Wednesday, July 29, 2009

CAC Vice Chair Resigning

The CAC will be in need of a new vice chair soon as I am resigning. My family and I are moving out of state and I will be unable to serve any longer. I have appreciated the opportunity to work with the District and the Board of Education this past year. I hope that the CAC will be a place where parents, caregivers, staff and family can come together in their common interests for our children. The board of education faces difficult challenges in the year to come and need your input to guide them in decision making processes. Before I go, I would like to share some thoughts on four important issues before our community:

  1. The consent decree will be coming to an end. This important legal tool has helped families resolve very difficult issues with the district. The board will now be free to make decisions about which of the mandated changes to keep or change. Among these are whether to keep the parent liaison and alternative dispute process or gut it to save money. As well, the board might choose to demote the Assistant Superintendent of Special Education to a director position in order to save money. Neither of these decisions would be in the best interest of children OR the district, but right now fiscal pressures are so intense that many politicians feel driven to be penny wise and nickel foolish. CAC should make itself heard: we need an ADR, Parent Liaison and an Assistant Superintendent to resolve problems at the lowest level (not in court) and to represent our 4000+ students on the Superintendent's leadership council.

  2. The CAC bylaws are being revised. CAC must be a place where parents can turn for help, assistance and collaboration in solving problems as well as a place to network and appreciate the district. It is important that our bylaws reflect this, and I encourage members to work together to make CAC an organization where the community can speak out, raise their concerns and work together to celebrate the good and tackle the bad.

  3. The Board of Education needs to know more about special education and that we have an active and involved parent community. To many policy makers locally, at the state and federal level, the provisions of IDEA and ADA are sometimes perceived as nuisances. Districts can support special education laws, tolerate them or actively resist them, stretching the letter of the law. Ours has had a history of resisting, and much of the progress made under the consent decree has been eroding before my eyes as the end approaches. The only way to ensure compliance and to build an open and willing acceptance of special education is to keep working with the district and with people who are not necessarily friends and allies. CAC has been ineffectual the last few years, and few members have been willing to stand up and speak truthfully to the board. If CAC is to make a difference in the challenging times ahead, everyone will need to understand the advisory role that we are legislatively mandated to fulfill. It is often uncomfortable giving advice under the best of circumstances, but in the end, we are the employer: the district and the board work for us. Speak truth and don't be afraid to disagree.

  4. This year the district is committed to three reviews of special education: an outside consultant hired by the board, a self review mandated by the state and a CAC sponsored assessment of Assistive Technology (AT) services. School Board President, Gary Eberhart, was a proponent of the outside consultant and although he has come to describe this as a quality and fiscal review, it is clear from board minutes that his intention at the start at least was to save money. This has still been an important focus for him. School Boards rarely like the cost of special education as it is an unfunded mandate. The state school board association describes this as an "encroachment." One of the successes of CAC was to write quality review and compliance monitoring into this work. This review needs public oversight to make sure that CACs goals are fairly and legitimately addressed. Please contact parent liaison, Hillary Shen, to get involved. The self study from the state requires the inclusion of parent and community members. The broader our perspectives, the better the outcome. Please contact the office or the Assistant Superintendent of Special Education, Dr. Mildred Browne, to participate. The AT review has been a hard won volunteer effort that is ready to role out, but may die on the vine without a parent push. It is a good study and needs leadership.

I hope for the best for our community and leave with some sadness even as I look forward to this amazing opportunity for my family. I hope CAC can maintain some of the momentum we built over the last year. Thank you for the opportunity to serve and share these final perspectives.


Gina Hale
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