr:  The Eanes ISD board and superintendent changed the scope of our bond package to include millions of dollars for the installation of artificial turf on the high school sports practice fields.  The voters never approved this expenditure.  The district also prioritized new tennis courts and a million dollar film studio.  Eanes ISD (fully aware for decades that our public school facilities do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act - ADA) decided to risk the intervention of the Department of Justice or a mother with the intelligence and courage to advocate for change.  That mother is Cheryl Fries. Read Cheryl's statement (below)and then contact Nola Wellman, Superintendent, and the Eanes ISD Board of Trustees. 

March 11, 1008  - Cheryl Fries:  Every bond issue, Eanes neglects its legal and moral duty to eliminate barriers that segregate and, in many cases, endanger people with disabilities. As a result, every day Eanes children are navigating dangerous routes, Eanes children and teachers are spending their learning time in closets and disintegrating portables, Eanes children are left to watch from the sidelines as their friends play, and Eanes children are forced to enter their schools through back doors. In several Eanes schools, serious barriers prevent the evacuation of disabled persons in emergency drills. There is nothing exemplary about this.

In the past year, parent volunteers have dedicated hundreds of hours to help the district prioritize ADA compliance. The superintendent has chosen to ignore our recommendations in favor of a list of "easy" items for address.

According to the Eanes ISD website bond updates page, $35 million in unencumbered bond money is on the table. There can be no higher priority for that money than providing safe, equal access to education for Eanes students.


January 20, 2008 - SPECIAL REPORT: Complying with disability lawsDespite a 1992 study outlining problems in almost every Richmond school, officials did little to fix problems, and then only when parents complained, said School Board member Carol A.O. Wolf. She says that is outrageous, and she has pushed for years to get the school system to address the issue.

October 12, 2007 - Click here to review what happens when the federal government responds to an  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance complaint.


Americans with Disabilities (ADA) IMPORTANT UPDATE HERE

During the Eanes school board 2006 Bond Study Session in January 2007, EISD Trustees were informed of district ADA compliance violations “dating back to the 1990’s” that placed the school district at a “significant arena of risk for Justice Department intervention and/or constituent litigation.” 

In fact, the consultant informed Eanes ISD that the district is at risk if 1) a constituent submits a complaint or 2) the Department of Justice decides to enforce the law.  The consultant reminded Eanes ISD that the district "did not complete the program that was supposed to have been completed in the late 90s."


Click here to read my letter to the Eanes ISD Board of Trustees - Dianna Pharr

How long before a prior ADA complaint in 2004 was closed by the Office of Civil Rights?  Early 2007.   OCR phone log here


Published September 26, 2007 - Austin American-Statesman - Letter to the Editor

Access in Eanes   During a recent Eanes ISD school board meeting, the Americans with Disabilities Act Task Force spokesperson described serious access problems in district facilities, including children in wheelchairs not being evacuated during fire drills, blocked from recreational fields and excluded from playgrounds. Months of attempts to work with the superintendent stalled as administrators refused to provide the task force with documents and reneged on deadlines.

Trustee Robert Durkee asked Superintendent Nola Wellman whether this was true, and she said, “No.”   

Brick-and-mortar facts say otherwise.  Removing barriers that segregate children and affect issues of safety and legal compliance should be an urgent priority for the $53 million bond issue.

DIANNA PHARR

Austin


Published September 12, 2007 - Letter to the Editor - Westlake Picayune newspaper

Dear Editor,

On August 29th, parent volunteers of the Eanes ADA Task Force asked the Board of Trustees to appoint a member to serve on a Task Force to work positively and effectively with the district to remove architectural barriers and eliminate ADA compliance violations dating back to the 1990's.

In a statement during Open Forum, the Task Force spokesperson told the Board of Trustees that many serious and urgent access problems exist across Eanes facilities, including but not limited to children in wheelchairs not evacuated during fire drills, children blocked from recreational fields, and children excluded from recess due to architecture and that eight months of attempts to work with the Superintendent had been unsuccessful, as administrators had refused to provide the Task Force with documents, refused to schedule meetings, and reneged on the mutually agreed upon deadline.
Trustee Robert Durkee asked Superintendent Nola Wellman if this was true, and she said, "no."

Brick and mortar facts say otherwise, as does the 2003 SHW Facilities Assessment Review (available on www.keepeanesinformed.com.)  The district fought hard to withhold this report, and released it only after formal complaints to the Attorney General and County Attorney.  In this study, ADA violations at every Eanes school were outlined in detail and budgeted for repair. Why five years have passed without them being addressed is another question.

Removing barriers that segregate children should be the highest and most urgent priority for the current $53 million bond, as it is an issue of safety, legal compliance, and direct instructional/curricular support.  Parents and taxpayers should not accept anything less than Exemplary status when it comes to providing access for all children. These problems have gone decades without being fixed and real children have been affected by them for far too long. The time is here. And so is the money.

Your action is needed! Please email (or call) trustees at www.trustees.eanes.k12.us and tell them you support the ADA Task Force and Eanes ADA compliance as an urgent priority and attend the Board of Trustees Work Study Session September 17 at 6:30 p.m., during which this issue and the bond in general will be addressed 

Dianna Pharr

Austin, Texas


Support Eanes ISD children - Here's How You Can Help!

August 31, 2007

Once again, Eanes ISD's continuing refusal to work with parents of children with disabilities or comply with federal law is documented.  Once again, Nola Wellman, Eanes ISD denies the district’s noncompliance in an open public meeting.

History of Eanes ISD's Refusal to Provide 2003 ADA Facilities Assessment Review to the Public:

September 2005:  In response to public information request district refuses to provide a single document.  

January 2006: In response to second request for this public information, district continues to refuse to provide a single documents and submits an opinion request with Office of the Attorney General to attempt to withhold the information from requestor.

April 2006:  State of Texas Office of the Attorney General ruled and ordered the district to produce the public information.  The district continued to withhold the information.

December 2007:  16 months later and only with the assistance of the County Attorney David Escamilla, Eanes ISD produces the documents including but not limited to the 2003 SHW Facilities Assessment Review referenced below.

April 2007:  District representative Bill Bechtol convened the ADA Task Force.  When one member informed the group that the ADA reports existed, the entire Task Force specifically requested data, including the most recent ADA facility assessment report, in order to begin their work. 

May 2007:  At the second of two meetings, District representative Bill Bechtol informed the ADA Task Force that each committee member must pay $90.00 to receive a copy of one report, the 2003 SHW ADA Facilities Assessment Review.  A taxpayer submitted a $90.00 check to Eanes ISD the following day.  His check was never cashed and he did not receive the report.  The 2003 SHW ADA Facilities Report provides detailed lists of ADA compliance problems at every Eanes ISD school.  The report includes specific information regarding emergency egress problems, playground and recreational field barriers, restroom barriers, and numerous other ADA violations.

August 2007:  Several members of our community speak out at the regular board meeting.  In response to a direct question from a board member regarding these issues, Nola Wellman, superintendent denies community and parent assertions.  LISTEN HERE - Note: please listen to entire segment to hear all community speakers and Eanes board and superintendent response.

To date, Eanes ISD has not provided the 2003 SHW ADA Facilities Assessment Review to the ADA Task Force.  Eanes administrators have actively and repeatedly withheld this report from stakeholders, and now have paid more consultants to generate more reports.

Support Parent Task Force Efforts To Address ADA Violations

On August 29th, parent volunteers of the Eanes ADA Task Force asked the Board of Trustees to appoint a member to serve on a Task Force to work positively and effectively with the district to remove architectural barriers and eliminate ADA compliance violations dating back to the 1990's.

In a statement during Open Forum, the Task Force spokesperson told the Board of Trustees that many serious and urgent access problems exist across Eanes facilities, including but not limited to children in wheelchairs not evacuated during fire drills, children blocked from recreational fields, and children excluded from recess due to architecture and that eight months of attempts to work with the Superintendent had been unsuccessful, as administrators had refused to provide the Task Force with documents, refused to schedule meetings, and reneged on the mutually agreed upon deadline.

Trustee Robert Durkee asked Superintendent Nola Wellman if this was true, and she said, "no."

Brick and mortar facts say otherwise, as does the 2003 SHW Facilities Assessment Review. The district fought hard to withhold this report, and released it only after being ordered to by the Texas Attorney General and Travis County Prosecutor. In this study, ADA violations at every Eanes ISD school were outlined in detail and budgeted for repair. Why five years have passed without them being addressed is another question.

ADA Task Force parents maintain that removing barriers that segregate children should be the highest and most urgent priority for the current $53 million bond, as it is an issue of safety, legal compliance, and direct instructional/curricular support.

Eanes ISD does not accept minimum standards, and this goes for architectural code compliance as well. Parents and taxpayers should not accept anything less than Exemplary status when it comes to providing access for all children. These problems have gone decades without being fixed and real children have been affected by them for far too long. The time is here. And so is the money.

Your action is needed! Please email (or call) trustees at trustees.eanes.k12.us and tell them you support the ADA Task Force and Eanes ADA compliance as an urgent priority and make plans now to attend the Board of Trustees Work Study Session
September 17 at 6:30 p.m., during which this issue and the bond in general will be addressed.

Check back for updates.

Best regards,

Dianna Pharr



3/20/07 UPDATE

Bond Priorities Update - 3/20/07 - Warning!  Pay for the fields and then KEEP OFF! Eanes ISD Board just authorized the expenditure of millions of our tax dollars to "change the scope" of the 2006 Bond Program and "authorize artificial turf and lights for Westlake High School athletic fields.  See more below ...

 

 

Here are the design options for the "Multipurpose Practice Fields" rendered by a tax-funded architect.  Sound familiar?  Like the "Multipurpose Activity Field" (actually a Covered Football Field) turned down by the voters?  Perhaps Eanes ISD will try to cover the fields in a future bond?  Review the superintendent's March 19, 2007 recommendation (approved by the Eanes ISD board) stated as a "Change in Scope of 2006 Bond Program and Authorize Artificial Turf and Lights for Westlake High School Practice Fields One and Two."

At the same time, many community members are concerned about other issues ... such as safety, and the district's compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.   The following documents were obtained using the Texas Public Information Act and reflect specific issues by campus.   The ADA documents do not stand alone.  Rather, they a part of a voluminous report on these issues including the Facility Analysis Objectives Report. 

Part 1 of 5              Part 2 of 5               Part 3 of 5               Part 4 of 5               Part 5 of 5

Note:  I requested these reports pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act in September 2005 and January 2006.  I finally obtained a portion of the reports over one year later after a formal complaint to the County Attorney when the district did not produce the public information as the Office of the Attorney General ruled.

Information obtained includes the following and has been shared with community as appropriate:

2000 SHW Facilities Assessment Report (reflects ADA issues)

2001, 2002 - SHW Facilities Assessment Report  (reflects ADA issues) - Part 1    Part 2    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5

2003 - SHW Facilities Assessment Report  (reflects ADA issues)

2004 - EANES ISD "ADA ISSUES" - JUNE 11, 1004 - This oversized, color-shaded summary of past reports was produced SIX MONTHS after Nola Wellman began working in Eanes ISD. 

Click here to inspect more ADA noncompliance reports funded by our tax dollars. Please note the dates span 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. 

May 2005 - Eanes ISD Safety and Security Assessment

August 2006 Inspection Report Westlake High School

Check back for updates on the district's bond priorities. 

"Bond Priorities" link - see menu bar on left side of this webpage.


Prior ADA complaint in 2004 was closed by the Office of Civil Rights in early 2007.  

Eanes superintendent doesn't like "tone."  OCR phone log here


Rights complaint against Katy ISD could spill over to other districts

The Office of Civil Rights, a branch of the U.S. Department of Education, ensures that programs or activities that receive federal money comply with the Rehabilitation Act. Violations could result in withholding of funds or court action.

Jim Bradshaw, of the department's press office in Washington, said Tuesday there is no timeframe for resolving the complaint but reviews are typically completed in six months.   Full Story Here


 

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