March 6, 2019
Public Comment Question from March 4, 2019 Board of Education Meeting:
Wappingers Central School District uses the full day co-teach model in both the elementary and high school communities. Why then does our middle school not offer that vital support? This inconsistency is affecting numerous seventh and eighth graders across the district. Special education services are meant to level the playing field. This specially designed instruction, given by a certified special education teacher, meets the unique needs of a child with a disability, allowing for a student to participate in common core level material.
The Wappingers administration did believe in the middle school co-teach model in the past. Any educational professional will tell you that a patchwork of resource rooms, teacher assistants, and special classes can’t compensate for the knowledge and continuality of having a specially trained teacher working hand in hand with the subject teacher.
The issue arose when the Board of Education needed to make budget cuts and decided that they would eliminate the program. What the Board of Education may not have realized was that by doing so, they were in violation of the federal mandate that requires districts to provide students with an individualized appropriate education in a least restrictive environment. This action also may be jeopardizing federal funds that are specifically earmarked for Special Education Services.
When a student’s CSE Team meets and is forced to place a child in the only alternative that is offered rather than choosing the option that they really need, both the law and the trust between parent and school is breached. If you are in doubt of the fact that this inclusion model works, just look at your northern neighbor, the District of Arlington. They have the co-teaching model in all subjects in both of their middle schools and view it as a necessity for many SPED students.
IDEA says that children who receive special education should learn in the least restrictive environment. This means they should spend as much time as possible with peers who do not receive special education.
I will end with two statements that the New York State Education Department has offered to parents fighting for their child’s federally mandated rights:
One, your child should be with students in general education (and I quote) “to the maximum extent that is appropriate.”
And two, special classes, separate schools or removal from the general education class should only happen when your child’s learning or attention issue - her “disability” under IDEA - is so severe that supplementary aids and services can’t provide her with an appropriate education.
I respectfully request that you reinstate the inclusion program at Van Wyck Junior High School for the 2019-20 school year. Please consider aligning the schools in our district and righting the wrong done to many WCSD Special Education students.
The Wappingers Central School District offers an array of services to students with disabilities classified in district schools. However, in every situation which comes before the Committee Special Education (CSE) the overriding consideration is the appropriateness of the placement in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) based on that student’s individual needs.
At the junior high school level, we offer Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) in the areas of English and math with certified teachers. In science and social studies embedded support is provided by certified teacher assistants working with the designated certified teacher.
There are school districts in the region that offer a model of support in which certified teaching assistants are embedded in the curricular areas of science and social studies supporting special education student needs. This still allows for the students to continue to receive instruction within a general education setting. This aforementioned model does not take the District out of compliance to continue to receive their adequate federal funding. For example, teaching assistants within this type of service are also paid for by Federal funds that the school district receives yearly from New York State in the form of the 611 and 619 grants.
Certified teaching assistants who work within the guidance of special and general education teachers did not, at the time of the change, and still do not put the Wappingers Central School District out of compliance while still providing a continuum of services for students.