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.
Anonymous Concerned Parent
Dr Cobb ES
Angélica Pence Flinn
Martin and Jenna Dunham
Katy Franklin, former CAC Chair
Steven and Erika Ragland
Anonymous Special Education Parent
Francis Scott Key ES
Francis Scott Key ES
Marina Middle School
Francis Scott Key ES
[SFUSD parents who wish to sign up to this letter, please email Diego Valderrama at firstname.lastname@example.org or post your comment of support at sanfranciscoeducation.blogspot.com]