Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Parents and ex-board member address District 100 school board questioning special education procedures

In addition to addressing the school board at the May meeting (shown below) they wish to formally present the results of a faculty survey (they prepared) at the June school board meeting.

Statement from Allison Reid-Niemiec.

In February 2014, a group of concerned parents approached the special education administration with the purpose of reporting documented IEP violations; concerns with delivery of Rti and special ed. services, reduction in programming, and the need to hire more teachers. At the conclusion of the March 13, 2014 meeting between parents and special ed. administration, the special ed. administration:

1) Failed to provide documentation of how students are uniformly identified, how services are rendered and how teacher s are uniformly supported for RTI and special education services,

AND

2) Parents were instructed to return to their building administration and IEP teams with any student concerns.

Frustrated with the absence of concrete answers, the parent group developed a comprehensive, anonymous survey for distribution to all District #100 teachers. The survey, distributed for the parent group by the BEA, sought to compile factual, reliable information to present to you, our representatives.

We present information to you with the understanding that Change is Possible. However, change cannot be effected without factual information on which to base reasonable decisions.

Fact – The survey questions took over 5 weeks to develop, screen, and edit for validity of content. The Family and Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and IL School Students Records Act were consulted as guides to insure no portion could either purposefully or indirectly identify one or more students.

Fact – Participation, which totaled 168 of 500 BEA members, was completely voluntary and anonymous

Fact – No implied or expressed promises or services were given in exchange for participation

Fact – We sought to provide documentation that TEACHERS ARE maintaining their professional responsibilities and legal mandates by consistently bringing forward TO their supervisors concerns regarding student grading and promotion

Fact – 73% (of 168 responders) reported they have NOT received district sponsored training in the implementation of RTI strategies/interventions to be used in their classrooms

Fact – 64% (of 162 responders) reported having students functioning two years or more below grade level in their classroom without the accommodations/modifications legally provided by IEPs and/or 504 plans during the 12-13 and 13-14 school years

Fact – 81% (n=168 responders) reported students who earned failing grades in classes taught by certified teachers are PROMOTED to the next grade level in their building

While all results are not presented to you this evening, we can affirm that the full results indicate a lack of initiative, direction and support from administration to both students and teachers. We implore you to review and evaluate the administrative gaps apparent in special ed. assistance district wide. We invite you to research special education laws and mandates and effect workable changes that will provide a fair and equal education to our greatest resource – our students.

We trust you may have questions and 3 minutes is not adequate to present the entire survey. As a result, we have submitted a written request to be placed on the June 2014 regular meeting agenda to present the full survey and answer your questions.

LES REID, former school board member

Some things are not pleasant to hear. I want all people here tonight to hear this information simultaneously so as to eliminate any misinterpretations of what is being said. These are serious issues. If I had hear this as a board member, I know what I would be doing tomorrow. As a past school board member, I have occupied the very same seat in which all of you are now sitting. My comments include my experience in how our board was involved with the superintendent in a working partnership for the benefit of the district’s students and their parents. My comments are not made without research and concern for these students and their parents. I’m here tonight to further draw attention to a problem that exists within district administration procedures. While it is certain that not every mistake made is  the personal responsibility of administration, the climate that currently exists under this leadership creates and condones the catastrophic situation, of meeting legal compliance, this is a problem. Many here in this room, and others not here tonight, are representative of children who are receiving unequal educational instruction as a result of the problems that exist. This is not about adults, we merely speak, question and advocate on behalf of children.   Each person that stands up here tonight should be viewed not as the adult you see but as the child or children for whom they speak…and not just their own children but ALL children in the district.

The following is a list and picture of what we’re talking about:

1) Parents not consistently receiving a copy of their rights as mandated by statute

2) Failure to give the mandatory 10 day written IEP meeting notice

3) IEP meetings being held without the entire IEP team and without written excusal

4) Testing is entirely omitted or incomplete at time of IEP or Eligibility conference causing further delays in student receiving necessary services

5) Meeting notes transcribed by or at the direction of Special education director failing to give  an  accurate reflection of a meeting.

6) Special education director has refused parental requests to add written parental concerns to the legally binding IEP. This is a direct violation of IDEA as outlined in ISBE's parental rights and responsibilities guide  (updated 06/09)

7) Special Education Director and/or his designee  have  verbally told  parents certain aspects of their child’s IEP are ENTIRELY HIS decision. This is in direct violation of Illinois IEP rules and regulations. IEP decisions are always TEAM decisions.

8) Classrooms are out of compliance regarding classroom size limits

9) Failure to provide Special Education services despite their provision in student IEP

10) Least Restrictive Environment violations. Students are not placed in appropriate, less restrictive classes/programs in regular classrooms.        

This is just a sample of the problems that are happening with great regularity. Please create open forum discussions to meet with concerned student advocates, please become more informed regarding students’ special education rights and responsibilities and help us advocate for equality for our students and staff, Change Is Possible! I look to you to be involved and produce the result.

Lisa Whitcomb

The need to be addressing the board again this evening in public comment time saddens me, however, the issues we address are too important to become tired of discussing and so here I am.

I’m NOT here as the parent of an individual child. I fully embrace my right, privilege and responsibility to advocate on behalf of my child/children’s I have done and will continue to do so... You might say I do because I can. Tonight I’m here as a community member and parent with real concerns about the administrative leadership of our district. As board members we elect you to serve as our voice. It therefore becomes your right, privilege and responsibility to advocate for the greater us…that is community parents’ staff and most importantly children. The number of concerned and engaged parents is growing. The chorus of voices asking that we move toward solutions for these identified problems and areas of concerns is at a crescendo. We’ve done as we’ve been ask when previously requesting a meeting with the board and its members. We were directed back to district administration and instructed to meet with them. So…we did. The meeting produced no results and left us with more questions and concerns than answers. Now we are here again, requesting that the board itself take the time to meet with us. We aren’t in need of or interested in the opportunity to exclusively discuss our individual children, their experiences or needs but rather to discuss the global areas of concern that exist and the questions, ideas, and solutions we have begun to assemble. I understand as a board you receive much of your information, insight and direction from district administration. We aren’t looking to change the whole management structure of public education we are just looking for a seat at the table so to speak, the opportunity to be heard and assist where possible… because for us as parents we are all in…completely committed to improving things in the district because what happens in this district shapes the lives and influences the future of our most precious gifts…our children. That simply can’t be said for administration. For them...this is a job. I’m not asserting they have no interest in children but the truth is the truth for them it is a job; and for many at the upper level of administration it seems it’s a job they are not even interested in keeping as we are continually hearing they are job hunting. While it is certainly true that we are all permitted to seek advance and are free to change jobs as we see fit, it is also statistically according to US News and world reports that when an employee begins a job search their commitment to their current employee begins to wane and reduces by more than 30% once they begin actively interviewing with other companies and can be reduced by half or more if they are called back for further interviews with other companies.

We have the beginning of hope as a result of the questions, comments and conversation we have observed with this board. Please, meet with us take the time to hear from us explore our ideas. We want to hope that this is the board that will partner and believe with us that Change is possible!!!

Michele Gruba,  mother of two special needs children

My name is Michele Gruba a mother of two children with special needs. My husband and I have been on a very unexpected and unwelcome journey with district 100 for quite some time, the details of which, some of you may be familiar with. However, my point here tonight is NOT to discuss the specifics of my situation but to merely reference them as an example of what it is happening for a significant number of us on this journey as parents of special needs children.

I found myself struggling to make it through each day trying to educate and equip myself to manage the ever changing needs of my significantly involved special needs child. Believing that my school district, it’s administration and staff would be resources and agents of assistance I began learning about how my son would learn. But, I quickly discovered that rather than finding the school administration my ally in the trenches with us assisting us to assist our child, we were instead pegged as the problem. Battle lines seemed drawn and we quickly realized we were ill equipped for the battle. To use an analogy of travel, we were visitors in a land where we were unfamiliar with the terrain and customs and where we didn’t speak the language. The administration became the guides on our tour who seemed to like their position of power and seemed intent on keeping us from learning the ways of the new land we found ourselves in. You see no one ever plans to have a special needs child. But, when we find ourselves in this unknown land with this little person we now love and must protect and advocate for what we really need is help…honesty, transparency and guides who desire to make the journey easier rather than harder. Parents and children with special needs walk a difficult path in life, much harder than anyone who does not live it can ever understand and its beyond my understanding why administration chooses to have us walk alone. We will walk alone no more! Our numbers are growing we are finding each other and we now walk together.

Again, I share this information because; sadly it has been my experience and that of many parents in district 100. It doesn’t have to be this way and i do not want future families to suffer my experience. No district is perfect and perfection is not our intended outcome. We are looking for collaboration, child need directed programming and administration we can trust. Please meet with us hear our concerns and ideas/strategies we’ve collected as solutions. Believe with me that Change is possible.

Rachael Morse

As many of you know, I spoke last month regarding the non­compliant class­size environment and the unjustified removal of programming options recently identified @ BCMS! To ­date, my personal situation has yet to be resolved, but quite frankly, is seems rather simple here. This all boils down to customer service.

If you are shopping at a retail store and have an issue or complaint, where do you go? The customer service desk. Customer service representatives are trained to be friendly, receptive, and assist you with RESOLUTION for your situation. Can someone please tell me and those present, who that person is and where they are located within District #100 administration? I have yet to hear “we are very sorry for this mistake” or “this is completely unacceptable and will be taken care of immediately”. I find this highly inappropriate and extremely concerning since our children are receiving a service here. A service that is managed by you, approved by you, and directed by you with little to no regard for customer service let alone customer satisfaction.

Administration and board members­ customer service training is an immediate necessity. It seems that administrators of authority are “passing the buck” and accountability has become an outdated, underutilized buzz word. To be honest, when I order fast­ food & go through a drive thru and get an incorrect item, I receive better customer service from complete strangers than what I have experienced in this situation. This district is a business and with any business, customer

service is a necessity! I assure you that if one of my employees avoided communication, was deceitful, unaccountable for their mistakes, and/or was defensive rather than responsible, that individual would no longer be employed and would certainly NOT represent my private practice. Unfortunately, those considerations do not appear to be valuable attributes for District #100 administrators.

Administrative response to a complaint or procedural question may take up to 4 days for an initial acknowledgement of receipt. Worse yet, students in a non­compliant classroom have documented regression, yet the classroom remains in a state of non­compliant for nearly 9 months. As I said last month, this pattern of neglect will not be tolerated and is completely unacceptable. It is apparent that students and teachers are suffering from your negligence and dismissiveness and that key administrators’ are intentionally failing to follow state laws and guidelines. Shame on you!

Parents, teachers, and most importantly ­our students deserve the highest level of customer service. Frustration is mounting. With the recent identification of specific situations, concerns with special education have been increasing and becoming more and more apparent to everyone. It is simply time for CHANGE! Get involved, listen to the issues @ hand, and better yet RESPOND ACCORDINGLY with at least the most appropriate customer service! We are counting on you for your help! Your actions significantly impact our students and teachers. Board action is necessary to eradicate chronic issues and make change­with your help and proactive involvement

CHANGE is POSSIBLE!

Request to be on June Agenda

May 19, 2014

School Board President Michael Rathbun

Belvidere School District #100

1201 Fifth Ave.

Belvidere, IL 61008

Re: District resident request

Dear Mr. Rathbun:

Pursuant to School Board Policy – School Board Meeting Procedures (2:220); we, a group of district residents, would respectfully request permission to be added to the agenda for School Board regular meeting scheduled for June 16, 2014. The purpose of our request is to give a short presentation to the members of the Board of Education regarding the compiled data from a parent generated teacher survey entitled “RTI and Special Education Survey.” The survey was distributed for the parent group by the Belvidere Education Association.

It is our intention to have two representative presenters who would give the full presentation within an allotment of 10 minutes. We welcome your prompt response to our request and thank you, in advance, for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Lisa Whitcomb Rachael Morse Michele Gruba Allison Reid-Niemiec

Parents Advocating for Students and Staff

Cc: School Board Members

Zach Gruba

My name is Zach Gruba. You have heard from a number of parents tonight and you could add me

to the chorus of voices who has had an adverse experience with the district; however, despite

these negative situations, we remain committed to the idea that change is possible. To that end,

we would like to share a couple of solutions we have begun to identify.

Our goals are to raise your awareness to problems and provide solutions that will make a positive

educational difference. The following are just of the many solutions we offer to initiate a dialogue

for positive change.

1)      Convene an annual parent forum hosted by district’s special education administrators.

2)      Increase administrative visibility at special education functions and fundraisers.

3)      Create an objective process for the removal of programming options and how these will

be communicated with teachers and parents.

4)      Form a new school board committee with representatives from the board, special

education administrators, teachers, and parents.

5)      Have a specific protocol for appropriately responding to complaints and concerns.

Again, these are just a sample of solutions identified by a group of committed parents. We are

again asking for a meeting with board members to have the opportunity to engage, educate, and

empower you to begin a collaborative conversation about how we chart a new path for this district.

Thank you for your time.

The above testimonies and statements are from the May 19, 2014 District 100 board meeting and are available on-line under agenda item I-1, at:  http://www.district100.com/District/Pages/Board-of-Education.aspx