Huntsville City Schools RIF Plan Targets Special Education (Updated)

[I’m reposting this from the end of May. None of these issues have been addressed yet.

On Thursday, July 14th, the system posted its job openings for the new year. 14 positions are available with a special education connections for “certified” (read teachers) personnel. One (yes, one) Instructional Assistant position was opened up.

I suppose that this one additional position was what Dr. Richardson was talking about when he told me at the Second School Closing Meeting at Grissom that “aides would be re-hired.” Perhaps the “s” was just misspeaking on his part.]

The actual numbers are disturbing.

After two Reduction in Force plans have been implemented in Huntsville City Schools, a total of two-hundred and fifty-nine (259) people who are classified as Support Personnel (Probationary and non-Probationary combined) have been fired by the Superintendent, the Board and the Consultant Ed Richardson. These numbers are based on the minutes from the HCS Board Meeting on February 10, 2011 and April 21, 2011. (You may verify these numbers for yourself by clicking on the links.)

259 people. This is a horrifying testament to mismanagement. 259. Yet, sadly, this number doesn’t include the Teachers (154) who have lost their jobs or any of the personnel provided by the ONIN Staffing Service when their contract was cancelled on February 17, 2011.

So considering only the HCS Support Personnel who have been fired (259), how many of them were Special Education Personnel? 41 percent. 41% (106) of all of the support personnel cuts came from Special Education personnel. Maybe a couple of pictures will help clarify that number.

Special Education Cuts.png

Additionally, remember that the Special Education population represents less than 12% of the student population:

Special Ed Population

Dr. Richardson claimed during his report on April 21st that he had not considered making any cuts to Special Education. The only conclusion I can draw from that statement is that he was unaware that cutting “Instructional Assistants” (99) or the “Interpreter/Tutor Hearing Impaired” (2), or the “Social Workers” (4), or the “Testing Specialist” (1) might have anything to do with Special Education. Surely he wouldn’t have made the claim that his cuts did not consider Special Education otherwise.

Dr. Moore claimed that the cuts would be made “across the board.” I suppose what she meant was that 59% of the cuts would be made across the board and that special education would make up the difference. Surely she couldn’t have known that 41 percent were coming from only one group. Right?

Let’s consider one final chart. This is a break down of the cuts by type. Wherever possible I’ve combined categories together by title. For example there were 7 “Clerical Assistants” fired in the first round of layoffs in February, and there were 17 “Clerical Assistants” fired in the second round in April. Combining these two numbers results in a total of 24 “Clerical Assistants” who were fired in both rounds. The chart below shows a combination of both sets of numbers.

Purple: IAs
Total Support Personnel Layoffs (Purple: IAs)

Do you see that giant purple chunk? That represents the ninety-nine (99) Instructional Assistants (38%) who have been laid off. The next largest slice is the darker brown on the right rear, which represents the twenty-four (24) Clerical Assistants (9%) who lost their jobs. Moving on over we find a tan one on the right which represents the nineteen (19) Custodial Staff (7%) that were laid off.

There were four times as many Instructional Assistants who work directly with special needs kids laid off as Clerical Assistants.

There were five times as many Instructional Assistants laid off as Custodians.

If we combine this number with the 53% of ONIN Staff who were also Special Education aides along with the unknown number of Special Education teachers and Adapted PE Teachers who are hidden in the 154 non-tenured teachers that were laid off, we see that Special Education instruction was clearly targeted in these two rounds of layoffs.

No other single group has been asked to sacrifice more from these cuts than Special Education.

This is an abomination that the new Superintendent who will be named Thursday afternoon must address within his first month in office.

[Update: The only response that I’ve received to these numbers so far are the job postings. Additionally, since the posting have occurred so late this year, many of the excellent teachers who were employed last year have already accepted new jobs elsewhere. Since we don’t have an accurate count on how many of the 154 teachers who lost their jobs were special needs personnel, it’s impossible to evaluate how effectively 14 (out of a total of 30) will be able to respond to this problem.

The other response that parents have been given is to be told that “we cannot write Instructional Assistants into IEPs” because the system doesn’t want to be legally bound to offer the support our children require.

This imbalance in the cuts being made is, in my non-professional opinion, illegal.

Alabama State Code 16-39-3 states that, “If sufficient funds are not available to a school board to provide fully for all the provisions of this chapter as well as the educational needs of nonexceptional children, such board must prorate all funds on a per capita basis between exceptional and nonexceptional children.”

The board has placed at a minimum 41% of the budget cuts on just over 12% of the student population.

Dr. Wardynski, special needs parents were told that we would have to wait for you to come aboard before we could get an answer to these numbers. I’ve personally had two board members confirm for me that this is a problem in need of a solution. I await your response, but as we’ve already lost many great teachers and hundreds of superb aides to help our children integrate into regular classrooms, you may have already missed your opportunity. The board and Drs. Moore and Richardson should have addressed this before you were hired. But as they did not, it now falls to you.

You must address this immediately. Our children cannot wait any longer.]

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


  1. How many parents will be volunteering in special needs classrooms this school year?

    1. Every special needs parent I know spends hours in the classroom.

      But part of the issues that special needs students face is that if a parent is in the room, it dramatically interferes with their education. Yet even with this, parents of special needs kids are typically hyper-involved in their kids’ education.

      Additionally, on many occasions, parents have volunteered to serve as aides only to be told, “no.”

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