School committee takes more heat over special education

By Tessa Roy
Posted 10/13/16

The Warwick School Committee was again met with rampant dissatisfaction from parents and teachers at Tuesday's meeting. Complaints largely focused on special education but also regarded lack of classroom supplies, conditions inside the

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School committee takes more heat over special education

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The Warwick School Committee was again met with rampant dissatisfaction from parents and teachers at Tuesday’s meeting. Complaints largely focused on special education but also regarded lack of classroom supplies, conditions inside the schools and printing problems. The issues have created a “hostile” work environment, many teachers said.

“I’m actually sad coming to school some days,” said Toll Gate teacher Jim Harrison.

Warwick Teachers Union President Darlene Netcoh was the first to speak, seemingly setting the tone for the rest of public comments. She cited “poor planning” and large class sizes.

“We have 28 students in a class, 15 of whom have IEPs. We have kids who should be in intensive ed classes or co-op at the high school, and these students are now in classes of 18 and not getting the education they deserve,” she said. “This needs to be taken care of now.”

The complaints come ahead of the second elementary consolidation meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Pilgrim High School and a public forum on special education to be hosted next week by Councilman Ed Ladoceur and the Community Outreach Education Committee. The forum will be held October 19 at 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers. Attendees can use the forum to voice their concerns about special education in Warwick.

Jason Huddon, teacher and parent of a special education student, said his son does not have a special educator in his classroom.

Another teacher said he has a class of 24 with 14 IEPs, most of which are intensive education, along with two EL students. He does have a special educator in his classroom but has no common planning time with her. Another one of his classes resembled the one Netcoh described, he said, with 28 students, 15 IEPs that were intensive ed, and two 504s. He has no special educator in that room.

“The theory of throwing kids into a crowded classroom of 28 is going to cure them of IEPs – I don’t get that,” he said. “This whole weighting thing is not a giveaway to teachers. It’s insurance that special education students get what they need.”

Another teacher said 36 percent of her students, not including those with 504s, have IEPs. In a classroom setting, she said, 13 of 25 students have IEPs, eight of which require preferential seating.

“I am on the fourth organization of my classroom to try and meet that need,” she said.

She also said that of those 13 students, five require tests or quizzes to be read aloud and six require alternative settings for assessment and one-to-one small group instruction.

At least two teachers pointed out printing problems at the schools, saying they’d been encouraged to reduce printing so that they wouldn’t “break Google.” One Warwick Veterans teacher was particularly frustrated and said she hasn’t been able to print an IEP due on Friday.

“I didn’t realize we could ‘break Google,’ but apparently we can because we keep doing it,” she said. “Teachers do not come into a building every day thinking, ‘I’m just going to frivolously print everything and break the system.’ We print what we need to print, and there are certain things every day that need to be printed. I need to be able to come into work and print legal documents for meetings when they are due.”

One science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teacher at Warwick Veterans said he and his students were unable to complete a project because the materials he had been told were ordered at the beginning of the year came late and in lower quantity than they needed.

A few attendees were frustrated that the meeting was held on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. School Committee Member Karen Bachus later apologized for the scheduling.

Despite their seemingly dampened spirits, teachers continued to assert that they were motivated by their students to speak in favor of improvements.

“You are what makes this job worthwhile,” said Toll Gate math teacher Bill Aquilante said in reference to students. “Only your opinion matters of what I did and how I treated you.”

In other business, the committee was presented with the results of PARCC tests, which showed certain low proficiencies the members found dissatisfying. The committee approved four new teachers; a special education teacher for Norwood; FTE mathematics, English, and chemistry or biology teachers for Pilgrim; and a general science teacher for Toll Gate. The committee also approved returning the Aldrich Junior High School building to the city by the end of the month.

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JohnStark

19% of Warwick's school population is designated as educationally handicapped (thus the IEP) in some form. That's nearly 1 in 5 kids! Statewide, the number is 15%. East Greenwich and North Kingstown are both 11%, while Cranston is 13%. For those who believe that any comparisons to EG and NK are distorted, the number in Providence is 17%. All districts use virtually identical evaluative tools and criteria to come up with this designation, which makes one wonder... Either there is something in Warwick's drinking water that makes kids become educationally handicapped at vastly disproportionate numbers compared with those in neighboring communities, or these designations are being used as a job security measure since more special ed kids means a need for more......special ed teachers. Assuming that it could not possibly, ever-in-this-lifetime be the latter, why has the RI Dept. of Public Health not conducted a thorough assessment of Warwick's drinking water? And where are the demands for such an assessment from public leaders? And what, exactly, are those "...certain low proficiencies the members found dissatisfying" on PARCC tests? When will these results see the light of day?

Thursday, October 13, 2016
Justanidiot

stupid people breed stupid kids

Thursday, October 13, 2016
Flo5582

Perhaps at some point, Warwick special education dept needs to take a closer look at exactly how they are identifying such a high number of special education students. Many districts use different models but by-in-large a Response to Intervention model is used to some extent across the state. Seems to me that if there are still such high numbers of students being identified as qualifying for Ieps, maybe teacher qualifications should be looked at more closely with a better system that the teacher evaluation process. That being said, according to this article there seem to also be many issues going in that violate the legal rights of these students who obviously need quality education the most

Thursday, October 13, 2016
Thecaptain

The comment above by Justanidiot exemplifies what his screen name implies ! Why would he call his parents stupid? Speaks volumes doesnt it ?

Friday, October 14, 2016
moreofthesame

John Stark - Wow, Wow, just wow.....now you have accused professional educators of creating false numbers for "job security". Your comment is truly an astounding display of ignorance of the issues....One can twist data and numbers to suit one's needs as we clearly know from your comment.

JustAnIdiot,

More of the same from you....Do you have solutions to offer or are you just going to continue to be the instigating master of the obvious?

It would be nice to see a meaningful approach to solving the problems of the Warwick School System. One that would bring all stake holders to together for the common good.

Mayor Avedesian, how about a little leadership from you? Yes, we know the School committee is an autonomous body. However, you don't seem to be publicly encouraging cooperation among the various factions.

Friday, October 14, 2016
JohnStark

moreofthesame: My "need" is to explain why Warwick has a vastly disproportionate number of children identified as Educationally Handicapped when compared with neighboring communities. Data in my post was presented, but not "twisted" in any way. The facts are the facts, inconvenient though they may be, and no one was "accused" of anything. Rather, it's an Either/Or scenario. If, as you suggest, psychometric evaluations are not being massaged, what is your explanation for the extraordinarily high number of special ed kids in Warwick when compared with neighboring communities? Casting ill-informed aspersions (I spent 12 years as a school psychologist and have witnessed the number rigging) does nothing to blur the essential question: Why does Warwick have such a vastly disproportionate number of special ed kids? And your answer is_________?

Friday, October 14, 2016
MyRhody

The city of Warwick was once known for its exceptional programs, especially those pertaining to Special Education. Since the first major consolidation, many families have chosen to move to more stable communities such as North Kingstown, East Greenwich, etc. Students who moved on to private institutions, such as St. Rose of Lima, St. Kevin, or Bishop Hendricken, who just recently added an eight grade class, still require Warwick Public Schools to provide special services for students with IEP’s. When the total number of students in a district decreases, but the number of students with IEP’s does not, it either increases the percentage or it remains the same.

Additionally, IEP’s govern a wide variety of situations today not just learning disabilities. There are many students who have IEP’s for social emotional situations such as: anxiety, ADHA, Asperger’s Syndrome, Cancer, and other physical and mental illnesses. Many of these students require special classes, or a case manager to follow them more closely. These case managers are trained to look for signs that might indicate an episode is about to happen and remove the child from the classroom before all of the other students’ education is disrupted.

Last year, the district tried to decrease the number of students with IEP’s by exiting them from Special Education. This stopped suddenly when City Council decided to look into what was going on. If you want to know the truth, I suggest you show up at the meeting to discuss Special Education issues in Warwick:

Meeting to discuss SPECIAL EDUCATION issues in Warwick*

Public Meeting Called for by Councilman Ladouceur and Council President Travis

Warwick City Hall

Wednesday, October 19, 2016, 6:30 P.M.

This meeting is an open meeting for people to state their views about issues relating to special education matters in the Warwick Public Schools.

Saturday, October 15, 2016
ginaa

First I want to clarify that teachers can not just write IEPs for students. There is extensive testing done by outside doctors and then brought to the special education despartment. At this time the students go through a various set of tests and now STAR data is the driving force. Second,Warwick was known to have one of the best educational services program. Many parents chose to move and send their students to Warwick because of this. We had, and I stress had,a great program for behavioral, learning disabilities, and other medical issues such as aspergers, autism innokace to help all students. There are students out of district that were enrolled into our school system because we could service them. We have the transitional program for 18-21 year olds if they do not continue on to a college or a program offers at CCRI. Our special educators work tirelessly in and out of the classroom.

If you do not know how hard it is to get an IEP or 505 ask someone. Also, many students then test out as they get older and now STAR scores can remove a student from special services.

Saturday, October 15, 2016
ginaa

Meant to say "in place".

Saturday, October 15, 2016
moreofthesame

JohnStark---------SOoooooooooo.......How long ago and where was your school psychologist experience. It doesn't sound like it was in Warwick. I think the person that posted as GARPIN answers part of your question. Also, in Warwick there are a lot more socio/economic factors involved than my seem apparent. Have you given any thought to how many former students that were considered "educationally handicapped" still live in Warwick? They are many, having several children....and guess what......those kids have issues too. Ask any long tenured special ed teacher in Warwick, I'm sure they'd tell you of instances where they were teaching the children of students they previously had.

What is sickening is that teachers are being portrayed as lazy, indifferent and ineffective by the current school committee. The special ed teachers don't determine how the students get categorized (you should know that). Warwick is top heavy with administrators overseeing programs that maybe could be out sourced to facilities that specialize in various types of special needs programs. Warwick used to send kids to Meeting Street School, The Tredeau Center and etc. They stopped doing so for cost reasons. It was argued that it was costing too much money. What they didn't seem to consider was how much more staff and teachers it was going to take to do it in house.

The current warwick school committee is an amatuer hour clown show.....and unmitigated disaster.....they have allowed the formation of the current school administration.....Can and will this administration answer your question without a lot of double speak....

How about some transparency.....why not tell the public why the last school superintendent they hired was fired and hushed up? Who do think hired the current (not in-compliance with current state and federal regulations for special ed) director of special ed?

Saturday, October 15, 2016
JohnStark

Moreofthesame: Enrollment at St. Rose and Bishop Hendricken has remained fairly constant for many years, and Hendricken now has a lot fewer kids from Warwick than they ever did. So that doesn’t help. St. Kevin’s enrollment has, indeed, increased. But not nearly enough to even remotely explain the vast special ed disparity with neighboring communities. And while I fully appreciate that IEP’s govern a variety of educationally handicapping conditions (and not just learning disabilities), that does not address the reasons for Warwick’s disproportionately high numbers. If your contention is that many families with smart kids have chosen to move to other communities, leaving Warwick with a higher concentration of special ed kids (especially move-ins), I can buy that. If, on the other hand, you are suggesting that Warwick has ALWAYS had a disproportionate number of special ed kids who grow up and give birth to more special ed kids, it still begs the question: What is so unique about Warwick that makes such a scenario unfold here at vastly disproportionate rates when compared with other communities? If PARCC results are, indeed, “dissatisfying”, it would support the notion that families with smart kids have been leaving the system at accelerated rates, leaving behind a more concentrated collection of low achievers and continuing Warwick’s educational death spiral. So let's get a look at those PARCC results.

Monday, October 17, 2016
moreofthesame

JohnStarks.....Honestly, I don't know the answer. Maybe the DPT's are evaluating incorrectly or there is too much literal interpretation of guidelines and not using common sense when evaluating kids. It could be that there is more state and federal funds available to communities with higher numbers. More than likely it has something to do with the long standing mismanagement of the Warwick Special Ed. Dept. and the School Department in general. The recently retired Dr. D made his friend the Director of Special Ed. That person had absolutely no experience or background for the job.

Unfortunately the Warwick teachers get blamed for this and it takes the spotlight off of the real culprits. The Warwick School Department is mismanaged from top to bottom. How many reported cases of improper conduct by members of the department does it take to make this clear?

I would like to see a regionalized school system with the same state and federal guidelines for the entire region. There are many redundant positions within the school department.

I am really fed-up with the bloated bureaucracy of Warwick. That goes for schools, fire, police and any other departments that are milking the city dry.

I moved to Warwick in 1989 and bought my first house in 1995. In the 21 years I've owned my house my taxes have gone from $3,100 per year to $7,900 per year and there. The city services are worse than ever, the roads are in poor condition and the city is really looking seedy. I'VE HAD ENOUGH!!!!!!!!

Monday, October 17, 2016
ginaa

I also want to respond to the idea that we have more Special needs students to save jobs. Due to the new model of co-taught classes, Warwick has had to hire more special ed teachers and teachers aides. We still have about 4 or 5 positions that need to be filled. There are many classes that are in need of special educators due to the new "failing" co taught model that was implemented. I have a special educator and a teachers aide in my algebra 2 classroom. So I am not sure how this is really saving money.

Monday, October 17, 2016
JohnStark

For the record, I do not hold special ed teachers even remotely responsible for any of this. I was in a school last week where a first grader threw a chair at his teacher, in a regular classroom. I was horrified. But special ed laws and regulations are not written or endorsed by mechanical engineers, plumbers, or geologists.. They are written and endorsed by Educators! Perhaps it's time that the folks who write legislation have to live, first hand, by the results.

Thursday, October 20, 2016