24 Jun Special Ed Move Still a Concern (NJ)

June 24, 2010

By: Brad Leibowitz
Source: NorthJersey.com

Parents and teachers continue to be concerned about the Saddle Brook Board of Education’s decision to move two special education classes in the fall.

Due to budgetary concerns, two special educations classes will move from Washington School to Long Memorial or Helen I. Smith schools and two other classes will combine into one. Furthermore, the district is planning on incorporating a few classes from the Community School into the Washington building.

President of the Saddle Brook Special Education Parents Advisory Council (SBSEPAC) Lenda Fayez has been furiously fighting against the move. At the Board of Education meeting on June 9, she called the actions of the board, "ill thought out," and "despicable." She cited the move as "reverse discrimination to the special education kids."

"I want to make it clear that I understand the board has a tough job," she said. "I understand the board does all they can to make informed decisions and take the proper action. But in this case, the board is out of line."

Teri Quirk, a speech therapist who works at Washington School, is also concerned with the proposal. Quirk, who has been teaching in the district for 25 years, is worried about the impending case load she will take on when the move happens next fall. Currently there are three therapists in the district but one will be cut next year due to the budget.

She explained the amount of special education children cases she normally handles is anywhere from 22 to 26. For Quirk and her fellow therapists, a normal case load entails following the daily progression of each student, helping students with their needs, conducting testing and keeping track of each student’s progress throughout the year. Quirk fears that when the special education classes are combined, her case load will double. In her estimation, next year she might have to take on about 50 to 55 students.

"I know that you are faced with a difficult position of cutting staff in light of the recent cuts from state aid. However my concern is that if we do not have the sufficient amount of staff to cover the students and all the evaluations that come in during the course of the year, we will find ourselves very quickly in a situation where we will be out of compliance," said Quirk in a letter to Special Services Director Laura Thoresen dated April 27.

Thoresen declined to comment on the issue.

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