I am going to be asking questions in my remarks today and I hope at the conclusion you will inform me how I can expect to receive answers to these questions.
You have before you today Action Item A-2: No cost contract amendment with Camelot Schools of PA to provide up to 45 contract ES teachers. I would like to note that there is always a “cost” to bad decisions, bad spending, and bad policy. The APPS analysis of this item poses questions which I am posing directly to you today: What is the teacher yearly retention rate? Are all teachers currently certified in Special Education? Does their pay and benefits equal that of District staff? Who is the company accountable to? Are these “contract teachers” trained in district curriculum? Do these teachers have access to district computer-based student information? Do they do the IEPs?
20 of the most vulnerable and difficult students are gathered up and shipped to one ES class. 20 students are too many. ES classes should have a classroom assistant. Many of these students’ IEPs call for 1:1 support. But, how many classes struggle for all or part of the year without these mandated supports? What system is in place for the district to monitor if contractual and IEP supports are in place? How is this information shared with the BOE and with the public?
The following is stated at the end of this Action Item: “The SD has successfully utilized the ES classroom model since September 2009.” Yet a year or so ago a video was shared with SELs and principals by Natalie Hess the supervisor for Special Ed noting how bad the current program is in support of some other “quick fix.” The video is no longer accessible but I’m sure it is archived somewhere for you to locate and view. Of the nation’s 10 most populous cities, Philadelphia has the distinction of having the highest rate of deep poverty. This translates to children, lots of children, dealing with the effects of poverty and trauma.
Will you seek information from the folks on the ground…the staff and families about how these ES classes are working? Will you as a board recognize that you can help your budget by putting 20 of the neediest children in a classroom with one teacher and maybe one classroom assistant, but you can’t help the children?