Testimony of Joan Fanwick to the BOE, January 30, 2020.

Good evening, my name is Joan Fanwick and I am in front of you to speak on Action Item number 20. I am a PFT member and part of the Caucus of Working Educators. We look forward to working with you. I am a special education teacher at Nebinger Elementary School and teach 3rd-5th grade Autism Support. I am here because a proposed 1.4 million dollars is at stake for special education consulting. This contract would discredit the opinion of special educators in the classroom as well as Office of Specialized Services, take money away from classrooms, and is vague and unclear as to its purpose, lacking transparency.

To my first point, by hiring outside consultants that are several layers away from a classroom they miss the day to day of what student’s needs are. One cannot understand what goes on in a classroom or a student’s life by just looking at the paperwork and numbers. Furthermore, after looking at the work of Dering Consulting, KJR Consulting, Manager Tools, LLC, and MGT Consulting Group none seem to have any expertise in the field of special education and all seem mostly business focused. (The Ellison group lacked any online presence.)  If the district is looking to improve special education procedures and processes they need to first turn to the professionals they have already hired.

Overall the action item could use clarity in exactly what the end goal is.  What is mentioned is Child Find, IEP Development and Management, student programing and placement. As a special education teacher, right now I do not feel we have the resources we need to provide these services to our students to the best of our abilities and there are better ways to improve these systems without outside consultants. Here are other ways we could spend $1.4 million to improve special education-

  1. Hire more school psychologist including bilingual psychologists.
  2. Give special education teachers lower caseloads, many teachers are over the state limit.
  3. Bring back more community based instruction trips which were cut in half from twice to once a month for 3rd-5th grade, which I was told the cost of the buses were too much.
  4. Provide special education teachers with the materials we need to properly implement programs such as paper and colored printing which is so important in a classroom like mine but I need to use Donors Choose and my own money to purchase printer ink.
  5. Increase the Special Education Assistant salaries so more people apply and there are less vacant positions to help make sure all IEPs are being followed. In addition, there should be extra Special Education assistants in buildings with complex needs classrooms for coverage when a Special Education assistant is out since there are almost no subs for these positions, which leaves students missing services they are entitled to.

In conclusion as a Special Education teacher I do not understand how $1.4 million is being spent on consulting when basics are not being provided for our students and teachers to help us plan and implement IEPs properly and the professionals who are in the classroom are not being surveyed for their professional opinions or needs. I urge you to vote against this contract.