Parent Statement #2
**Please read this into the minutes and attach it to them**
As parents of a child with special needs in the town of Colchester, we feel strongly that we need a new era of openness and trust in special education in our town. There has been a long history of distrust and angst for the parents of Special Ed students in this District and it needs to stop today! Since our daughter first entered the Colchester school district as a kindergartener, we’ve had an adversarial relationship with the director of Pupil Services as have many of the families in this room tonight.
The height of our distrust occurred during an incident related to our daughter’s 9th grade annual PPT meeting that the director chaired in 2012. When we received the IEP document in the mail, we discovered over 32 instances where items established and agreed upon at the PPT meeting had been completely removed, changed or reworded from the initial IEP document, all of which had not been discussed or renegotiated at any time during the PPT meeting. Frequency of services, parent’s concerns and other important items had been deleted or revised without any discussion by the team. In other areas, goals were subtly reworded and tweaked to convey meanings very different from what was originally intended.
These actions are in direct violation of the Federal IDEA law, Section 300.324 which states:
“ …changes to an IEP may be made either 1) by the entire IEP team at an IEP team meeting or 2) by both the district and parent agreeing not to convene a PPT meeting..”
Upon discovering these changes, we contacted then Superintendent Karen Loiselle who immediately restored the IEP document to its original content. We subsequently received a letter from the director purporting the “team” had made these changes, when in reality the activity log showed it was solely the director and the school district’s attorney. This was clearly done unilaterally outside of a PPT meeting and without us as parents involved. How many other parents here tonight have had the same done to them?
As we’ve heard tonight many families associated with the Colchester Special Education dept have had similar situations, some far worse than our own. This is not a recent development but rather a situation that has gone on for many years despite contacting Superintendant Mathieu’s office with our concerns, in hopes action would be taken to investigate or correct these problems.
We have been fortunate in that we have been able to advocate for our daughters needs when services were challenged. We’ve hired attorneys when push came to shove. But many other parents weren’t as fortunate, and often were forced to settle for far less than what their child needed. And worse they were often berated or treated in a less than professional manner. The distrust created by this director is the reason parents feel compelled to bring an attorney to meetings where the director is present. The financial burden incurred by both our families and the district by bringing lawyers seems like money poorly spent.
Many parents in this group fear retribution from the director as a result of this complaint. Many of us have PPT meetings scheduled in the coming days and weeks. However enough is enough. The board and the superintendent are now fully aware of our many grievances. We truly feel any reasonable person hearing these complaints should be appalled by them. If you are not appalled by them then you must condone them. There is no middle ground. As a group of approximately 50 parents, we are here tonight with a single voice asking that the Board of Education hears us and acts with a more direct course of action.
We have (3) requests:
· We request the board NOT approve the director’s request to be rehired for an additional period after her retirement in November 2015.
· We request the board bar this director from chairing any future PPT’s within the district for the duration of her contract
· We request the board establish a course of action that will be followed if any member of this parent group feels there has been retaliation towards them as a result of voicing their complaints here tonight. And by the way, our group has lost all faith that working through the Superintendent’s office will safeguard our rights and laws in the future.
There has been an ongoing history of what we feel are blatant violations of the Federal IDEA law, acts of intimidation, and offensive and unprofessional behavior by this director. It is ultimately up to the board to do the right thing now, to take our complaints seriously and do what is right for our families. In the past, we have supported the town budget as well as board member’s positions on the board. This may no longer be the case if the board allows these behaviors to continue. If the board condones the conduct of this director as told by these stories read tonight, if the board is proud of the way these actions and these attitudes project the image of the Colchester School District to others and if the board does not feel the need to make the immediate changes necessary to stop such terrible behavior, then maybe it is time to get a new board.