Monday, May 26, 2014

Letter From Concerned Parents Regarding SFUSD Special Ed Staff Reallignment

May 27, 2014

Ms. Sandra Lee Fewer, President, SFUSD Board of Education
Dr. Emily M. Murase, Vice-President, SFUSD Board of Education
Mr. Matt Haney, Commissioner
Ms. Kim-Shree Maufas, Commissioner
Ms. Hydra Mendoza-McDonnell, Commissioner
Ms. Rachel Norton, Commissioner, SFUSD Board of Education
Ms. Jill Wynns, Commissioner

Mr. Richard Carranza, Superintendent, SFUSD
Dr. Elizabeth Blanco, Assistant Superintendent, Special Education

Recently, the SFUSD administration announced a new assignment formula for special education teachers (RSPs) and for other staff (i.e. paraprofessionals) who work with children in inclusion (i.e children with IEPs who are not assigned primarily to Special Day Classes). The realignment has resulted in the announcement of significant cuts in staff to some schools in the district.

We, the undersigned, are all parents of children with special needs who attend or have attended SFUSD schools. Despite suggestions to the contrary, parents of children with special needs are very concerned about the loss of resources and about the process by which the assignment policies were developed and implemented.

At the Coffee Chat prior to the CAC for Special Education meeting on May 22nd, Dr. Elizabeth Blanco explained that the realignment of resources was initiated partly as a result of ongoing work with a consultant, Stetson Associates. Based on this work, the district determined an allocation formula that generates a target staffing ratio using only the Specialized Academic Instruction minutes provided in a student’s IEP.

It is clear that the allocation rubric proposed by the district only uses partial data and does not take into account the needs of each school. The formula does not account for the total amount of need for a student with an IEP since it only includes Specialized Academic Instruction minutes and not Supplementary Aides and Service needs. The rubric does not take into account caseloads generated by kids with disabilities that do not have IEPs (504s). The rubric does not take into account the staffing needs necessary to train paraprofessionals and general education teachers when specialized training is called for in a child’s IEP. Moreover, the rubric does not take into account any overhead to deal with communicating and consulting with parents, assessing students, attending team meetings, attending IEP meetings, etc. Even if the formula were correctly formulated (which it is not), by using partial and faulty data, the data going into the formula is faulty and so the resulting allocation will be faulty!

The proposed inclusion staffing changes seem to be designed for middle and high school classroom rotations, and don't take into account the elementary school setting. Grouping inclusion students together in single classrooms, instead of mixed across their grade level classrooms, is definitely not inclusive. This is a direct move backwards, segregating children with special needs.

As an SFUSD supervisor mentioned at the CAC-hosted Coffee Chat, the staff at some of the affected sites used the analysis tools from Stetson Associates and found that the needed resources are greater than given by the SFUSD proposed formula. The district is justifying a realignment at least partly based on the recommendations from their consultants. But, the resulting formula cannot be justified by the consultants’ own analysis. Further, the district does not have a procedure in place to override their formula and instead insists on an allocation which would be insufficient to serve the children at the sites.

The changes in staffing affect all students in the affected sites, particularly children with special needs in inclusion. Special education instructors and specialists provide essential teaching to children in inclusion. They also support homeroom teachers so that these teachers can focus on the class as a whole. Taking away appropriate resources needed by general education teachers puts pressure on the whole class. Obviously, increasing caseloads for RSPs directly places additional pressure on children with special needs who may not receive the appropriate supports The consolidation not only affects RSP teachers but also paraprofessionals. Even though the staffing decisions do not directly impact special day classes (SDC), many paraprofessionals float between the SDC and GenEd (serving as backups, providing breaks, etc). So, as paraprofessionals in general education are cut, students in SDCs also lose out. That is, staffing cuts that reduce supports below what is appropriate affects virtually all children at our schools.

We are dismayed by statements made by SFUSD administrators both at the CAC meeting and in the article published on May 23rd in the SF Chronicle which questioned the motives of parents protesting this new realignment. It is both inaccurate and extremely divisive to suggest that the reason for the backlash against the realignment was hysteria on the part of general education parents or because those parents did not want children with special needs in their schools. Contrary to these suggestions, we have experienced significant support from parents who may not have children with special needs. Indeed, some of the schools that saw the largest cuts in staffing are the same schools that functioned as inclusion schools before inclusion was rolled out throughout the district. Parents at these schools have worked together to put forth our concerns as a community. Having SFUSD officials make such divisive arguments only serves to distract the public from the underlying problem with the district’s policies.

We are also deeply concerned about the lack of transparency in the manner in which the district has made significant changes to special education. The district has failed to reach out to the most important and directly affected stakeholders. The recent staffing change was prepared on the basis of a document which virtually no parent or special education educator had seen and for which no opportunity for input was given. Recent changes that shifted special day classes affecting schools such as Francis Scott Key, Jefferson, Clarendon and Dr. Cobb suffered from the same lack of transparency and stakeholder input.

When the district began the discussion to roll out inclusion throughout all of our schools, there was much strategic and community work which had united the community and generated much excitement. At that time, a smart, functional framework was developed to include all students at all school sites. It is disappointing that the Board and SFUSD leadership are not honoring the work that was done with the community.

We have long been proponents and supporters of expanding inclusion at SFUSD. The issues raised here are not a pushback against inclusion. They are a push towards inclusion with appropriate supports. SFUSD’s Board of Education Policy, “Guiding Principles Regarding Special Education Practices" provides that "more students can find success in general education classrooms with appropriate supports." Inclusion has been a model and goal for the best school districts around the country. We are afraid that the recent staffing assignments go against this policy by reducing supports to sites around the district so that they are no longer appropriate.

We urge the district to reconsider their misguided allocation assignments and complete a more comprehensive evaluation of actual student needs before launching a district wide realignment. We further urge the district to engage with all stakeholders prior to launching district wide changes to special educations programs.


Diego Valderrama
Alvarado ES

Afra Afsharipour
Alvarado ES

Eileen Boussina
Alvarado ES

Nersi Boussina
Alvarado ES

Caroline Smith
Grattan ES

Catherine Dauer
Miraloma ES

Christian Dauer
Miraloma ES

Audrey Vernick
Alvarado ES

Anonymous Concerned Parent
Dr Cobb ES

Alida Fisher
Miraloma ES

Jen Dolan
Alvarado ES

Sara Ellefsen
Alvarado ES

Angélica Pence Flinn
Alvarado ES

Stephen Haggard
Alvarado ES

Julie Balot
Alvarado ES

Laurie Strawn
Jefferson ES

Lee Strawn
Jefferson ES

Andrea Dehner
Alvarado ES

Chris Dehner
Alvarado ES

Martin and Jenna Dunham
Alvarado ES

Jocelyn Gottlieb
Alvarado ES

Katy Franklin, former CAC Chair

Pia Soy
Jefferson ES

Steven and Erika Ragland
Miraloma ES

Anonymous Special Education Parent
Francis Scott Key ES

Jim Riley
Alamo ES

Jon Bailey
Concerned parent
Francis Scott Key ES

Nikki Hennessy
Feinstein ES

Sally Brammell
Marina Middle School

Marissa Kim
Alvarado ES

Raquel Breen
Alvarado ES

Rachel Goldstein
Francis Scott Key ES

Elizabeth Brogna
Alvarado ES

Michel Kapulica
Alvarado ES

[SFUSD parents who wish to sign up to this letter, please email Diego Valderrama at or post your comment of support at]

PDF file of this document 

Friday, November 15, 2013

An Evening with Dan Habib, showing of "Who Cares About Kelsey"

Emmy-nominated director Dan Habib (Including Samuel) will be presenting his new film "Who Cares About Kelsey" at the Aquarium By on Bay on Monday, December 2.  The event is free but you have to call Support for Families to register.

Presented by Support for Families
Who Cares About Kelsey? A Film of Dan Habib
Monday, December 2, 2013
5:00pm - 8:00pm
 The Bay Theater at the Aquarium of the Bay, Pier 39 

To register, call 415-920-5040 

Kelsey Carroll lived with homelessness, self-mutilation, abuse and ADHD.  She was a likely high school dropout - until she encountered an education revolution that's about empowering, not overpowering, teens with emotional and behavioral disabilities. Who Cares About Kelsey? has been featured in Education Week and WBUR and has been screened at film festivals, national conferences and school districts around the country.   
Join us and enjoy these Program Highlights:
      • Film screening of Who Cares About Kelsey?
      • Q&A with Dan Habib after the film
      • Light refreshments  
Event Poster: 
English [pdf], Spanish [pdf] 

dan habib headshotAbout the Filmmaker
Dan Habib is the Filmmaker in Residence at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. Habib is the Emmy-nominated director/producer of Including Samuel and Who Cares About Kelsey?, which have both been broadcast nationally on public television.

In 2012, Habib received the Champion of Human and Civil Rights Award from the National Education Association, and in 2013 he received the  Justice for All Grassroots Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities. Habib and his wife Betsy live in New Hampshire with their sons Isaiah, 17, and  Samuel, 13.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

iPads Communication Workshop and Lending Program at Support for Families

Our iPads for Assistive Communication Workshop and Lending Program Has Launched!
 The goal of this project is to give a voice to children who have difficulty communicating because of their disability and/or special health care needs. We hope this project will provide an invaluable tool for children with special needs and will support their ability to communicate with their families and the outside world.

Saturday, November 2 (ENGLISH)
Saturday, November 9 (SPANISH)
Support for Families, 1663 Mission St, 7th Floor, SF

Over the past couple of years iPads have exploded onto the educational scene.  Their application in the classroom and as a communication device is in its infancy and showing great promise. In this workshop we'll aim to cover things like: iPad basics, how to adapt the iPad for your child, including iPad settings and adaptive tools for greater accessibility, iPad apps for communication, as well as parenting skills incorporate the iPad into your child's daily communication routine. After attending the workshop, you may be able to BORROW an iPad. Workshop Flyer (English & Spanish) [pdf]

To register, call 415-920-5040.

Conversation Club
Wednesday, November 13th
4:30pm - 5:30pm
Noe Valley Public Library Meeting Room
451 Jersey St, San Francisco CA 94114

Users of all AAC devices and all ages are welcome but the facilitator uses an iPad and works primarily with youth. 
Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices have changed over the last few decades and can include such devices as Dynavox, QuickTalker, Tobii Sono Flex, Talk Bar, as well as smart phone and tablet applications such as Proloquo2Go that can be used as AAC devices to help individuals to communicate. Modelling the use and allowing individuals to see other users may help to promote and support the continued use of the devices. 
The Conversations Club will offer an opportunity for AAC users of all levels to come together and practice the use of the devices by exploring topics and themes. Please bring your favorite song to share the first week! Conversation Club Flyer [pdf]
To participate, call 415-920-5040 

Jimi Gilroy is the Assistive Communication Coordinator at Support for Families. The program includes an iPad as Assistive Communication workshop, an iPad Lending Program, and a Conversation Club. Please RSVP to 920-5040 if you are able to attend. Thank you for your time! 
 Support for Families  I 415-282-7494  I  415-920-5040 (warmline)  I

SFCD Holiday Ice Skating Party! Registration Opens Next Friday 11/1

Call 415-920-5040 beginning next Friday, Nov 1 to register

christmas lights 

3 snowflakes  

Presented by Support for Families 


Your donation to Support  for Families helps ensure that we will be able to continue to offer our services free of charge
SFCD Holiday Ice Skating Party

Holiday Ice Skating Party
For children with disabilities or special health care needs, their families, and their friends

Saturday, December 21 
Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center 
750 Folsom St, San Francisco CA
(on the Moscone Center rooftop, south of Market St)

We will have the ice skating rink to ourselves! 
Come enjoy an evening of ice skating, refreshments, and fun with your family and friends. Come say hi to Santa and pick up a free book! Skates will be provided to each guest and wheelchairs are also welcome on the ice! Event is FREE for families of children with disabilities and donations are gratefully accepted.
Space is limited and fills up very quickly. Last year this event filled in 3 days!

This event is only for families of children with disabilities who have pre-registered for the event.

Call 415-920-5040 beginning next Friday, November 1 to reserve space.    

Please share widely!

Public Transportation: BART to Powell or Montgomery stations
Parking: Mission St Garage (4th & Mission)

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Support for Families of Children with Disabilities
| 1663 Mission Street | 7th Floor | San Francisco | CA | 94103

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

SFCD: Upcoming Parent Professional Workshops: The IEP and Behavioral Concerns, iPads and Apps, and more

Workshop Information
Workshops are FREE  and held at Support for Families of Children with Disabilities at 1663 Mission Street, 7th Floor (between Duboce Street and South Van Ness Avenue)

Please note that workshop presentations  begin promptly. 

Pre-registration Required!

To attend a workshop, reserve child care, and/or interpretation services, you must call at least one week in advance: (415) 920-5040

Contact Information
 Support for Families
1663 Mission Street, 7th Fl.
San Francisco, CA  94103

  Like us on Facebook

Ways to Help

wine + design 2013

wine+design 2013: 
SFCD's annual Gala & Auction
Friday, October 4
All proceeds benefit Support for Families programs and services.


Your donation to Support  for Families helps ensure that we will be able to continue to offer our services free of charge

Saturday, August 10 from 8:30am to 12:30pm
Boy with head in hands

IEP Behavioral Services: From Assessment to Discipline
What You Need to Know to Get Appropriate Behaviorial Services for Your Child

This presentation will provide participants an overview of parent rights; district requirements and responsibilities; and specific behavioral services for students who have behavioral needs. Topics include:
  • Assessment of Behavior
  • Behavioral Support and Behavioral Intervention Planning 
  • Functional Analysis Assessment
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion and Manifestation Determination IEP Meeting
  • A review of Behavioral Services
  • How to include behavioral services in your child's IEP
  • How behavioral functioning can affect educational placement.  
Joseph J. Feldman, founder and Executive Director of Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE).  
Mr. Feldman, a former special education teacher, is one of the leading special education advocates in the Bay Area and California.  For over thirty years, Mr. Feldman has represented students in the special education process; consulted with the Bay Area special education community about systemic special education issues; and managed the development and day-to-day operations of CASE.

To pre-register (required), call (415) 920-5040

Friday, September 13 from 10:00am to 12:00pm
preschoolers sitting together

Top Ten Tips for Fostering Social Success

This workshop will provide an overview of how to use behavioral strategies to foster successful social interactions. Parents will learn how to identify skills to target with their child based on developmental stages of play, select an appropriate environment and peers, and provide reinforcement for social interactions to encourage independence. 

Presenter: Kelly Flavin, BCBA, Gateway Learning Group

Kelly has a B.A. in Psychology from UCSB and an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from the USF. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and has worked with children with developmental disabilities for seven years. Prior to joining the Gateway team in 2008, Kelly worked for an ABA agency in the Los Angeles area for three years. Kelly is a registered Marriage and Family Therapist intern with over 1000 hours of clinical experience providing crisis counseling to children, adolescents, and families. Kelly conducts functional behavior assessments, provides behavior consultation to parents and educators, writes and implements Behavior Support Plans, and supervises ABA programs in homes and schools.

To pre-register (required), call (415) 920-5040 

Saturday, September 14 from 8:30am - 12:30pm
boy interacting with iPad

Yes, iPads and Apps Can Help Individuals with Special Needs

This workshop is all about how iPads and apps can create a dynamic and cost-effective learning, leisure, communication, and social skills toolkit for individuals with special needs. Shannon will also discuss fundraising, accessories, and how she and her autistic son make the most of their favorite apps. This workshop is for folks considering an iPad for their loved ones, who already have an iPad but aren't sure how best to maximize its potential, or who just want to talk about all things iPads & special needs.

Presenter: Shannon Des Roches Rosa, Autism Parenting and iPad Advocate, Thinking Person's Guide to Autism

Shannon Des Roches Rosa is a nationally renowned autism parenting and iPad advocate. Her work has been profiled in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, KQED Forum, Mercury News, SF Weekly, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Redbook, and at Parenting magazine. She is senior editor and co-founder of the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism book and website.

To pre-register (required), call (415) 920-5040 

Note: this workshop is separate from the Support for Families iPad/Assistive Communication Project.
Support for Families strives to present families and professionals with a wide range of views and options in its materials and trainings.  The materials and trainings are not necessarily comprehensive, are not meant to be exhaustive, nor are they an endorsement of the author and/or presenter. If you would like to offer feedback or if you know of additional resources, speakers and /or materials that may be helpful, please contact us at

SFCD Clinics: IEP, Transition to Adult Life, Skills for Advocacy, and SSI Clinics


Clinic Information
Clinics are FREE  and held at Support for Families of Children with Disabilities at 1663 Mission Street, 7th Flr (between Duboce St and S Van Ness Ave)

Please note that clinics begin promptly. *Sign up early-space fills up fast.

Pre-registration Required! 
To attend a clinic, reserve child care, and/or interpretation services, you must call at least a week in advance: (415) 920-5040

Contact Information
 Support for Families
1663 Mission Street, 7th Fl.
San Francisco, CA  94103

  Like us on Facebook

Ways to Help
wine + design 2013  
wine+design 2013: 
SFCD's annual Gala & Auction
Friday, October 4

to register, sell/purchase raffle tickets, and for more ways to help make our fundraiser a success

All proceeds benefit Support for Families programs and services.


Your donation to Support  for Families helps ensure that we will be able to continue to offer our services free of charge 
to all families who need our help!
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IEP Individualized Education Program (IEP) Clinics  (English, Spanish, Cantonese)
IEP file and binder graphic
Provides families and professionals with an overview of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and how to participate in the development of an IEP. 

  • Participants will gain an understanding of the principles of IDEA.
  • Participants will gain an understanding of the IEP process.
  • Participants will be provided with resources and information relating to IDEA and the IEP process.

Sessions (Thursdays 4pm-6pm):
IEP Clinics - English: 8/8; 9/12
IEP Clinics - Spanish: 8/15; 9/19
IEP Clinics - Cantonese: 8/1; 9/5

To register, call our Warmline: 415-920-5040

advocacySpecial Clinic: Skills for Effective Parent Advocacy
stick figures holding up a speaking stick figure
Would you want to learn how to speak up for your child or others? Do you want to learn how you can make a difference? Do you know what an advocate is?

Come join us and learn what it takes to be an advocate. The workshop will provide participants with information on advocacy, which is speaking up for ones and for others.  Participants will also learn about the skills needed to be an effective advocate.  In addition, we'll discuss the specific ways you can apply these skills and make a difference.

Wednesday, 8/7, 10am-12pm
To register, call our Warmline: 415-920-5040

AdultLife Transition to Adult Life (English)
transition stick figure graphic For students, families, professionals
For families of children ages 14-22 (or even as young as 12). Our aim is to provide an overview of IDEA and how to participate in the development of an Individual Transition Plan ("ITP").

  • Participants will gain an understanding of transition services under IDEA.
  • Participants will gain an understanding of the ITP process for those students interested in moving to community supports and/or post-secondary education
  • Participants will be provided with resources and information relating to transition from school to community living and/or post-secondary education.

Sessions (4th Thursday unless otherwise noted, 4pm-6pm):
8/22; 9/26
To register, call our Warmline: 415-920-5040

CAC Community Advisory Committee (CAC) Meeting
GG bridge drawing by 5th grader

The purpose of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Special Education is to advocate for effective Special Education programs and services, and advise the Board of Education on priorities in the Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA). The State Education Code mandates that each SELPA must have a CAC and that a majority of CAC members be parents.   In San Francisco, CAC meetings are usually held on the fourth Thursday of each month (except July, November and December). These meetings are open to the public; everyone is welcome to attend. 

Dates (4th Thursday unless otherwise noted, 6:30pm - 8:30pm)
8/22; 9/26
To register, call our Warmline: 415-920-5040

SSISpecial Clinic: SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
cartoon man holding up
For caregivers, consumers and professionals.  
Social Security Disability benefits can help ease the difficulties caregivers face when caring for individuals with disabilities. This clinic will introduce participants to Social Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the benefits associated with each. 

Thursday, 8/29, 4pm-6pm
To register, call our Warmline: 415-920-5040
Support for Families strives to present families and professionals with a wide range of views and options in its materials and trainings.  The materials and trainings are not necessarily comprehensive, are not meant to be exhaustive, nor are they an endorsement of the author and/or presenter. If you would like to offer feedback or if you know of additional resources, speakers and /or materials that may be helpful, please contact us at
 Support for Families  I  415-920-5040  I  I