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Huntsville City Schools Special Needs Segregation Plans

Updated Below

What was only a rumor two weeks ago is now a plan, albeit one that has yet to be shared with parents in writing.

Approximately one hundred parents of special needs children, specifically parents of children on the autism spectrum, attended a meeting with Mrs. Amy Sledge, the Special Education Director for Huntsville City Schools, to discuss the plans to relocate some special needs children to centralized locations throughout the city. This meeting was offered in response to concerns raised at the last school board meeting held on Thursday, March 24, 2011. Characterized as an “Informational Meeting” by Dr. Ann Roy Moore, there was surprisingly little information actually shared with parents.

Please understand that these are simply my notes on the meeting. I am not a non-biased observer; I am completely subjective in my understanding of this plan. If you attended this meeting and have a different understanding of what was shared, please post your thoughts/recollection in the comments below so that I may correct my record. As I have stated, this plan was not shared with parents in writing.

Currently, Huntsville City Schools is planning to segregate special needs elementary and middle school children who are predominately receiving their eduction in a resource classroom (a special ed. classroom) to one of five schools whose principals have volunteered to accept students participating in the Alabama Alternative Assessment.

The dividing line between north and south Huntsville is Governor’s Drive. Students who are living north of Governor’s Drive, and who predominately receive services in a resource classroom, will be placed at the Academy for Academics and Arts Elementary or Middle School.

Alternately, students on the Alabama Alternative Assessment who live south of Governor’s Drive will be placed at either Challenger Elementary, Challenger Middle, or Hampton Cove Middle.

The majority of the high school programs will remain unchanged with the exception that the programs at Johnson and Butler will be combined at Butler. Grissom, Huntsville, Lee, and Columbia will remain unchanged.

Students who receive the majority of their instruction from a regular education classroom will also continue to attend their home schools.

When asked for additional details about this plan, Mrs. Sledge stated that she would produce a document offering details concerning the plan and share it with parents. She did not offer details concerning the mode of communication that she would use but seemed hesitant to simply place the plan on the Huntsville City Schools website. Her suggestion was to share the details with Making Connections and allow them to distribute this information to parents.

It seems remarkable to me that an “informational meeting” would be called and held without providing the crucial information of the meeting to parents in writing. If and when this information is made available by the central office, I will post it here. In the mean time, I highly recommend the following:

  1. As Mrs. Sledge repeatedly stated that the system would follow the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), I would encourage parents to be aware of both their rights and the rights of their children, and to be willing to passionately struggle for them. As resources tighten, do not take anything for granted. In the words of Tom Clancy, “If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen.” This is particularly true of the IEP. Make certain that you put your child’s plan down in great detail.
  2. If you believe that your child needs an one-on-one aide to assist them in integrating into a regular education classroom, Mrs. Sledge stated that an IEP team should write in a one-on-one aide for the student. (She stated that she had approved four today.) Again, this is a decision that is left up to the IEP team. She stated, “If your child needs a one-on-one, have the teacher to fill out a para-professional request.”

There will be many who will claim that you as a special needs parent are unfairly taking advantage of the system. Remember that they don’t have a clue what they are talking about. Your children deserve an education just as much as theirs. Don’t hesitate to fight for it; they wouldn’t.

Tomorrow night at 5:30pm the school board will convene their meeting in the Annie C. Merts Center, located at 200 White St. To reserve your spot to speak during the meeting, please call Mrs. Gail Kiker, Administrative Assistant to the Board, at 256-428-6940.

UPDATE #1

Here’s a link to the WAAY TV report on the meeting: Parents of Special Needs Students Finally Addressed. I agree with Pedersen’s assessment, “We’ll still concerned. What does this really mean for us? Because there’s still just mass confusion as to what that plan really means for you as an individual parent for your child.” It will be nice to see the plan in writing.

 
Russell
"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.

7 Comments

  1. Russell, please contact me, we would like to distribute your blog comments to our database of parents for our Special Needs Advisory Group. My email is kskizer@gmail.com and we are open to other parents who are not on our list to contact me as well. Thanks – Keith Kizer

  2. Ms. Sledge stated so simply to just “have it in the IEP and it will be followed” but my personal experience is getting the IEP to reflect the true needs of the child is MORE than half the battle. The parent(s) bare the burden of proving what they are requesting is the most appropriate action. My PRE-SCHOOLER was going to be taken out of the KidSkills program and offered itenerate services if I didn’t agree to the IEP. It was most certainly not a “team” decision. I have no faith that the IEP “team” will implement what is most appropriate for the child if it goes against HCS recommedation.

    1. Andrea, I have the same concerns, and please understand that it was not my intention to imply that the IEP process is a simple one. I have never worked harder at anything. I completely agree that the deck seems stacked against the parents and the children in that process.

      I would recommend that you take your time. No matter what you’re told, the IEP does not have to be signed immediately. Take the draft home and review it. Ask others to do so as well.

      I would also recommend that you consider contacting:

      CASE (Children’s Advocate for Special Education)
      Dr. Deborah Horton Jordan
      P.O. Box 547
      Huntsville, AL 35804
      (256) 651-8100
      Email: dhortonjordan@bellsouth.net
      My expertise supports parents when learning, instruction, and or academic success becomes an issue. I also prepare, assist and accompany parents when attending IEP meetings.

      I have not personally used Dr. Jordan yet, but I have received a reliable recommendation for her services.

      Finally, remember that IEPs can be re-written if you think they need to be.

      I’m not an expert in this process either as I’ve only been involved in the writing of three of them myself.

      I’m truly sorry for the experiences you’ve had to endure.

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