A Call To Action: Resource Room/Classroom Overcrowding

So how many kids are in your child’s resource room?

For anyone who doesn’t have a special needs child, the resource room is the primary classroom for children whose disabilities require additional assistance. It’s a place that provides instruction in appropriate grade-level skills, life skills, and social skills. Typically the classrooms are clustered around a particular disability.

Resource rooms need to be spacious. Children with disabilities often have difficulty navigating cramped or crowded rooms. They need to have areas where children can find a quiet spot to sit. They need to have sensory areas, were kids can bounce, spin, climb and even swing.

And they need access to teachers and instructional assistants. Otherwise, it’s just a room.

This past year, the special education department of Huntsville City Schools decided to consolidate many children who spend the majority of their school day in resource rooms into basically three schools: the Academy for Academics and Arts, Challenger Elementary and Middle and Hampton Cove Elementary Middle. (For my regular readers, this was “the plan” that was never shared with parents in writing despite numerous assurances and promises from Amy Sledge, Ann Roy Moore, David Blair, Jennie Robinson and others that they would.)

This consolidation has now been implemented. That fight is over.

On May 5th, Amy Sledge, Dr. Moore and the board discussed this plan and stated that this consolidation would allow students to have access to more resources such as therapy, material, supplies and staff.

On April 6th, Amy Sledge told parents that elementary resource rooms would have between 6 and 8 students in them. You can watch the video below. While she does say that they will have no more than 10, this she throws in as an extreme afterthought.

My son’s resource room at Challenger Elementary has 10 students right now with one teacher and three aides. The class is so large that it has to be split in two so that they are able to accomplish at least some of the learning goals of the IEPs. Since there is but one teacher, this means that every student is effectively receiving half of the instructional time that he or she received last year.

This is unacceptable.

But this isn’t just about my son. This is about 2,900 other students with IEPs in this system who are also getting half the instructional time that they did before.

And the only way we can address these problems is to talk to each other and compare notes.

So I’m asking you to share what you know about your child’s resource room in the comments section below. This will help us all to gain a better understanding of how Huntsville City Schools is planning to meet IEPs with less than half the Instructional Assistants that the system used last year.

Particularly since the number of special needs children has actually increased since last year.

So as you are able, please share the following information below or with me privately via email at staff@geekpalaver.com:

  • The school your child attends.
  • Your child’s grade.
  • Does your child have an IEP?
  • Does your child spend the majority of his or her school day in a resource room?
  • How many children are in the room?
  • How many teachers are in the room?
  • How many instructional assistants are typically in the room?

There is certain information that you should not share with me. For example, do not share:

  • Your child’s name. (At least not in a public forum such as the comments section below. If anyone does this accidentally, I will edit that information out of the posting.)
  • Any other child’s name. (Again, I will edit this information out of the post if necessary.)

The purpose here is to make information available to all the parents with children in Huntsville City Schools that the system is, at times, hesitant to share with us. The purpose is to make the system aware that we know what is going on.

We have a right to know if the system is serving our children and meeting their needs. Perhaps this will help us all understand where most significant needs exist so that we may work together with the school system in addressing these needs.

If you do not want to share this information with me, I completely understand. In that situation, I would ask that you do the following: Contact your child’s teachers and principal. Ask them for specific numbers concerning the number of children in your child’s classrooms/resource rooms. Ask them for specific numbers of teachers and Instructional Assistants that will be in the classroom working with the kids on a daily basis.

You have a right to know this information about your child’s class, but you will often have to ask to get it.

Finally, I would encourage everyone to visit your child’s school as often as possible. See for your self the conditions of your child’s classroom and the situations under which your child’s teacher is working.

Our teachers are overworked, and they need our help to rectify this problem. The central office has a vested interest in keeping teacher salaries at the state minimum (even when their own salaries are “nationally competitive.” [Editor’s Note: Dr. Wardynski stated on August 18th that he claimed the administrative positions were “state competitive.” I have decided to take him at his word on this.) The only defense that our teachers and therefore our kids have against these conditions are parents.

I know how difficult it is to find time to visit schools and advocate for your child’s education. Especially for special needs parents. But if you don’t no one else will.

Ask questions, and hold the system accountable for the answers they offer.

It’s our kids’ only hope.


14 responses

  1. Also, a good question would be What is the quality of the aides that they are getting to fill the jobs now that aides are being paid less, don’t have any insurance benefits and no holiday pay or personal or sick leave days. Aides hired through Epsco are only making $9.00 an hour. That is 45 cents less than what the starting salary of aides was last year. Plus the aides employed by HSV City Schools did have good insurance and benefits. Obviously, the system just wants warm bodies in these positions.

    • I agree, Susan. I’ll deal with that in another post this weekend. Parents have a right to know the exact qualifications of the people working with their kids. Here’s a link to a form that you can use to request that information.


      Here’s the spanish version:

      This site has a TON of useful information on what a parent has a right to know:

      I highly recommend it to everyone.

    • Instructional Assistants are easily some of the most underpaid people in our system. These people make barely $10,000 a year for invaluable service to our students. As I have said, money is not an issue here.

      • I want to know who actually hires the paraprofessionals too. Don’t get me wrong, as of this morning, we actually received a new paraprofessional that I think is supposed to be a permanent placement for my son and his classmate which is great, BUT…my son is at minimum 75 lbs and getting bigger. This woman, whom I am sure is a lovely woman, and I know I cannot discriminate, but would be better placed in the Kindergarten room than in my child’s room in the event that he decides he doesn’t want to cooperate one day. I know that on those particular days I cannot phyically make him do anything, my husband still can, barely, and this poor over 70 year old woman, will never be able to. I will fear for her safety, let alone the safety of my son. He is not violent by any stretch, but when he decides not to do something, forget it. And then there is the question of his adaptive PE, which I have been told was going to be implemented by the gen ed PE teacher and his paraprofessional. How is she qualified first of all and how is she going to do that second of all? I realize that the people at Merts really don’t think, but come on… do they really just want us to make them…

  2. My child is in a resource room at AAA. Right now, there are 6 students in the class with 1 teacher and 2 aides. Fortunately, my child has the same teacher and aides from last year. My understanding, though, is that this is not the case with every child. One of my friend’s child, who is in high school, was able to get his same aide, who had been previously pink-slipped, back. I think they are slowly evaluating their budget and hiring back aides as needed. Of course, I am probably being a shade too optimistic.

    The reality is that we need more resource teachers or more qualified aides. When I took my child to school the other morning, I had to take the child to the lunch room because no one was in the class. What I saw there made me cry. All of the children, regardless of their disabilities, were in the cafeteria, and it didn’t seem like there were enough teachers or aides to help them. I got a pit in my stomach seeing our babies jammed in one room like that.

    I know Dr. Wardynski didn’t create this situation but he did inherit it. I hope that he realizes exactly the kind of mistake the previous administrator made with our children and do what is necessary to correct it. We have to continue to voice our opinions at the board meetings.

    • AAA Mom,

      I’m really glad to hear that the ratio at AAA isn’t as insane as it is at Challenger Elementary. Right now we have two resource rooms at Challenger Elementary each with a teacher and three aides. My son’s classroom has 10 students, the other one has 9 (I believe).

      The problem is that with those three aides do not take into account the times when the kids in our classroom are supposed to be in a general education classroom. So when my son leaves his resource room for inclusion in a regular classroom, he takes one of the three aides with him. That leaves 2 aides with 9 students. If another student leaves for inclusion at the same time, that will leave 1 aide in the resource room with 8 students.

      I suspect the same is true of AAA, and so while 1 teacher and 2 aides sounds good for 6 students, if one of those six takes an aide into an inclusion classroom, then we have only 1 aide for 5 students.

      A couple of questions: Is your child in elementary or middle school, and how many resource rooms are there at AAA Elementary and AAA Middle? Challenger Elementary has 2 classrooms with 10 and 9 students respectfully (or so I’ve heard).

      I agree that Dr. Wardynski didn’t create this problem, and to his credit, he does seem to be attempting to address the problems. For example, after the board meeting on Thursday, he told me that he had approved 4 additional aides for Challenger Elementary. The issue is that as of Friday afternoon, I was told that the paperwork for these additional aides had not arrived at Challenger yet. So, I’m not counting those yet.

      It’s true that Dr. Wardynski didn’t create the problem, but he is hiring administrative staff at “nationally competitive” salaries, while cutting aides salaries and setting teacher salaries at the state minimum. He is responsible for these decisions.

      I know how you feel about the lunch situation. Our teachers need help.

  3. Most the aides that are coming back to their positions are coming back through the temporary service Epsco. They have none of benefits they had previously and their pay is less. They are doing it out of love! I would guess that the temp agency is trying to fill those jobs at Challenger.

  4. My child’s school, Hampton Cove Elementary, currently has one resource teacher, two and one-half (temporary) paraprofessionals and 14 kids spread throughout the 6 grades at our school and they are all supposed to be placed into the general education room almost all with support during the day. Most of them are in different grades, although two of them are in one grade and have been placed into one classroom, despite the parents warning the resource teacher that the children need to be separated as they really don’t do well together. These same two children were placed together last year and had to be separated, I know, one of them is mine. We have been told that we would be getting at least one more permanent paraprofessional (we need at least three) and have learned that we might be getting someone that is transferring from another school, which is great, but that she is elderly and I know that my son if mad, could probably take her down in a minute! She sounds like a babysitter. Temp agencies certainly aren’t the answer and I have sent Casey and email telling him so. If he really wants tests scores of our children to improve, he must provide them with the tools and support necessary and temp agency hires aren’t the answer. You should read some of the posts from there website with inquiries, pathetic grammar and spelling, and they want to educate my child!! I don’t think so.

    • That’s the problem Betsy. One week on, and they still don’t have the staff in place to meet the requirements of the IEPs.

      The system is not in compliance, and darn near every parent of a student with an IEP has a compliance case at this point.

      Wardynski told me on Thursday that he had approved 4 additional instructional assistants for Challenger Elementary, but they still aren’t in place. And no one seems to know when they will be.

      Legally, those IAs were required to be available on Monday, Aug. 8, 2011. We’re seven days past that date now.

      Concerning the qualifications of the IAs they’re hiring, we can request the qualifications of everyone who works in our kids’ classrooms with this form:


      Every parent should fill this out for their kids’ teachers.

      Thanks for the information.


  5. As you know, my son is in full classroom inclusion at Challenger– he and two other boys in 2nd grade (one of whom likely needs more attention of an aide.)

    His IEP says he is to receive daily “Social Skills” instruction with the other two boys, as well as 3 of their non-spectrum peers to help improve their inclusion. Supposedly, they will start this skills session this week.

    But they will have an entirely new person meeting this requirement. Because of the overcrowding in the special-ed classroom, the lead teacher will not be giving that instruction, nor will any of the aides that the boys are accustom to. (I’ve seen how crowded the special-ed class room is, and to further complicate things in that room, there are now girls in the special ed-classroom, who have an entirely different way of expressing themselves, and not always in a good way.)

    I hope to be able to meet with this new teacher soon, either in person or by e-mail. I do know her name, but I’m not comfortable using it in a public forum. But she is entire new to me, the boys and the school. I was told that late last weeks she picked up educational materials & notes from the lead teacher, which makes me think that my son’s teach is one of the new hires whose paperwork hasn’t gone through.

    Unfortunately, ALL classrooms are overcrowded compared to last year. Last year, both 1st grade & 2nd grade had 5 teachers with about 20 kids per class; this year it’s 4 teachers each with about 25 kids per class. I’m so grateful that their computer class last Thursday was at the end of the day; like all the other school computers, my son’s would not load up the way he expected. Neither did the next computer they switched him to. He tried his best to not fall apart at school, but by the time he got home, he completely, emotionally collapsed & was too sick to his stomach to go to school on Friday. If there’d been any teacher/aide available to help calm him down & work more closely with him, that wouldn’t have happened.

    Love my school, my teachers & staff & the volunteers. Getting increasingly unhappy with the board & the greater uninvolved community that is supporting them……

  6. I don’t have a special needs child, but I have a lot to say about our new superintendent and the fleet of assistants it takes to prop the man up. As far as I’m concerned, with his zero experience, along with no viable courses relating to education, he is totally unfit for the job. Jennie Robinson & David Blair hand picked him anyway. Some say the nation-wide search was just a ploy that they knew already who their man was. Blair received over $40,000 from Home Builders Association, Committee of 100, etc., during the last election; Robinson received over $60,000. These corporations needed fancy, expensive schools built so they could develop land and sell expensive homes. The board complied, leaving SE schools to go neglected and the system $20 million in debt In 9 years Robinson has done nothing to help out the schools in her own district, but plenty to help out the business community.

    Casey Wardynski received a “PhD” from what has been called a degree mill, Rand Graduate School. Rand is not a bona fide university or college.Students do not receive degrees in core subjects such as English, Mathmatics, Science, Biology,History. In other words, courses relevant to the education of children.

    From there he attended Broad Superintendents Academy. Dr. James Horn an associate professor of education policy at Cambridge stated that at Broad (pronounced BROD) students are trained how to use their power to hand over their systems to the Business Rountable.” Horn also said that school officials trained by the program graduate with a hostility to teachers….

    Board member, Jennie Robinson’s PhD is in “Consumer Behavior.” No real subject matter here, either.

    It is said that Broad-trained superintendents use corporate-management techniques to consolidate power, weaken teachers’ job protections, cut parents out of decision-making, and introduce unproven measures.

    Sharon Higgins started a website called the Broad Report after her school district in Oakland California had three Broad-trained superintendents in quick succession, each appointed by the state.

    She grew alarmed when she started seeing principals and teachers whom she called “high-quality, dedicated people” forced out and replaced by Broad She contends that Broad superintendents are trained to aim for “maximum disruption” when they come to a district, without regard to parent or teacher concerns.

    It’s like saying, let me come to your house and completely rearrange your furniture because I think your house is a mess.

    Parents around the country are complaining about Broad-trained school leaders

    Perhaps all this is irrelevant to parents of Special Needs children. But I feel strongly that the hierachy of the Huntsville school system needs to be kept under close watch.

    I have long advocated that board members be appointed to prevent huge sums of money from buying the positions. I would also like to see oversight committees made up of average citizens with no political or business agendas to pursue – just average engineers, ex-school personnel, stay at home moms, ministers to keep an eye on those people with all that money at their disposal.

    • I completely agree with your assumptions as to how our current superintendent was hired. The board seems to be run by a committee of one with flunkies following behind. While I agree with the calling for appointment of board members rather than elections, you must then fight for who gets to do the appointing. It is easy to see where the money trail is for each of the board members and those that “be” in this town will do there bidding with an appointment as well. I just don’t understand why they don’t want to do the right thing by the children which in turn makes the entire town better. What do they really have to gain by ruining the school system except make Madison look better, or the private schools?

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