18 Jun Draeger Addresses Special Education in District (NJ)

June 18, 2010

By: Kelly Feeney
Source: Livingston Patch

Following a series of  meetings in which he met with parents to discuss the state of special education in the district, Superintendent Dr. Brad Draeger presented his findings to parents in a meeting on Tuesday night.

"I have a long-term commitment to this matter,"  said Draeger to the roughly 50 parents who gathered in the media center at the high school to hear his report, which he also presented to the Board of Education at the May 24 meeting (for a copy of his presentation, click here). "But I don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver; you want me to under-promise and over-deliver."

In February and March, Draeger met with parents of children receiving special education services to assess the state of special education in the district in response to some recent concerns about the issue.  He met with parents of children with special needs in all of the district’s schools; he also met with principals and Child Study Team members to gauge the status of special education services.

"Many felt that the overall services were good, if not great," said Draeger about the feedback he received from parents at the various meetings.  But Draeger noted that he recognized that not all parents in the district are pleased with the state of special education in Livingston. 
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"I recognize the challenges," said Draeger about appealing to some parents who are very dissatisfied with the program.

He outlined some of the problems he was made aware of during the meetings.  For example, parents don’t always know what special education services are available, Draeger said.  Also, there were complaints that the IEP (Individualized Education Program) assessment process takes too long.  Also, parents with children in out-of-district schools felt that Livingston could make more efforts to include these children in events and programs, he said.

"It’s going to take a series of months, most of the summer to make changes," said Draeger in response to some parents’ questions about when the district will start to improve on the problems.

Some parents requested that parents be able to add input in the search for a new Director of Special Services.   Draeger said that, yes, he would ask parents to help toward the end of the process.  He also noted that in the fall, some improvements would be made in schools to ensure Livingston was ADA compliant.

Many parents thanked Draeger for convening the meetings and for trying to work toward new solutions.

Still, others felt that the district has recently been placing far more emphasis on other areas, such as sports programs, at the expense of special education.

Draeger agreed that sports was a pressing issue, but urged parents of special needs to speak up more, too. But many parents, who didn’t want to be identified at the meeting, stated that the reason they don’t speak up on the issue is for privacy concerns.

& quot;Parents don’t want others to know their children are receiving special services," said one parent at the meeting.

Draeger, a parent himself, agreed.   But at the end of the meeting, both sides seemed pleased that even if there’s still some silence on the issue, the important thing is that the dialogue on the issue has begun.

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