Testimony of Tasaday Messina to the BOE, January 30, 2020

Action Item 20

The  proposed 1.4 million dollars in contracts in Action Item 20 for  consultants for “Child Find, IEP development and management, student programming and placement, and providing central office staff continued professional development” seems far removed from the fundamental needs of our classrooms and our SPED students.

Please help us understand the expertise and experience sought from these consultants that cannot be found within our school system or within our key school partnerships and local universities and institutions.  Do these consultants have the credentials and experience of our SPED & OSS staff?

Why are we spending our limited dollars on consultants when we have OSS?  This proposal seems to imply that our PSD experts in OSS do not have the capabilities to analyze, assess, organize and implement basic standards and best practices..

Some of these funds could be better utilized to meet the immediate needs for our Sp Ed students and classrooms.

Why do we need additional funds to support and enhance “Child Find, IEP development and management, student programming and placement, and providing central office staff continued professional development” when our OSS staff are already in place to provide this.

As a special education teacher in the classroom, I believe this 1.4 million allocation for consultants is an example of how the District bypasses its internal and local resources and existing staff. It is another example of spending priorities that focus on consulting and central office work rather than spending that would directly impact its students in meaningful ways. Consultants aren’t necessary, but collaboration with our teachers who are experts in this field is indispensable. These are the people who know what is and isn’t working in all of the listed areas right now, and they could have great impact on recommending improvements for our SPED program that is best for our students.  In August I asked the school board if SPED teachers could be involved in making decisions. This proposed hiring of consultants feels similar to how closed the CSPR process has been. Where is the transparency for those of us who work in the classroom?

I am still sitting in a SPED classroom with students on the spectrum who struggle with pragmatic language. I am in need of social skills curriculums, have limited teacher guides for math & reading interventions, and lack resources and funding for meaningful curriculum based instruction.  We remain without thermal control in the room. Many of our sped class sizes exceed state mandated caseloads – the district is literally violating state law by having too many students in classrooms and on caseloads. We need to hire more teachers, not more consultants. 1.4 million could go a long way to address these urgent needs of our students and improve student outcomes.

We ask you to include us in this as we are Subject Matter Experts and qualified to provide informed direction and input into programmatic improvements for our Special Ed. program.  Our Special education teachers are valuable contributors to this process and are qualified in identifying gaps in resources and training and make recommendations on how to distribute these precious funds.

I am Tasaday Messina Member of the PFT and Caucus of working educators. We look forward to working with you.