Due to numerous missteps in special education over the past year and the numerous parent complaints about the failure of the district to listen to parental input, this past August the board approved the creation of a special education task force. The problem? The task force was designed without parent input! The design was also not publicly shared at a board meeting for the public's input or for board approval. Friday, August 25, a link appeared on the district website announcing that a task force was being created along with an email notice. Hopefully word will get out. Applications are due no later than 3 pm on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.
Only 5 of the 22 members under the current plan will be parents, with the remaining 17 being district staff (10 teachers, 5 administrators and 2 classified staff!). The district has 5 high schools, 5 middle schools plus a 4-year adult transition program, with 6 different special ed tracks at two of the high schools where most students with disabilities attend. It is unclear why only 5 parent slots were allowed. The limited number of parent members means that not all programs or tracks can be represented. No member slots were allocated for students, advocates or agency specialists in this area.
Other problems with the "design" of this task force include that the meetings are scheduled to last four hours, which not only removes teachers from their classrooms for most of the day, but also prevents working parents from being able to participate. While this may not be an issue for staff who will be paid as part of their regular work day to attend, the parents are all volunteers. Substitutes will need to be hired for all members who are teachers. Maybe that is why the meetings are scheduled for 4 hours -- to possibly accommodate substitute teachers' hourly minimums? But what about the schedules of the parents? Isn't the reason the task force is being created in the first place because there hasn't been a meaningful opportunity for the parent's input?
Parents have already donated countless hours volunteering for the district's special education forum committee, presenting public comments, protesting in front of the district office, and other input urging changes such as structured curriculum in the special education tracks, courses to ensure instructional consistency and accountability, course options so that the students in the spec ed tracks have options like their nondisabled peers, and many other changes to improve the dismal proficiency rates reflected in the school accountability report cards.
Maybe the parents were loud enough? Note to parents: Bring bullhorns next time. If that doesn't work, maybe bulldozers after that.
Parents may apply by completing the on-line form by clicking here.