Special Needs Presentation at HCS Board Meeting Thursday

HCSBoard Seal

There will be another meeting of the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education on Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 5:30pm at the Merts Building downtown.

According to the agenda, this meeting will include a Human Resources Report (that will hopefully finalize the staffing needs for the new year), a report on the Adequate Yearly Progress report released on Monday, the introduction of a new central office job description called, “Community Outreach and Engagement,” and intriguingly a “Special Education Presentation.”

It’s going to be a busy night in the board room.

At the end of the board meeting on Tuesday, Dr. Wardynski told me to expect some “good news” at the board meeting on Thursday. At the time, I suspected that he was planning to share more information about the hiring process to complete the staffing of classrooms for the coming school year.

But perhaps he was instead referring to the “Special Education Presentation” that I suppose he, or Mrs. Amy Sledge, will be making tomorrow night.

I don’t have any idea what will be discussed in this presentation, but here are a few suggestions if anyone in Dr. Wardynski’s office is interested in the opinions of a special needs parent.

  1. Dr. Wardynski should offer clear, detailed and specific evidence that the system will be prepared to meet the requirements of the IEPs on Monday, August 8th. This is non-negotiable. Without this, our schools will not be safe and 2,700 special needs children will be at risk.
  2. Dr. Wardynski should offer details concerning student/teacher ratios for the classrooms. I know that these numbers are constantly in flux right now, but he needs to offer the public information concerning the system’s planning. What are the best numbers right now?
  3. Dr. Wardynski should offer other ratio information that is necessary to demonstrate that the classrooms will be safe including: Student/Instructional Assistant ratios, Student/Occupational Therapist ratios and their placement, Student/Speech Therapist ratios and their placement, Student/Physical Therapist ratios and their placement.
  4. Dr. Wardynski should offer specific details on the plans to ensure access to and safety for special needs children participating in Physical Education. As adaptive PE has been eradicated, what exactly will be taking its place? Are the PE classrooms sufficiently staffed to ensure safety and education? Do PE teachers know that they are going to be expected to include students with disabilities in their classrooms?
  5. Dr. Wardynski should, finally, offer specific details concerning the special needs consolidation plan that will have been implemented on Monday.

This is what I would like to see in a Special Needs Presentation later tonight. This would be “good news.”

As I have written before, meeting the requirements of the IEP is first and foremost a safety issue. If there is not enough staff to meet these requirements, there is not enough staff to ensure the safety (much less the education) of our children.

Having discussed my son’s IEP with other parents whom I know are assigned to his classroom, I know that the current staffing for his classroom is insufficient. I am addressing this with his teacher and principal, but as their hands are tied on personnel matters, Dr. Wardynski needs to address it as well.

If we can afford to be competitive on a national level for administrative personnel, we can afford to meet the requirements of IEPs. It’s the legal thing to do. It’s the moral thing to do.

And I’m asking Dr. Wardynski to do the right thing by providing adequate staffing for my son’s and all of our kids’ classrooms.

Hopefully, the meeting tomorrow night will offer clear evidence that the Superintendent and the Board are finally Putting the Students First.

Please make every attempt to attend this meeting tomorrow night and stand up for all of our kids.

The meeting will be broadcast on ETV (Comcast 17, Knology 99-it has recently moved from 71), and at the Huntsville City Schools website. I will also be live-tweeting the meeting @russwinn. You can follow on Twitter or on the Geek Palaver Facebook Page.

I hope to see you there.

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