[Update: I have been informed that my interpretation of the numbers above is flawed. For this, I apologize. As I have stated numerous times, I’m really new at this. My son just turned 6, and we’ve been in the school system for less than two years, so I do often get it wrong. I apologize and accept full responsibility for the error.
I am not correct that every Special Education teacher is in need of an aide. Many work with students who do not require the additional assistance of an Instructional Assistant and who spend the majority of their day in a regular classroom. Therefore, my statement that we have less than one aide per classroom is not true.
It seems that we in fact have at least two aides (and occasionally three) for every special education classroom. Again, as I said, I take full responsibility for getting this wrong. I appreciate those from whom I’ve heard for helping me get the facts straight. As I stated below, had we been given more than just a table with frankly suspicious numbers, perhaps I would have understood this before I published the blog, but as I said, the fault for getting this wrong is entirely my own. I apologize, and I have struck out the incorrect information below. Any new information that I’ve added, I have placed in italics for emphasis.]
After six months of requesting this information, Huntsville City Schools finally released staffing data for Special Needs Classrooms yesterday about 3:00pm.
I had heard that there would be one Instructional Assistant per classroom earlier in the week. The actual numbers are much worse than that.
While Dr. Wardynski claims that the system will meet the requirements of the IEPs on Monday, he offered no clear justification for his conclusion. And look at those numbers. Anything surprise you about them? They’re perfect. The central office has hired exactly the right amount of staff. Not one too many. Not one too few. Perfect. Does this strike you as unusual? It does me.
In short, the finance guy didn’t show his work. How did he determine that the IEPs required 126 Instructional Assistants, for example? We have 126 aides to 2,700 students.
That’s a 21:1 ratio. [Since I don’t know how many of the students’ IEPs require an aide, I do not know what the actual ratio is. It would be nice if Dr. Wardynski would share this information with us. I have asked for a breakdown of the teacher/aide to student ratio numerous times over the past two weeks. I’ve been ignored.] How exactly does one determine that IEPs only require a 21:1 ratio? Show your work, Dr. Wardynski. Show us how that will work.
Here’s what we know.
There are approximately 2,700 special needs students expecting to start school on Monday, August 8th.
According to the data that Dr. Wardynski shared Thursday night, the system currently employees 171 Special Needs teachers.
These are the special needs personnel who are assigned to specific classrooms with students in the classrooms. It includes, as you can see in the picture above, Hearing Impaired Teachers, Visually Impaired Teachers, and the Pre-K Teachers as well (who typically have a class that is only 50% special needs).
We have 171 teachers to 2,700 students: a 15:1 ratio.
We have 126 aides to 2,700 students: a 21:1 ratio. [Again, since I don’t know how many of those 2,700 students’ IEPs require an aide, it is impossible to say what the actual ratio is.]
Assuming that the Hearing Impaired and Visually Impaired teachers do not have their own classrooms, there should be 167 Special Education teacher who do. 167 classrooms and 126 aides.
This means that we potentially have 41 special needs classrooms in our system with only one adult in the room. One.
This is a dangerous situation, and we have no more time to resolve it before Monday. [Despite my misunderstanding of the data, I remain convinced that our classrooms are understaffed.]
Perhaps this is why I keep hearing that special needs parents are pulling their kids out of the system.
As I mentioned to the three outsiders who wasted our summer defending an idiotic plan to close schools, the problem isn’t that people aren’t moving into Huntsville. The problem is that we’ve lost faith in the leadership of Huntsville City Schools.
And when the superintendent and the board of education present numbers like this with the expectation that we will cheer for them, honestly the only reasonable response is to throw you hands up and walk away.
That will not be my response at least not this year. My son has greatly benefited from being in a classroom setting. It has helped him come out of his shell, so no, I will not deprive him of something that he loves. So what’s a parent to do?
- Read and completely know your child’s IEP. You can’t insist that the system follow the IEP, if you don’t know what’s in it.
- If you find that your child’s IEP isn’t sufficient, request another meeting to address the deficiencies.
- Do whatever you can to support your child’s teachers, aides, therapists and schools. The lack of staff is not their fault.
On Monday, unless I’m certain that my son’s classroom is sufficiently staffed to be safe and meet the requirements of his IEP, I’m planning to stay at my son’s school all day. While staying in his classroom would be disruptive to his education (and he wouldn’t want me to do so, anyway), I plan to be on campus trying to assist the school in other ways.
This safety issue was one of the Board’s own creation. We warned them. We warned Dr. Wardynski as well, but they decided to wait. They are responsible for this situation.
It would cost $41,000 to allow one aide for every special education teacher. That’s less than half of what we’re paying Dr. Moore to sit at home. So you see the argument that “we don’t have the money” is bullshit.
Our system has the money; they’re just not choosing to spend it on our kids.