List of complaints about SAU 41’s administration of special ed programs

This letter is addressed the School Administrative Unit 41 School Board.

I would like to thank the board members for the time afforded the parents to air their concerns on special education in the districts under SAU 41 (Hollis/Brookline).

The board was patient, attentive and courteous and gave all of its voting, taxpaying, salary-paying constituents time to bring forward both testimony and documentary evidence how special education has failed since 1996. This failure has cost many children their chance for education and their futures.

Public school special education laws, federal and state, were written to provide educational opportunities for children with disabilities and provide rehabilitative services, when employed in conjunction, would enhance those opportunities.

The federal and state laws envisioned a partnership between the parents and the school systems that would produce a team that would guide the child to and through an education to reach the goal of joining his or her peers on a level playing field.

During the course of that special education, the privacy of the child and the family would be protected with anonymity and confidentiality as is the privacy of all school children.

Some schools have been successful in developing the partnerships. They provide in-depth information to parents who believe that their child has a disability that would make him /her eligible for the education and services of the program.

They work with the parents to ascertain the levels of education and therapy assistance necessary to progress for the child. They then administer the program with the education of the child and his/her return to the mainstream as the goal.

These districts use the laws and the multitude of federal and state cost-sharing programs along with administrative transparency, not case transparency, to provide a smooth successful program. Complete utilization of all the tools is researched and maintained with the support of their boards.

Some school districts adopt a strict plan of cost containment as the first priority. Costs are carefully monitored through control of the recommendations from the individual education plan (IEP) teams.

These policies often create an adversarial relationship that is counterproductive to moving the education and rehabilitation forward.

I believe that such a policy of special education administration has been in place since 1996 in SAU 41 and that such policy has impeded the progress of education and rehabilitation of students, and cost the taxpayers of Hollis and Brookline many hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenues.

I believe that the administration of SAU 41, upon the retirement of the current superintendent, will have inflicted on the districts herein, a decade of secrecy and negligence.

I further believe from conversations with a number of parents that this same administration:

– Employed and employs a cost-containment plan that would not encourage additional students with disabilities to enter the special education system.

– Furnished minimal information to parents on special education opportunities.

– Did not research the magnitude of students in the system eligible for Medicaid to Schools reimbursement until 1998, and subsequently rejected the concept after a cursory investigation.

– When Medicaid access numbers were offered by parents for use by the SAU to access reimbursement, the parents were advised that there were not enough eligible people to make the program worthwhile and the administrative costs would exceed the reimbursement. Since 1990, researching eligibility under the Medicaid to School laws has been a required function.

– Has accessed catastrophic aid from the state in violation of the caveat that it may be accessed only after “all other resources have been exhausted.”

– Became the only SAU in New Hampshire whose districts were not enrolled in the Medicaid to Schools program, a federal reimbursement program that returned $13,172,931 to the districts of New Hampshire in 2003 alone.

– Encouraged personnel to apply cost-containment practices. The administration condoned patterns of disrespect and disdain, delivered in a patronizing manner to the parents of students with disabilities as the parents seek to participate as peers when members of the IEP Team for their children.

– Used the confidentiality and privacy requirements of the laws to intimidate one parent or set of parents at a time. Divide and conquer.

– Introduced a program of denial and delay of services to eligible, qualified recipients, reducing costs but damaging and setting back the educational progress of the students.

– Employed a conscious program of delayed communication or no communication.

– Claimed diagnoses of success to promote students out of special education and reduce the number of students. These reductions performed in the face of outside professional and medical testing to the contrary.

– Had complaints received by the State Licensing Board that prompted written criticisms and were not disclosed to the respective district boards.

– Had complaints from the federal Civil Rights Board prompting reprimand and monitoring of the system that were not relayed to the respective district boards.

– Practiced an “out-of-sight, out-of- mind” pattern of communication with the boards.

– Addressed the behavioral issues of students with disabilities with discipline rather than treatment. Penalties of deprivation of privileges, detention and/or suspension administered.

– Manipulated special education population numbers to raise test scores for cosmetic purposes.

In the course of the live testimony by 14 representative parents, each of the foregoing suppositions was substantiated anecdotally or with documentation.

After all had left, the board went into non-public session and with a bare quorum, voted maximum raises to the administrators.

I can only conclude that the members of the SAU Board concur with the policies of the current special education administration, with the decade of “cost containment” in lieu of “partnerships of education and rehabilitation with parents” while hundreds and thousands of lost revenues were drained from taxpayer’s pockets.