Thursday, November 28, 2013



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Friday, September 27, 2013

No Teacher Left Behind


To the editor:

The City Paper featured a front-page story (“Metro School district
begins revamp of failing elementary, middle school,” May 21, 2007)
that completely sugar-coated the situation in two metro middle
schools that have fired (via involuntary transfer) the entire staff
and faculty as a result of their failure to meet NCLB benchmarks.

For the last 5 weeks, I have been working as a substitute teacher at
Jere Baxter Middle School and the experience has shaken me to the
core.  Everything I used to believe about school finance reform has
been turned upside down.  Jere Baxter is a Title I school with
access to numerous resources including a math specialist on site
full time, district mentors to advise and assist new teachers.
They have mental health specialists come into several classrooms on
a weekly basis, and it is not uncommon to see caseworkers and
prevention specialists from a variety of community agencies on

However, despite the plethora of enhancement activities and access
to resource materials, the majority of the 7th and 8th graders do
not know simple math such as long division, subtraction (if they
have to carry the one) or their times tables.  You could throw a
million dollars into this school, and it would not make a bit of

For the first two weeks, I was assigned to a self-contained
classroom  At one point, the Assistant Principal walked in,
observed the children, and even acknowledged the small black and
white television hidden in the teachers aide desk tuned in to the
Young and the Restless.  She smiled and walked out.  Apparently,
she did not have a problem with the children watching Tom & Jerry,
Sponge Bob and BET music videos from 10 a.m. through dismissal. A
few days later, I gave a make-up assignment during the students
“free time,” (lunch-time through dismissal) and I was told that my
expectations were simply too high.  That class in particular lost
15 teachers this year alone—16 including myself.

The children are running the show at Baxter and they know it.  The
faculty receives little, if any, support from the administration.
As a result, the majority of the teachers have simply given up.
Dealing with disciplinary problems has become the primary focus in
the classroom displacing teaching, learning, and cooperation.

The numerous behavioral disruptions that occur each and every day
prompted the administrators to pull the most effective teachers out
of the classroom to enforce (or re-enforce) school policy while
their classrooms remained empty or were covered by floating
substitute teachers.

The children are completely out of control and simply refuse to do

any work. I was told not to give any student a grade below 75--
even the one who threw his crumpled up science assignment in my
face and walked out of class shouting profanities.  What the
students have learned is that there will be no consequences for
inappropriate behavior or actions.  The administration treats
teachers with complete disrespect: in front of students, teachers,
and guests, completely undermining any sense of autonomy, authority
or cohesiveness. Even I was embarrassed for them, and I was only
there for a few weeks!

This is a classic example of a top-down policy failure.  As a policy
analyst, I always advocated for equity in education, and believed on
some level that throwing money into poor schools (poor performance &
achievement records to disadvantaged students) might help level the
playing field for disadvantaged schools, translating into better
outcomes for students and the community.

The City Paper glossed over the magnitude of this desperate
situation by calling it a “fresh start.”  These teachers have been
treated poorly enough by students and administrators, and now we
have a number of young professionals who are underpaid, uncertain,
and unemployed.  We all know that teacher pay is ridiculous to
begin with, but coupled with the added stress of the re-application
process, Metro may lose a large number of educated, motivated,
displaced educators to surrounding districts, counties, and states.
This is simply ridiculous.  By cleaning house, Baxter will lose the
few experienced, dedicated teachers they have, prompt the younger
set to leave the profession all together, and discourage future
teachers from applying for jobs in Metro.

Everything we know about the positive outcomes in neighborhood
schools is their strong reliance upon community buy-in and parental
involvement.  One thing that makes magnet, lottery, charter schools,
parochial, and private schools so good is the fact that parents,
teachers, students, and administrators fight to get in, and fight
to stay there.  The act of choosing, in effect, leads to an
enhanced sense of community and builds a supportive, consistent,
and structured environment.  Calling this decision a fresh start is
ridiculous-- it would be more accurate to call it a very bad ending!
In this case, No Child Left Behind is, in effect, leaving No
Teachers Left Behind.

Elyssa Durant, Ed.M.

Elyssa Durant, Ed.M.
Nashville, Tennessee

"The paradox of education is precisely this-- that as one begins to
become educated, one begins to examine the society in which he [or
she] is being educated."   - Baldwin

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Unspoken: Letter from my mom

I just watched both "Secret Garden" videos again. They are absolutely my favorite ones ever.

Your focus is definitely more positive and I hope that it is indicative that you are moving towards being in a better place emotionally.

I want you to be be happy and believe in your self worth. I told you earlier today that I believe that you have a purpose in life and are a very special person.

You have the ability to enlighten others. I felt happier after viewing your videos.

Thank you for sharing them with me.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Powers That Beat From


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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Bringing you the best of the best from the Autism and Asperger's support community. Hear from parents, professionals, advocates and people with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Additional posts about health law, technology applications, research developments and education.

Kindle blogs are fully downloaded onto your Kindle so you can read them even when you're not wirelessly connected. And unlike RSS readers which often only provide headlines, blogs on Kindle give you full text content and images, and are updated wirelessly throughout the day.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M. (February 18, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English

5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and insightful

This review is from: Powers That Beat (Kindle Edition)
Ms. Durant has drawn on her sterling academic background and extensive experience in health services policy development and actual service in the field to present a comprehensive analysis of the organ transplant situation in the United States. She thoroughly discusses all aspects of the situation - not only legal and medical, but also moral, social and ethical aspects and the dilemmas faced when this topic is addressed. Ms. Durant raises significant questions that must be addressed as organ transplants become more commonplace in today's times. A thought provoking book that should be read by everyone as this question touches every American. Highly recommended.

J. D. Yencharis
NASA Mission Planning & Mission Control 

When Elyssa writes something, you should read it. She is one of the most intelligent and articulate people I have ever known. She is an amazing researcher and really digs deep for the important facts on any topic she focuses on. If you want to learn details about a topic and get some cutting edge viewpoints related to it, read anything Elyssa Durant writes.
Stuart Silverberg, Ed.D.
Columbia University

Ms. Durant has a talent for explaining complex legal issues in interesting, accessible format. Her level of expertise on the subject matter is impressive and comes through on every page.

Rick Silver, Esq.

Ms. Durant has drawn on her sterling academic background and extensive experience in health services policy development and actual service in the field to present a comprehensive analysis of the organ transplant situation in the United States. She thoroughly discusses all aspects of the situation - not only legal and medical, but also moral, social and ethical aspects and the dilemmas faced when this topic is addressed. Ms. Durant raises significant questions that must be addressed as organ transplants become more commonplace in today's times. A thought provoking book that should be read by everyone as this question touches every American. Highly recommended.

Ray Harris
Advocate for People with Disabilities

Ms. Durant has an amazing ability to discuss complex policy issues in easy to understand language. She has a tremendous grasp of her topic and of her audience. Easy to read and understand; Ms. Durant explains difficult concepts and evolving health care law and policy issues in a user friendly manner. A real eye opener!

Karen Baker, MSW 

I just want all to know what a Hero for the Autism community Elyssa has been for us and how much we appreciate her advocacy and intelligent posts. AutismAid has been a dream of mine for ten years. my heart was just about broken when others took advantage of us. I know that in the end we meet people who we connect with and do the right thing. The 13 Service non profits under the AutismAid Umbrella and many others are in the fight for their life in this economy and environment. This Web and viral traffic is great. Thank you providing the support, documentation and logistics are needed to make the event happen.

Tim Welsh, Executive Director


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

UNWRITTEN: Patient File and Formal Apology

August 2006

Elyssa - thanks for continuing to update us on DB. I received an email from Eric Henderson who has been looking into DB's case. 

According to his information there was a CFTM schedule for DB, transitional living staff, etc. on 9-6-06 and she did not attend. In the email, Eric states that DB signed for a certified letter regarding the meeting in August. 

This meeting might have been a way for DB to meet everyone face to face to discuss her needs, etc. From her past experience with DCS, I wondered if she was discouraged about meeting with them or felt it might be more of the same old, same old." 

You probably have the best rapport and insight into how she if feeling with the situation.

Is DB at the place where she can follow a program, rules, or guidelines that might be required by certain programs, etc. to receive housing, services, etc.? 

In my experience working with many older foster children they can be so tired of all this with the system, that they basically shut down when needing to access services, etc. after aging out. 

Does she need a case manager or support that she can partner with for these meetings and contacts that will provide the consistent "cheerleading" when perhaps she cannot she the forest for the trees (needing to attend meetings, follow expectations, file forms, etc)? 

My reason for asking these questions is to get your perspective on where DB is in being able to access resources and then maintaining them (again relating to following a program, etc.) 

[Redacted] CMSW 
Assistant Statewide Program Coordinator 
Office phone: 615-269-7751 
1315 8th Ave. South
Nashville, TN. 37203 
Mark Your Calendar's Now !!!!!!!! 
TVC's State of the Child Conference 2006 
October 16-18, 2006. For more info, visit our website,



POST SCRIPT: Transportation never showed up to take DB to the meeting. As a member of the team and DB's primary counselor, CM and the person who requested the meeting to help advocate and secure services for my former client, I was not at the meeting because the state conveniently forgot to tell me when and where it was. 

DB later informed me that did go to a meeting and sat alone on one side of the long table in the conference room and had no one there to defend, advocate, or support her throughout the meeting.  

She was not offered ANY post custody services and was too intimidated to speak or advocate for herself with five to seven state employees sitting on the other side of the table blaming her for their mistakes and denying services that she was legally entitled to under state and federal law. 

She left that meeting with no services, no benefits, no hope, and no recourse. 

DB if you are reading this, please know that your story needs to be heard. 

In a court of law. I saved your records and gave them to an attorney for your protection. 

I hope you sue those fuckers for what they did to you and so many others. 

Your file was audited and I submitted a report to TVC and TCCY that your case file had been falsified by the for profit agency that pimped you out for $60/day. The court knew this because I called Carrie and told her. 

She told me that she was too busy to be bothered bringing you in two months before your eighteenth birthday. 

I did pick you up much to everyone's horror, and they were pissed that I managed to locate you just in time to benefit from post custody benefits that would entitle you to educational expenses, housing, transportation, healthcare, and transitional funds to get you started.  

That was an illegal placement and when I resigned, I left the agency because they refused to comply with federal laws and I refused to sign a false treatment report. 

Your file was audited and my signature was forged by KM. 

He used white out and didn't even try to color between the lines or match my handwriting. 

Two of us quit that day. Both of us will testify on your behalf. 

I'm sorry I couldn't do more. Your file is available if you need it. 

Be well, sweet girl and Happy Birthday. 

-Miss Elyssa

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Last Goodbye

I can no longer protect the one who hurt me the most, and I officially declare myself as independent and free.

Goodbye for now to The Powers That Beat, I am growing so tired ofthat nightmare where I cannot move my feet.

I am one today, but I am not alone; my DNA and birthright does not make me a clone.

Any genetic disorders, whatever they may be; will never again stand in the way for my fight to be free.

My bloodline alone comes right back to you, and your ridiculous denials are nothing new.

I must protect myself from your twisted mind, never forget, late last night, you left me behind.

You may think I have forgotten all your hysterical pleas, but I am legally required to remind you of these.

I hope you are ready for what lies ahead, because I do not think anyone else will agree this was all in my head.

You may dispose of my photos, writings, and more, I am sorry you do not realize you have officially now escalated funny money into a full-fledged war.

You declared this yourself, on March the Fourteenth, and I will expect it in writing before the next April 15th.

You no longer manipulate my ID or actions and blame; for I am not the one who falsely claims to be poor.

You may find it a little bit harder to blame it on crazy and point the finger at me; I am posting it here for the whole to see.

Do not blame my siblings or my father's new wife; material wealth should mean more value than your own child's life.

I got excluded from the human genome, stop feeding me crazy, just bring it back home.

The suicide note I once left in your possession, should no longer be guarded as your greatest protection.

I defy the heritage that left me broken inside; any tears I have shed will finally subside; I no longer will allow myself to be tried by the ridiculous facade that has given YOU a false sense of pride.

I am now on my own, as was always the case; it is so very sad you thought of this as a race.

I will honor your request to sever all ties; it is long overdue that I be free from your lies.

I never signed on to your game of deception, there was much more at stake than a strangers' perception.

So just as you once photographed my tattoo, sadly but surely, this one joke is on you.

I doubt you heard my very last words, but they were words of sincerity I hope that you'll review because my concern was genuine; just too familiar, we discussed nothing new.

I defy my heritage and reject your faith; I think I am worth more than an aborted mistake.

I declare my freedom and reject your "good faith" I am sorry you believe I was your biggest mistake.

You are so transparent it is easy to see, I hope you leave this behind the same way you left me.

My bloodline runs deeper than your maternal pride; I pray for your sake psychosis is real, for I see no other way your pain will ever be healed.

I am over and done with this stupid game, I gave you more than one warning to amend your tax claim.

So as I fight for my freedom, my health and my name, I hope your psychosis protects you from shame.

I must no longer allow trauma to guide me through life; I cannot worry about details as you become a new wife, you are correct in your assessment that you have earned all the "things" you cling to for dear life.
If there ever was a time to say, "This too shall pass...," then please go ahead and kiss my tattooed fat ass!

ELyssa Durant, Ed.M. © 2009-2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New York Voices: A Letter To My Former Therapist

A Letter To My Former Therapist
Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M.
« Article 1 of 29 »
Hi Elyssa,
It's nice to hear from you, I had just been thinking of you. Is there a reason why you sent me two copies? Talk to you soon—Elyssa's Former Therapist

Now how can you call yourself a qualified therapist and ask me such a stupid question? I have at least two of everything!

So my alter-ego as a "cyberwhore" is no longer a secret! I always send duplicate copies of every outgoing e-mail to myself to a number of free-mail accounts. Most have probably expired and I can't even remember most of the passwords to access them, which leads me to wonder what happens to my written works that I have so carefully created? Do they just float around in cyberspace forever? Are my words now immortal? Does that make me grandiose or paranoid?

I had my first appointment with my new psychiatrist on Wednesday and he seems very "eager" to help. He is a very young resident, and I think he is kind of psyched that he got placed at Vanderbilt in Nashville rather than some community mental health center in rural Tennessee. For his training, he needs a number of hours conducting therapy—so I graciously agreed to be one of his guinea pigs. I negotiated a one-hour session every other week.

I hate therapy. It seems so staged and rehearsed. I actually spend hours before a session trying to think of what I should say.

That never seemed to work with you. That kind of annoyed me, because I wanted you to play the game with me. This is the way it is supposed to work: I'll tell you what happened as a child, and you tell me the source of my insanity.

I would try to remember the random things that happen each day and let you know that I was telling you the truth about my life, my world, and my family. On many occasions, I would forget my zinger, my "punch-line" if you will, and I would be so disappointed in myself. I would drop these little tidbits of information hoping you would recognize that I was not completely beyond help, and you might understand the method to my madness. Would that make it okay to be so fucked up? Loony. Crazy. Nuts.

You never once said, "Aha!" Instead, you would listen impatiently as I reflected on childhood traumas. Even the most elaborate reports of my childhood experience did not make you flinch—well, maybe a few times! At what point did you realize that there was some truth in what I was telling you? I would say the same thing over and over because I knew it to be true, to be fact, to be far more cruel and evil than anything I could I make believe as a child. I want to stop playing those games. I am ready to be a person. I am ready to love. I am ready to be "normal."

As I grow, I would like to become more direct, more assertive, and more sure of what I am saying and how it is being received. In the past, I would sit with silence and ambivalence and just fall into situations by default. I don't want complacency to guide me through life. I am not incapable of protecting myself anymore. I hated being such a passive participant in my own life not knowing where I would be living, with whom, and for how long. Learned helplessness. I wonder how things might have been different...if only.

I will never know how events shaped my life and broke my mind. What caused my mind to break? Was I too weak? Was there some point where I should have thrown in the towel and taken my own life? Was there anything, anything I could have done differently to survive? Is there a "normal" breaking point? Did I put up a good fight? Did I do okay?

I want to act with purpose, speak with conviction, and be confident in my decisions. I want to choose action rather than inaction and feel comfortable with the choices I have made. No more ruminating over what I should have, might have, or almost done.

How did you manage to put my mind back together again without knowing what went wrong? Is my head okay? Can I have children?

You were a good therapist, you are a great therapist-- the best! 

Monday, February 18, 2013


Have you ever been trapped?

I am not talking about your every day run-of-the-mill subway congestion or an elevator that is filled beyond capacity.  


No way out.


Frightened, frustrated, angry and desperate.

Like any ordinary "normal" person, you are going about your daily activities and the next moment you are drowning in unfamiliarity.  In reality, little has changed.  Sadly, nothing has changed.  Minutes, hours, years have passed... but nothing has changed.

Despite evidence to the contrary, your actions seem to have no consequence.  

This is how I feel.  Not as often as I used to, but more often than I care to admit and more often then I would like.  It leaves me paralyzed-- much like a deer frozen by the illuminating light of oncoming traffic.

It is a short journey from the trigger back to the beginning.  

I wonder what I may do if my task was completed.  It is my greatest hope to find a place where I can end this debilitating madness.  Just break the cycle. Free. Free from the need to provide objective verification of my physical existence and a rational basis for a seemingly bizarre obsession.

I know these things.  I organize my life in a sequential, numerical, historical, logical order where everything has a designated beginning, middle and end.

There must be a place where reason and purpose replace obsessions and insanity.  

Can anyone understand this madness?  Why can't you see how simple everything is for me?

I need things to be simple.

My patterns seem so obvious. Pay attention!  What seems like chaos to you serves as my salvation.  Don't you see how resourceful I am?  I know my methods are rigid but they are clearly consistent with my "mission" in life.  

Few can be bothered with the elegant simplicity of my rituals.  My behaviors are rational! They protect my delicate foundation. I do not have far to fall.

I need an out!

Why question my methods? 

By collecting physical evidence of my experiences and transient existence, I can be someone. Someone with a past, a present, maybe even a future.

I collect, therefore I am.

Look! I have proof! History. References.
I want to be part of your world.  Really I do.  

I want roots, consistency and foundations.  I want high school reunions and a hometown.

My task must be finished!  It is destroying my relationship with my future self.  My soul is withering away beneath this desperate facade.  

Please give me a moments consideration and see me.  

I am not cruel.  I am not evil.  Nevertheless, I am so alone and isolated.  I am here and I am ready.  I am ready to end this endless search for home.  But how?

I need you.  I need you to help me find a place where I can feel comfortable ending this vicious cycle.  

I am looking to you... the collective you of humanity to help me through this time of need and uncertainty.  

All I seek is compassion, empathy, and understanding. I continue my search hoping I am not completely alone in my quest.

Restoring order dominates my very existence.  Keeping me trapped in the past; invading the present; dictating my actions through repetition, ruminations, anxiety and fear inhibiting my growth and progress.  I do not have it in me to climb out of another depression.  

Don't you see how this life is breaking me?

If only I had the same resignation and grace of that lone Buck crossing a quiet country road, I would cherish the instant where I am faced with certain death or total salvation.  I would search for a sanctuary where forgiveness replaces damnation.

For one instant, I would welcome the challenge to live freely in this brave new world...  to explore and run free on a distant, winding path.

I would stand proud, defiant, and free.

Really, truly, trapped.  

Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M.  © 2002-2013

Take the Long Way Home: Lost on Long Island




I am ashamed and embarrassed, yet I am strangely in control.

And such are my insecurities-- for whatever it's worth, and that may be quite a bit, this was the original message I wrote, but I sent it to myself and sent you an abbreviated version.

I think the uncensored version was better. 

I try to articulate.

I try to be interesting.

I try to be normal.

I need someone to hear what I'm not saying-- sometimes-- I don't like talking in riddles all the time.  I don't like talking in riddles all the time. I don't like obsessions and ruminations.

I don't like explaining the obvious.  I don't understand why it must be so complicated. 

I have one task. I have no idea how to complete my task, but I must keep searching.  

I developed new skills last night.  My car is still having problems and then my phone locked up.  I was completely lost on Sunrise Highway and could not find my way home (though I wasn't quite sure where my final destination would be.)  

I finally realized that I needed to pull over every twenty minutes to gather my bearings and plan a short term traffic route.  Forcing myself to stop for about forty minutes each time I got lost allowed me to process the emotions of the whole thing.

I pulled over at a diner in Long Beach and they were able to reconnect my phone so I could call for directions or support, or whatever!  

As I sat on the phone with tech support for over an hour, I started noticing that there were people sleeping in parked cars a few spaces away.  I couldn't tell if the couple that just emerged from a car just two spots away were committing an underage indiscretion or a felony in the back seat.  

As I noticed others around me, I wasn't so frightened anymore and I settled into my home for the night.  I did not feel so uncomfortable shuffling around in my somewhat respectable Honda Civic.  I almost forgot for a while that I was lost so I took a baby step to the next place and what an experience.  I was still lost but closer to my destination.  

This time I settled into a "execustay" type of hotel/motel.  This was working, so why rush. 

Why so frantic? 

Even with the phone now working, the car situation had not improved and I simply could not think of anyone to call.  Even if someone could come and get me, where would I go? Where would I put my things?

So finally, I made it over to Starbucks on the perimeter of the Hofstra Campus.  I was the only car in the lot, and I boldly parked facing forward and watched the police race by me without notice.  

I became very sad for this world just around then.  They were racing all around me and it took about 30-35 minutes before a cop car pulled into the parking lot.

Saddened by the reality that my suspicious activity did not invite further inquiry, I had already decided to tell them the truth before they pulled up to me in the lot.  

I did not even bother to park in a space.  I boldly parked horizontally taking up two or three spaces placing myself in a precarious situation.

Do you think they knew it wasn't the first time? 

Do you think they saw through my decidedly in in-your-face tactics and saw this as a thinly disguised effort to feign temporary homelessness? 

Would they be back tomorrow night? Would I?

Elyssa Durant, Ed.M.  © 2002