Thursday, November 01, 2007

Susan Semonick On Schools - Supplemental Report On Special Needs Priority - NOT Middle Schools

On October 29th, I attended a meeting that was part of the Special Needs Inquiry in Langley. It was evident from listening to parents that many students are not receiving even the basic services to deal with their special needs. The Board, in its wisdom, may soon be approving a motion to spend money on a totally new program in Langley - middle school - instead of concentrating on addressing the current needs of students.

Many parents are finding that having an IEP is not a guarantee of services for their child. Some of the issues that contribute to this situation include a lack of time for teachers to read IEPs, communication, and opportunity for specialized training. Sometimes, something simple as a student’s need to have tests read to them is not being communicated to classroom teachers. In some cases, teachers are not aware of what is required to meet the needs of each student and the students are left in limbo. The need for continuity of service, as well as service provider, is being completely ignored for many of our special needs students – just how many students is difficult to count.

If the Board of Education wishes to increase student achievement and graduation numbers, then it should start taking care of the essentials instead of creating more choice that it can not possibly finance. Stop trying to be Donald Trumps, for trustees have sadly failed. When they have a continually expanding mandate, stop making the deficit worse - stop and take a breath. You do not need to be inventive; the crisis is not quite here yet. Let all the communities be consulted before anything is done. That was what was promised and that promise has been broken. When you look at the entire picture there are many options that will work. Select one that will complement current programs, not destroy them. According to some research I have been sent, middle schools create too many emotional stresses for our children. We do not have the trained staff to ensure that we will not be faced with higher pregnancies at the younger ages, or increased suicides, aggressive behavior, and the list goes on. The Board of Education will not lose face it says ‘let’s slow down.’

Teachers and parents are concerned that badly needed supports for students with special needs are still not forthcoming. Instead, students are faced with long waits before they see a specialist. They do not receive enough time from teaching assistants who must work with too many students. Teachers face overwhelming bureaucratic paperwork and schools are unable to find specialist teachers. The trustees are voting today on an option that has already been acknowledged as being expensive. The research states that in order for middle schools to be successful, before you start implementation you have to ensure the supports are in place. It is not possible to do this in the timeline put forth. It is overzealous and the timeline is unrealistic. It is doomed for failure and the casualties will be our students.

With this current situation how can they say they will take care of the additional needs the students will have with the middle school concept?

Stop and take a breath - do not go forward with Recommendation #3.

Concerned that the trustees really do not realize what they are doing to our students,

Susan Semonick

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