Wednesday, June 18

Inclusion, exclusion and middle school special ed

Parents and special-ed committee members met with DOE officials tonight at PS 721, a District 75 school in the far reaches of Brooklyn, to ask about two-week delays in middle-school admissions for students with special needs.

Parents spoke passionately of frustrations in getting information about the process; of second-rate attention for special-needs students; of questions long unanswered, from parents, guidance counselors and principals. Many protested the punishing rate of DOE change, and charged that a similar pace -- four major reorganizations in five years -- would likely have cost a CEO in the marketplace his or her job.

Sandy Ferguson, in his first year as executive director of middle-school enrollment, listened with equanimity and responded with welcome candor. "To be frank, we never expected this [process] would run as long as it did," he said. "We did not communicate with parents. This was a mistake and we will look to correct this for next year." According to Ellen Newman, executive director for special ed enrollment, letters went out to parents and to school guidance counselors today, Wednesday -- except for one set that were hand-delivered to The Children's School, which held graduation today (thanks to a coordinated email campaign spearheaded by parent coordinator Roxana Velandria).

One PS 295 parent noted a "general air of secrecy" regarding special-ed placements, and said that "when the general-ed kids got placed first, that hurt more than anything else." (The parent asked not to be quoted, out of concern that she might somehow threaten her child's still-unknown placement.)

Ferguson agreed, saying "It's the thing I'm saddest about. Frankly, we just ran out of time, and [the burden] came out on exactly the wrong folks. It's something I'm not proud of, and something we plan to correct next year."

Broad and deep issues persist -- space, crowding, access, and the practical fact that students with special needs are essentially excluded from a process ostensibly geared to inclusion, as they're not permitted to interview or audition for middle schools along with their gen-ed peers. Whether these issues can be effectively addressed for the coming year is unknown; for this year, it's moot.

But for those who ask, where does the buck stop? Sandy Ferguson answered, loud and clear, it stops at his desk. He's aware of the problems (although he was unaware of their historic dimensions, as special-ed results have been consistently delayed), and seems sincerely committed their resolution -- next year.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for covering this meeting and this issue. You are the only source of information about this issue!!

Insideschools Blog said...

UPDATE: We have heard from the parent of a CTT student at PS 372 that she received her placement letter today for her child's first choice school, but when she called to confirm her child's place, the school said that the DOE had assigned their school too many CTT students (they told her that they have space for 10 and were given 14). Understandably, she is very upset and worried, but she also wants to warn other parents not to get too excited over their placement letters until they have confirmed with the middle school. She's holding off telling her child ,and we are looking into the situation. Has anyone had a similar experience? Could it get any worse for these special ed. students and their families?

Patricia said...

I am pleased to report that the particular situation in District 15 referenced above has been resolved satisfactorially -- in large measure because it was immediately brought to the attention of the Citywide Council for Special Education (CCSE)and we immediately asked the DOE to investigate and find a solution asap.

However, the CCSE is very concerned that there may be many more placement problems out there that have yet to come to our attention. We encourage any family who has not yet received a placement, or is unhappy with the one received to contact us. We will do our level best to help you find a solution that is in the best interests of your child.

Patricia Connelly
Member, Citywide Council for Special Education
Parent of a CTT 4th Grader, PS372/The Children's School


Patricia Connelly, 718-812-6728 (cell),

Ramona Garcia
Administrative Assistant
Citywide Council on Special Education
45-18 Court Square, 2nd Floor
Long Island City, New York 11101
Tel: 718.752.7393 Fax: 718.752.7481

Anonymous said...

My sweet CTT 5th grader was accepted to the first choice on application. I found out in the morning calling the elementary school then later that day in the mail was the official letter stating the school she was accepted to which would provide the services for my child. I immediately contacted the middle school and seems all is in order. I must admit hearing the news brought tears to my eyes and even more so when I shared the news with my child when I announced the name of the middle school. The look on my child's face and the dancing around was priceless. It has been an exhausting process. I hope next year's class does not go thru this middle school muddle that we went through.