OUSD special education legal woes on the rise?

Guest blogger Stacey Smith is an OUSD parent and volunteer who has served on several district committees, including the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education. What she writes about does not reflect the view of any group.

The Oakland Unified School District’s 2011-2016 Strategic Plan calls for “a significant decrease in the number of special education litigious and non-compliant cases” by 2015-2016, a legal problem the district blames on negative relationships and communications with parents and the community.

Unfortunately, data so far shows that non-complaint cases and litigation have remained the same or increased, attorneys’ fees are up about 50 percent, and the real problem may be program implementation and lack of critical student support.

Let me explain:

OUSD has long complained about the high cost of special education litigation and compliance complaints, claiming these costs create a barrier to providing better special education. The goal it developed is hard to measure when there are no specific numbers, dollar figures or percentages included as part of the goal — or even a description of how OUSD defines “litigious cases.”

But it’s budget time again. It seems like a good time to talk about how OUSD is progressing toward this vague goal and how that could affect spending decisions for 2013-14. This isn’t just an exercise in data crunching – there is a real child with special needs behind each case.

I’ve heard of a few high-cost civil cases over the years, and I wasn’t able to collect that data for this exercise. But if we’re going to talk about large numbers of cases that could generate high expense to the district and be targets for reduction, we should look at the two most common types of cases in special education: compliance complaints and due process filings.

In general, a compliance complaint is used when the district hasn’t fulfilled its commitment to the student or when it hasn’t followed specific special education laws or procedures. For example: not providing a translator for an IEP meeting, or not providing an aide or services the IEP says a student is supposed to have. Due process is for things like a disagreement about what goes into the Individual Education Plan, or IEP, or where the student will be placed. (There’s overlap between the two legal options and it’s confusing to everyone, so just know that from here on in if I refer to “compliance” I’m talking about compliance complaint data.)

OUSD’s strategic plan suggests that special education compliance complaints and litigation are directly linked to a lack of positive relationships and communications (Strategic Plan Focus 2C.6). Improve relationships, decrease complaints, decrease costs—so goes the district’s theory. CDE was unable to provide data on why due process cases were filed, but I received all the alleged compliance violations listed for the compliance complaints. Wonder if OUSD’s theory holds up?

Not really, according to data provided by the California Department of Education. The number one reason OUSD has been found out of compliance since 2008 has been the district’s failure to implement a student’s IEP. Last year this violation was cited in half the non-complaint cases.

This isn’t about relationships.

In fact all of the different compliance violations the California Department of Education found would have had a negative impact on the student’s special education supports or the creation of a meaningful IEP. The data suggests an ongoing failure by the district to provide the resources needed to help these students – repeatedly and over a long period of time.

OUSD says that the figures it used to develop the plan were 17 compliance cases and 20 litigation cases. OUSD hasn’t provided specifics on the figure it used for non-compliant cases, despite repeated requests. The numbers the district provides are perplexing because the strategic plan was initiated in 2009-10 and designed in 2010-11, but OUSD’s numbers don’t match the data from the Department of Education.

However, compliance complaints and due process filings seem to have since increased beyond those figures, especially if  due process filings and civil cases are included. It’s hard to predict what will happen during the remainder of this school year and beyond but right now it looks like OUSD isn’t on track to meet its goal.

Let’s talk money. Noncompliance has real costs, not only in terms of support not provided to students who need it, but also in terms of expense to the district.

If the Department of Education finds OUSD is out of compliance, it orders the district to fix the situation within a certain amount of time. Sometimes the department orders compensatory education or monetary reimbursement to families. For example, a family might pay for services the district failed to provide and then seek to reclaim that money. Compensatory education can also be a big expense, especially if it is provided by an outside agency. It doesn’t happen all the time; some Department of Education findings seem to just tell OUSD to start following the law and sometimes the district will correct the problem before the department orders action.

Due process is harder to quantify because the parties often settle before a hearing. Maybe the Office of Administrative Hearings could provide some clarification, but OUSD often imposes a gag order on families for both due process and compliance complaint resolutions so it doesn’t seem to want that information to get out. I was able to identify one due process hearing decision between 2010 and October 2012 with an expense to OUSD. The district was ordered to provide 255 hours of compensatory education to a student through a nonpublic agency with no other reimbursement costs. It seems fair to assume that there would be other OUSD expense as part of these confidential resolutions, too.

In addition, from 2009-2012, OUSD spent a half million dollars on attorneys’ fees. Over half of that sum covered families’ attorney fees. Unfortunately, OUSD did not separate out the different types of litigation in the spreadsheet they provided, so we know the expense but not how it was incurred. We also know the current 2012-13 special education budget allocates $350,000 for legal fees and $383,277 for “Payment to Family in Lieu Of” but not the basis for these budget figures. It’s like piecing together a puzzle, isn’t it?

The district has not answered my requests to produce a complete estimate of the cost of complaints and litigation, which would include OUSD personnel costs, the contractor fees for things like compensatory education, training and materials, and reimbursement outlays. If they are not tracking these items closely, they should be. These are the true costs that are hurting the program. Based only on the data available, the implied expense is staggering both in terms of time and money.

It also seems that legal costs are not the cause of failure to provide service, as the district so often claims, but rather they are the consequence of that failure. There will always be a few disgruntled people, but noncompliance seems too widespread to blame OUSD’s legal woes solely on poor communication or relationships.

An analysis of the data and information from OUSD staff show a systemic failure by the district to meet its obligations, repeatedly and often avoidably. Sometimes, even intentionally. One former special education director told me her policy was to never go to due process. She would let an issue go until the last possible minute and then resolve it before a formal hearing. It was a bet that most families would fold before making it that far, even when the district was at fault. It worked, but how much did that strategy cost the district during her tenure? How much did it cost the students? Is the strategy still used today?

When OUSD doesn’t fulfill its obligations, it reduces a student’s chance to be successful. That is the ultimate cost, which causes a ripple effect in the classroom, the school community and beyond. OUSD has had five special education directors in the last seven years and the position is open yet again. All of these folks have tried to address the situation to some extent, along with some extraordinary staff who struggle on through the ongoing lack of stability and uncertainty. But until program and budget decisions stop being imposed on the department, as they have for years with no regard for actual need, and until OUSD has the will to tackle the issue of support for these students district-wide, I’m afraid we’ll continue to see both the problems and the expense imposed by these conditions.

What do you think?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Ray

    It’s bad enough OUSD defined its special ed goals solely in terms of avoiding legal conflicts (rather than in terms of measureable goals to improve service to and performance by our children who receive special ed help). This post helps show the District is failing completely in its stated special ed goals. This is an inexcusable shame. Interesting that this news comes right as the state audit of OUSD financial management showed gross financial mismanagement. It seems that at the root of the problem are management that do not take their legal obligations and commitments seriously, combined with an organizational culture that does not value tight money management and is willing to rob Peter to pay Paul. New leadership is needed as soon as we can get it. It should not stop at a new Superintendent (without District connections) and new Special Ed Director. The incompetence extends to the Deputy Superintendent level as well- a thorough housecleaning is in order before the District falls further into disarray, at great cost to our students and teachers. Timid leadership will not repair this. I just hope the Board or the State have the courage to recognize how bad the situation is and make full-scale changes in District management.

  • In and out

    According to Smith and friends, everything was relationships, smiling and smiling, blah, blah. One month for him to go and we’ll see if the seasoned consultant to replace him will do anything.
    I am honestly surprised about the little money allocated for all the atrocities committed. If both sped and general ed. parents were just a little more informed, particularly in the flatlands, about their rights they should be inquiring into the general lack of compliance that regional officers and up are covering up. The principals are just at will puppets in the rhetoric of “leadership”. Blah, blah…

  • Nontcair

    Public education.

    Great news for lawyers.

  • https://www.facebook.com/timothy.terry.397 Tim Terry

    Mike Hutchinson writes about some of the larger problems with the wasting of our public dollars. Vernon Hal and the Board need to be held responsible. The stakes are too high!

    “A long-awaited and scathing audit of the Oakland Unified School District’s finances suggests that six years of state control did little to fix the flaws that led to the school district’s fiscal meltdown in the first place.
    The 300-page audit, performed by the state controller’s office, found 44 flaws in the school district’s handling of taxpayer funds, ranging from an error-plagued payroll departm…ent to an inability to balance its bank accounts or monitor bond money.
    “The district’s manual accounting processes and automated financial systems are so inadequate that they are incapable of consistently producing reliable financial records or generating rudimentary data,” said Jacob Roper, a spokesman for the controller. “With this latest audit, the quality of what was furnished by the district was so poor that the audit report had to be issued with no opinion.” – SF Chronicle 5/21/13

    Tuesday’s front-page story in the SF Chronicle is outrageous and confirms what many of us have been saying, that the district has been basing decisions on faulty information. The 2010-2011 audit, our first audit since 2007-2008, revealed that most of the same mismanagement that led to the state takeover persists. It is so bad that the state controller doesn’t trust any of the numbers the district has given them, and neither should we. Neither the public, the school board, nor the district itself knows what the real numbers are.

    This is unacceptable. Every budget cut, every fiscal decision, especially those made over the last five years was based on questionable data at best. The state auditor said that the data was so “poor” that they couldn’t reach an opinion. The audit of the 2010-2011 budget is important because it lead to a $30m structural deficit in 2011-2012 and the closing of five elementary schools to save less than $3m. Was there really a structural deficit? Did we really need to close schools? This audit should have provided some clarity and definitive answers.

    This audit will force the district to pay at least an additional 1.5 percentage points on $540m in bonds, potentially costing us tens of millions of dollars. The district’s mismanagement of the finances continues to cost us more and more.

    Over the last 12 months we have had two “accounting errors” leading to cuts in services and programs. Both times we were told that as a result of errors there was actually less money than budgeted. We have been fined almost yearly for being out of compliance with our budgets and finances.

    OUSD CFO Vernon Hal was in charge of the district’s finances during all of this. The blame for this mess lies squarely with Superintendent Tony Smith and Chief Financial Officer Vernon Hal. I was shocked to learn today that during the consent calendar the school board plans to renew Vernon Hal’s contract, for three more years. With just the few mistakes I’ve listed, that have cost us untold dollars and disruptions, Hal should be fired for poor job performance. All of the district’s top staff have their contract renewals in the consent calendar which should not be the way the process works. Back when the school board still had a committee system, renewal of staff contracts would go before the personnel committee for discussion before going to the board. This would allow public vetting, conversation, and comment. How can the public or the board members comment on all the district’s expenditures, especially the contract renewals, in their limited time. All of the contract renewals, especially Vernon Hal’s should be pulled from the consent calendar to allow for more discussion. Even if you support the district’s leadership, I don’t understand why we are in such a hurry to renew their contracts. Shouldn’t we at least see if there is a more qualified person, a better fit? Where is the national search? Much like the appointment of Gary Yee, why is this going so quickly and quietly with so little effort put into seeking alternatives? Lastly, we are presumably hiring a new superintendent next year that will be bringing much of their own “team” with them, so why are we renewing them to three-year contracts. I’m sure they’d take a one-year contract. If this is allowed we will only end up having to buy out many of the contracts.

    The state audit shows us that we can not always just take staff at their word. We should slow down, evaluate job performance and be aware of all of the options. If you cost the district millions of dollars you should be fired and your contract should definitely not be renewed. We need to ask our board members to at least pull Vernon Hal’s contract renewal from the consent calendar to allow further discussion.”

  • http://hotmail Mark

    Well, it is true, much must be improved.

    How can this occur?

    1. The School Board needs to hire a secondary person to work hand in hand with the special education department to report back to the school board on monthy progress.

    2. Will the current Sp. Ed. Director stay or leave?

    3. The school board will need to take corrective action. It will need to be a two year plan.

    4. A careful system will need to be done where each person responsible for some task will need to be checked up on from top to bottom by leadership.

    5. Someone with keen leadership (perhaps a leadership team of two people instead of one) will need to lead in ways that are kind, honest, and meaningful with results oriented acheivable goals set and checked up on each month.

    6. The special ed. teachers will need to meet by general grade levels… say elem. K-3, 4-6, 7-8, and high school so that they can use quality circle approach to glean information from eachother and help eachother network to make for more efficiency. Also, they can build relationships better with their peers to act as cynergy in moving foward from often difficult and task overwhelming situations in the trenches.

    7. Technology can also be used with SKYPE meetings from the district office to all workers so that driving would not even have to occur.

    8. Technology can also be used with proper development programs for each sp. ed. student. Often students can learn at home too, but the teacher must set up learning on websites for the student to log into and drive learning after school too.

    It may be that the entire special education department might need to be cut in half so that there are two departments with two leaders.

    k-6 department with director and staff


    7-12 department with director and staff

    this might make a big difference for all.

  • Stacey Smith

    It is true that the compliance issue is far greater than the numbers of complaints filed and even just the number of IEPs that are not reviewed annually numbers in the dozens – a fact publicly discussed as is the fact that there is no one school or region of the district that generating these issues it’s that systemic and widespread. The other really big area not discussed often enough is behavior, discipline and suspensions/expulsions which is a huge issue I’m hearing more and more about from families and community members. For example, students are not getting the support they need and are acting out in response or students are being disciplined for actions that are manifestations of their disabilities.

    In and Out: Remember that attorneys’ fees is not the same as settlements so that when board directors talk about the “millions of dollars” that OUSD pays out each year for non-compliance, as the board has repeatedly done over the years, those figures were not made available to me. I should note that the district has a new policy of bringing a lawyer to certain IEP meetings so I would guess the attorneys’ fees are on the increase even as I write this. I’ve heard about at least two or three more legal actions against the district since I first pulled the data together and these will most likely result in compensatory education and other expenses that the district has not shared.

    Mark, the Special Education Director resigned and is leaving as of June and there has been no word on how the transition will proceed. The district has hired two additional consultants for special education (bringing the total to 3 or more) and my understanding is that decisions are being made about budget, for example, with a consultant in the room instead of the director at the moment. Thanks for posting your suggestions — I especially agree with the need for more direct board oversight!

  • Del

    The concerns about Oakland’s special Ed department are myriad and are shared by students, parents, teachers, and site and district administration. Although many valid concerns are listed above, there is more to the picture as well. First of all, in terms of positive relationships, it is impossible to overstate the importance of their presence. Yes, no audit will ever fine anyone for a lack of a relationship, but the reality is that if parents felt they had someone to trust at the special education level, they wouldn’t need to sue. Often times in IEPs a special education teacher, site admin, and family will all be advocating for the same services for a child but the district level special ed representative will not offer the service. Much of that has to do with budgeting and fiscal constraints, and that is understandable by all parties… but the message must be provided in a way that makes it clear that the students needs are coming first, and if services are offered, the family and all stakeholders must have someone that they can check in with on a regular basis about timelines, etc. The reality is that everyone wants the exact same thing for the child—success. Only when a family no longer believes that the district wants success for their child will they call their lawyers!
    Secondly, we must acknowledge the huge drain on OUSD’s budget that special Ed is. Special ed services are (and should be) mandated at the state and federal levels—everyone is to receive a “free and appropriate public education.” But where is the money for this to come from? This is a classic unfunded mandate that impacts Oakland (where there is a higher percentage of special education students) more than other districts. Each child in a school brings roughly $6,000 a year to the district. But a child that requires a one-to-one aid costs $40, 000 a year to educate, without even figuring in bus transit (offered to nearly every child in OUSD’s special ed), school supplies, their regular classroom teacher, speech therapy, other adaptive services, etc. A child who needs “non-public” education can easily cost the district over $100,000 a year before transportation costs are even discussed. Now I am in full agreement with the letter and spirit of the law that everyone deserves a free and appropriate education, but obviously, that money has to come from somewhere and it simply doesn’t exist. It is obviously hard to implement an IEP if you simply can’t afford it… and even harder if an IEP calls for a one-to-one aid that the district then must find, hire, and train. People aren’t exactly lining up for those jobs.
    Lastly, to address some of the comments from Tim above, there seems to be some confusion as to timelines. the most recent audit was entirely about information from WHEN THE STATE WAS IN CONTROL of the district, and now OUSD is paying for the mistakes of the state administration in fines (the state is fining OUSD for the state’s mistakes). That is in addition to the loan that OUSD is paying back (to wells fargo) that the state took out on its behalf. And please remember that the state left the district in more debt than it found the district in. In short, this audit says nothing about last year’s structural deficits and nothing about Vernon Hal. Not that everything is hunky dory by any stretch, but please read the article carefully before pointing fingers.

  • Nontcair

    Public education is a CATASTROPHE.
    It CANNOT be reformed.
    It needs to be ABOLISHED.

    The private sector is perfectly capable of providing all the education services consumers really want, at prices which they’re willing to pay.

    This is all so obvious that the only folks who can’t see it are the Stanford types around here (see above).

  • Nontcair

    No doubt some large percentage of CA legislators are attorneys. Of course, among those who legislate from the Bench the figure must be up around 100%.

    The numbers at the federal level must be equally appalling.

    Is it any wonder then why we keep getting more and MORE of these burdensome and completely ridiculous regulations which, as KM/SS have alluded to, promote more and MORE costly LAWSUITS (and more jobs and higher incomes for *lawyers*)?

    We know that voting is a total waste of time, but do me a favor nonetheless: in any election for public office please don’t *ever* vote for an *attorney*.

    Of course, CA/US judges are *appointed*, but if their judgeships were won by popular election — as is the case in any number of US States — I would still recommend that you not vote for one.

    Frankly, attorneys holding constitutional office in the non-judicial branches — especially in the legislature — is a VIOLATION of Article 3 §3 (separation of powers).

    The fact that the Secretary of State never enforces this prohibition should clue you in that s/he is probably nearly *always* an attorney also.

    The fact that the various bodies never *expel* the attorneys in their midst … well, you get the idea.

  • http://hotmail Mark

    Dear Katy Murphy and Stacy Smith (poster of important blog issues)

    Could someone do a big article on why the current Special Education director is leaving. Could someone ask for comment. The reporters need to get out there and dig for information, and in that process, at least need to ask Mr. Smith about why the head of Special Education is leaving, and, well, it seems like the public needs to get a lot more information.

    or at least be notified.

    Did the school board issue any press release about when a new special education director will be hired?

    If not, why?

    I think we need to hold all people more accountable and ask the tough questions to make positive progress. This does not mean placing blame, just that, we need to progress foward better and get more information.

    If it is true that the current special ed. director is leaving, then have all the parents been informed? Maybe they should be. I am not sure.

    Maybe it should at least be a headline on this blog.

    or maybe not, I am not sure anymore about such things.

    It all seems confusing.

  • In and out

    While good relationships are important, they cannot substitute competence in a job. Regardless of how much compromising dirt he knows or handles, Hal should have been fired a while ago. Shame on the board.
    It is interesting that the same Jill Tucker that praised Smith on NPR when he announced his resignation (“leaving the district in better shape”)is now writing in the SFChronicle about the audit, which casts more than the shadow of a doubt on all the financial improvement propaganda.
    How come that the settlements paid with public money are not public domain (not necessarily who gets it, not to disclose private information of individuals)?
    Please, more in depth investigation!
    Thank you to all of you who contribute.

  • In and out

    When Flint, the well-spoken, always measured spin doctor gets defensive and worked up to write this:

    “Vitriolic attacks, many of them counterfactual, can’t mask that the state took over OUSD to improve its finances and left the district in worse condition then when it arrived,” Flint said. “Essentially, the state is auditing itself and holding OUSD liable for the shortcomings; it’s Kafkaesque in the extreme.”

    Then you know there is something going on.
    Read it all here.

  • http://hotmail Mark

    I wish to express this:

    I believe that many new teachers are always being hired at the Oakland Unified School District. The district has many paths for new teachers to be interns and work while they are learning. This means such teachers are green. Special Education requires top flight teachers that have high skill levels both in the classroom and with paperwork, extensive paperwork, that goes with the job.

    My point is, the district may need to find ways to ensure that high quality teachers in Special Education are kept on. The district must develop a seasoned group of teachers.

    By hiring new teachers over and over, the district may have saved monies in the short term, but maybe the extensive out of compliance issues have increased.

    This is why, I say, a very simple plan needs to take place. The principals of each school need to review all the teachers to ensure work is being done on time and correctly. More ownership by principals need to take place in my opinion.

    Also, as I stated earlier, more oversight needs to be done. More meetings that allow grade level teachers to work together, and such meetings need to be collaborative rather than top down led with the audience (teachers) just setting and listening to lectures.

    I say the district needs to be much more caring of teachers. Some teachers work, believe it or not, 70+ hours a week in Special Education. They do it and they need respect.

    So, a simple monthly check in for all teachers need to happen with files and lesson plans and all things checked and such.

    In my opinion, too often, there are friendly relationships that intrude on old fashioned work ethics which often lead to the highly qualified teachers leaving and the lesser teachers staying around.

    All comments are simply my opinions.

  • http://hotmail Mark

    One more thing…

    If the Oakland Unified School District has lots and lots of out of compliance issues, this would mean that the school principals are also to be held accountable.

    Therefore, I propose that the Special Education department be in charge of all decisions made with regard to the non-reelection of any Special Education teachers. What I am getting at is, the Special Eduation department may find that a Special Education teacher has good paperwork, and is meeting the mark as a teacher, but the local school principal may not wish to keep a teacher on. The Special Education teacher needs to be reviewed by both the Special Education department and the principal so as to ensure that top quality Special Education teachers are not let go if they are not subservient to principals whom they may disagree with etc.

    It seems to me, if there are lots and lots of issues with Special Education, lots and lots of Special Education teachers should have been complaining to their principals. What occurs may often be …


    That being said, the review process for all Special Education teachers needs to be changed in my humble opinion and the review needs to be balanced with oversight and approvals from the Special Education departments tied into the idea of monthly check ins etc.

  • Nontcair

    #6 wrote: I am in full agreement with the letter and spirit of the law that everyone deserves a free and appropriate education ..

    S/He then goes on to ask:

    But where is the money for this to come from?

    Since you’re such a BIG believer in the policy, why don’t *you* pay for it?

    Why do you want *me* to pay for it?

    I happen to think that I deserve a free and appropriate round of golf at the links. For instance, at Pebble.

    When you start paying for my golf I’ll start thinking about paying for someone else’s kid’s special ed.

    Well, how about it?

  • Jim Mordecai


    You have fingered one of the problems with special education and the question of who is going to pay for the services to provide with the spirit of Special Education law that everyone deserves a free and appropriate education.

    So far the answer has been the Federal government never has been willing to fully pay for its part of providing an appropriate education for all identified special education students. I am sure someone reading this can supply the percentage promised and the percentage the Feds have, at its peak, provided in funding for the Nation’s special education population.

    But, I read Mark’s and In and Out postings as a focus on how to better utilize existing funding and the existing teaching force to better deliver services to special education students.

    Therefore, I feel your comment missing Mark’s mark so to speak.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Stacey Smith

    The money thing is actually where it all falls apart for me and why wrote this blog post. The district started the school year,and went well into October/November,without teachers and key staff in place for special education students.The reason wasn’t that the money wasn’t there. OUSD cut or didn’t backfill positions assuming the board would approve program cuts in June 2012 and then when the board said “fully fund and staff the programs and don’t increase special day class sizes and caseloads” OUSD didn’t start hiring the next day or the next week or month. Avoidable loss of instruction, major safety issues, huge compliance fiasco and I’ll bet much more expensive than just hiring in the first place once you factor in compensatory ed and legal fees not even including general ed staff time, classrooms and other site disruptions.

    A few months ago the district did an internal audit and identified many special ed staffing “holes” across the district that were publicly discussed. Lost instructional time, safety issues and compliance violations again. Admin physically had to go into schools to count students and staff that’s how poor systems and controls are. That’s not about not having enough money to implement IEPs, that’s something OUSD should be able to know about any student or classroom easily.

    Last night at the board meeting, special education teachers spoke about untenable special day class sizes and not enough staff in place. And how as a group they tried to get the district to adopt caseload/class size limits but the district said no. The cost of all this: lost instructional time, safety issues and inability to comply with IEPs/the law. Seems to me that is about the Superintendent and staff not doing what the board told them to do and district actively choosing not to act to improve instructional quality, safety and compliance when given the chance. I can’t even understand that reasoning.

    Federal and state funding will never fully cover the costs of special education but that’s true for many populations. So why begrudge these kids some general education funds or Title I funds when its ok for other populations? Why not go out and look for grants? OUSD does it for other specific high need, low-achieving populations. Where’s the equity?

    My hypothesis is that if OUSD counted the actual cost of not supporting these students including legal fees and settlements, extended time needing more intensive services (research shows early intervention leads to less intensive support for many kids over time), teacher turnover, etc. that it would be far cheaper to just staff the programs, reduce class sizes and caseloads, pay competitive salaries to attract and retain qualified staff, and make sure all school and district programs are ready to support these students as they would any other student. I agree it’s really expensive but the broken way its been for years is really expensive too and isn’t improving outcomes. Education is expensive. Let’s get it right.

    Does anyone know of any studies that prove or disprove my theory? Districts where it all works? I know there are some policy-wonks out there quietly reading….

  • Nontcair

    McDonald’s manages to feed millions of people each year and *nobody* worries where the money will come to pay for it.

  • Nontcair

    [OUSD’s] 2011-2016 Strategic Plan ..

    Take a look at it.


    Complete bureaucracy in action. Released with great fanfare and relegated instantly to some (soon forgotten) password-protected folder deep within OUSD’s cloud.

    Your tax dollars at work.

    How many $150K+/yr administrators and $200/hr consultants were required to craft this monstrosity?

    The parts about environmental/green education/awareness was particularly remarkable. OUSD can’t even teach its graduates how to read their own diplomas yet it’s emphatic about some new, multi-year initiative to teach the kids how to separate the trash and reduce their carbon footprint.

  • Nontcair

    Something as bureaucratic-sounding as a “Strategic Plan” has to come out of some government regulation, somewhere.

    I don’t have the time to search through *thousands* of CA Education Code regulations in order to find the specific one which mandates that ridiculous “strategic plan” referenced above, but here are some representative sample plan mandates from it:

    §32280: It is the intent of the Legislature that all California public schools, in [K-12], inclusive, operated by school districts, in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies, community leaders, parents, pupils, teachers, administrators, and other persons who may be interested in the prevention of campus crime and violence, develop a comprehensiveschool safety plan that addresses the safety concerns identified through a systematic planning process.

    Then there’s:

    §51871.5(b): On or after January 1, 2005, as a precondition to receiving a technology grant administered by the department, a school district shall have a current three- to five-year education technology plan.

    Who knows how many regulations like these are buried in the code?

    If anyone around here knows the specific code number which governs production of OUSD’s Strategic Plan, please tell us what it is.

  • Frustrated Teacher

    If OUSD continues its practice of not providing the services that support the success of special needs children then they deserve to be sued. This is not about “relationships”…it’s about a failure to perform on the part of the District. Everyone responsible for preventing a child from getting the support necessary from the principal to the OUSD board should be held personally liable.

    Most teachers I know (even those with a few years of teaching experience) fill out the forms necessary to start the COST/SST process that is intended to assist special needs students get support. At that point, the problem beings. The school principal sits on them or according to members of the COST team “finds every excuse imaginable to deny the request”. While this goes on, the teacher uses every intervention strategy available and known in an attempt to support the success of their special need students.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that after the appropriate learning interventions of a teacher, if a child can not read or is reading at a level 2 or more years below his/her grade every year of school or can not demonstrate understanding of foundational math concepts then they require special support. However, good luck trying to convince a principal/administrator of this in OUSD. You’ll get some ridiculous comments about “waiting to see what happens” during the school year.

    Parents in the flat lands need to be educated on their rights, file complaints against OUSD with the appropriate regulatory agencies, and file a class action lawsuit against OUSD to realize some needed change. Better yet, let’s recall all of the OUSD board members and find replacements with current classroom experience, an understanding of how best to support student success, and genuine concern & love of children. After attending the last OUSD board meeting and observing the board members in action, I now fully understand why OUSD is a mess.

  • J.R.

    These bureaucratic people are primarily interested in their own personal enrichment, and if some kids get taught along the way, so much the better.


    Things never change from decade to decade because the same “type of people” find their way to positions of power for monetary gain.

    The acquisition of the almighty dollar a power reigns supreme, not the common good. There are also not enough highly intelligent, well schooled, and well trained leaders. We get stuck with under educated community activists who do not even possess common sense.

  • Kid Row

    Yikes, OUSD is unable to provide basic accounting. No one can tell what is coming in and what is going out. I find it hard to believe during the same week we learn this, Vernon Hal and David Montes are given a new contract through 2016. Both Hal and Montes need to be fired asap. This is a perfect example of how we waste money … and the children continue to pay the price.

  • J.R.

    Kid Row,
    The reason we don’t do better, is that we have a situation where the truly talented and intelligent people stay away from so-called public service, and only manipulative people who don’t know much of anything but how to delegate real work to other people. There is essentially no oversight in this district because these so called leaders aren’t very bright in real world matters to be able to see flaws and errors in the system. Take for example the ex-super, he has a Masters,Doctorate or whatever degree in language(something like that). Where else but education could you parlay that kind of niche limited use degree into that high salary? It wouldn’t happen in the real world of the private sector, that’s for sure.

  • J.R.

    Kid Row,
    Watch this video, and you will learn much about brazen,”what, me worry”? incompetence you will be astounded.


    It has been this way for a long time because the system set in place by law allows this without a system of stiff penalties.

  • J.R.

    Kid Row,
    Here is a good article that shows the political machinations that have always been present in this city. This broken system is due in part to having people lead who are not qualified in any way shape or form. Quan leads solely because of a not very well thought-out voting system. Not to worry though Jerry Brown is working to give OUSD and LAUSD more tax money to flush.

  • J.R.
  • Nontcair

    There must be a regulation within the CA Education Code which mandates that every public school district in the state publish a quad/bi/annual strategic plan like this one.

    This and all the THOUSANDS of other regulations *guarentee* that public education can NEVER be reformed.

    And it just goes to show you that no matter who OUSD’s next permanent superintendent is — be it Alfred P. Sloan, Alfred E. Kahn, or Alfred E. Neuman — things will only get worse.

    OUSD will still need to hire an army of $150K+ bureaucrats and $200/hr consultants to comply with the stifling and costly bureaucratic overhead required of a public school district.

  • https://www.facebook.com/timothy.terry.397 Kid Row

    According to the Randy Shandobil 1997 investigation (see J.R. says: May 24th, 2013 at 11:42 am) OUSD was spending $20M in 19997 on private contractors. This year they are on track to spend $100M. Duplication and wasting of public funds and it weakens the district. Take for instance the $1,208,614 given to Bay Area Community Resources, of San Rafael (see May 22 agenda) to run summer programs in a few of the schools. Now I am all for prioritizing summer programs, however why do we need to hire a consultant. It is symptomatic; these folks simply don’t know how to run a school system. Speaking of giving away our money away….did everyone see the exchange at the 5/22 meeting about the 20-year lease grant to a charter school. $3 square foot with no increase for inflation. Jumoke admitted she had meetings with the CA Charter School Association (remember their $50K donation for 3 candidates election in Nov. election) to come up with this idea. It would set a precedent for the other Charter school leases and considering Charters are renewed every 5 years it’s a complete rip-off. There are a lot of good people in our community who should be working as Teachers and District support positions and want to, but are forced to go to other districts. All around the budget and priorities are a mess, what can really be done about all of this? It breaks my heart.

  • Nontcair

    Anyone who would send their kid to public school special ed should have his head examined.

  • Special Ed Parent

    Thank you Stacey for the time, effort, intelligence, and passion that you put into each of your diligently researched articles. Thanks for always honoring our truly exceptional children by defending their right to a free and appropriate education in this and other venues. You relentlessly point to the contradictions and point the way forward with sound, common sense proposals that would prevent much harm and begin to make significant improvements. Sadly, very few within this blog are responding with genuine concern. There is a reluctance to contend with the very real life circumstances that our children are facing right now and the very concrete ways in which we can push this district to become more accountable to them. I am waiting for persons to pose more questions, more efforts to connect, the sharing of real-life experiences rather than grand over-arching statements that do not at all respond to the challenges that you are describing. (Thanks to Mark and the few others who actually contribute information and ideas.) The statements that are made about the cost of serving our students are usually exaggerated and keep letting everyone off the hook. They shift responsibility elsewhere when there is plenty of responsibility to be assigned right here in our district and city.

    It is only partially about money. It is mostly about the profound invisibility of children with Special Needs within every conversation, plan, and project that this district takes on, a silence which then endorses the silence at so many schools. A telling example of this was last week’s comprehensive and multifaceted presentation to the Board about high school graduation rates and other related outcomes. The analysis spoke of graduation rates across schools and cohorts, rates for particular sub-groups, high schools that excelled for those sub-groups, strategies that connected to rates, etc. Not once were children with disabilities mentioned though the data for them is gathered and available. They were dramatically invisible as children who can graduate and/or accomplish clear goals on their way to productive adulthood. The presenters were unconcerned with their success or too blind to even contemplate their participation in the educational system. I would have welcomed even one example of a high school that is striving to do right by its children with special needs.

    The truth about the process of educating children with special needs is that so many “professionals”, in a system that rewards a narrow set of numerical outcomes, make deadly calculations and flagrant wholesale assumptions about them. Our children are getting pushed out of classrooms, programs, school communities, and the district as a whole in the name of vague deliverables, specific school brands, and in the service of personal career aspirations and reputations.

    Teaching our children does not fit neatly within simplistic educational and policy vogue; it does not allow for short cuts and generalizations; and it relies on healthy connections and collaborations unsuited to a district that so many use as a brief pit stop on the way elsewhere and up the career ladder.

    The Special Needs and Special Education community, which includes all communities, stands at the crossroads of many intersecting struggles. Its striving is central as a test of how our society measures human potential and how it discards those who do not fit a standardized mold. So far; in its profound inability to think, speak, plan, and act for children with Special Needs in all of its initiatives and processes, OUSD is sending a clear message about how it measures their worth.

    It does not take an engagement process for OUSD leadership to understand that, as a start, classrooms need to be staffed, numbers need to be low enough so that the mostly new Special Education teachers have a fighting chance to teach, staff need time together to learn from each other and to collaborate, and principals must labor with clear guidelines so that they can remain accountable to our children in drafting and implementing plans with others at schools.

    Most families of children with Special Needs do not have the means and capacity for legal battles, though many wish they did. The unmet needs of our children continue to have dramatic impacts that rarely get accounted for or measured. Those among us who ultimately bring a lawyer, do so as a desperate attempt to claim some measure of access and dignity for our children. That is always a difficult step.

    Taking that step would become less and less necessary if some at or near the top of this district’s leadership would muster up the courage and integrity to openly and consistently advocate for children with Special Needs in a way that produces concrete improvements.

    Now. more than ever, is the time for that kind of leadership.

  • Nontcair

    The CA Education Code’s main body of regulations governing special education seem to be spelled out in PART 30, §56000-56865.

    Breathtaking in size and scope.

    Are those existing regulations enough for you, or should the Legislature enact several hundred more?

    Regarding your point that OUSD is not delivering “appropriate” special education services, is it your contention that:

    1) OUSD’s Third Army of special ed bureaucrats are too incompetent to understand/implement the regulations and that they should therefore be replaced, or

    2) Third Army is basically OK — heroic? — but that OUSD should hire a *Tenth* Army to reinforce them.

  • Peach

    Well said Stacey and Special Ed Parent.

    The school site level can be the second front after the district administration for improving the education offered to our children. Principals and site leadership may not know regs and they may be afraid to offer resources to sp ed teachers. It is the site that orders texts, assigns classrooms/speech rooms/psychiatrist offices. It is the principal and other leaders who promote inclusion of all classrooms in assemblies and other common activities.

    It is also at the site level that there is accountability. It is the site leader’s responsibility to ensure that instruction is happening, students are in classrooms learning, instructional aides are supporing the sp ed instructional program. It is the site leadership that supports collaboration between special ed staff and other classroom teachers.

    Parents have to take on the responsibility of working with school sites because this is not on the district agenda as SpEd Parent points out. It is difficult given that our children are bussed all over the city and moved every three years, but it can pay dividends. The extremely inexperienced principals in most schools will probably respond to this new information and constructive support.

  • Nontcair

    #32 wrote: The school site level can be the second front ..

    How many more regulations should Sacramento add to §52852 (schoolsite council)?

    Is OUSD out of compliance with 52852?
    Should OUSD hire more lawyers to get into compliance?

    Are parents of spec/ed kids failing to participate in SSC?
    Has OUSD placed legal roadblocks in their way?
    Should parents sue OUSD over *that*?

    Hey! The taxpayers just want to be LEFT ALONE. Why don’t you tax *consumers* take your entitled attitudes and costly lawsuits to another district or even another *state*?

  • J.R.

    Bureaucratic Jobs are one of the few things school districts in this state do well.


    All we need is more tax money. Easy Huh?

  • Nontcair

    Public education is one big *jobs* program. It’s not that difficult to calculate a ballpark figure of the extent of the taxpayer abuse.

    In a 100% privatized education system, probably no more than 50% of the kids in the state (il/legal both) would be willing to sign up. That’s *including* the kids already enrolled in private schools here.

    Around a fifth of those kids (meaning their rich sponsors) would be looking for a traditional 180 x 6h+ school “year” (@$25K).

    The rest (generally poor to middle class) would be looking for something like affordable private tutoring: Anywhere from 30-120 min per day, once or twice per week, (@$25/hr) for roughly 35 wk/y. We could also expect that half of these kids would “graduate” (ie a 50% attrition rate) by the age of 14 (after ~8 years).

    So what does all this mean?

    The number of kids enrolled in CA public K-12 is ~6.2M. K alone accounts for ~475K.

    Only about 265,000 kids statewide could be expected to enroll in kindergarten. Figure 20% of them will not be affected by this and take the traditional (expensive) private school path.

    Figure that another 20%/20% will search for the lowest/highest cost option (30/120 mins per week). The rest will buy somewhere in-between. Conservatively on average, ~100 min/wk per kid.

    An 8 yr, 50% attrition rate corresponds to an exponential decay rate of ~8.7%.

    Therefore 212K students will purchase, after ~8 years of schooling:

    212,000 * 100 min/wk * 35 wk/y * ∫exp(-0.087t), from t= 0 to 8 yrs

    This resolves to:
    (21,200,000*35)/-0.087 [exp(-0.087*8)-1]

    == -8,528,735,632)*(-½)

    == 4,264,367,816 total minutes (71,072,797 hrs)

    Similar modeling predicts that kids who’d choose to go on to the high school level would purchase 3,864,583,333 total mins (64,409,722 hrs).

    GRAND TOTAL: 135,482,519 hours

    A competent private tutor can work 2,000 hours per year.

    Therefore, CA really only needs 67,741 tutor FTEs to do the job.

    And don’t forget: that would be for one-on-one instruction performed by folks who, by virtue of them getting paid for producing results, obviously knew WTH they were doing.

    Of course, charges for babysitting would be extra.

    CA employs about *275K* teachers, plus at least that many non-teaching staff.

    Conservatively, that’s more than 8X the number of employees actually required.

    Like I started out saying: Public education is a JOBS program.

  • http://hotmail Mark

    Dear “Special Ed Parent,”

    Well, your post was very valuable. It says a great deal about life and people and plans.

    The thing is there is so much that needs to be done, that my view is for the leaders to become bean counters. They, with you, sit down and check in each month as to how things are going. Surveys are sent out. The things that are mandated to do, are checked up on, and done.

    Too often Special Education teachers have so much work to do that they become overwhelmed in some cases. This means that proper assistance and knowledge needs to be distributed.

    The main thing is for the school board to split the speical education department in two. Those who oversee the public schools that work under the Superintendent also need to become much more involved in working to ensure things under the special education umbrella are done. I am talking about those who oversee the principals and are not working in the Special Education department.

    The Special Education children all need mainstreaming. All. The mainstreaming must be meaningful and not generic.

    The beautiful thing about Special Education children is that they offer of the greatest gifts to all children. These children, no matter what disabilities, help our society by ensuring, over time, that changes do occur to respect and include all people of all races and levels of ability. The Special Education child helps everyone to respect and help others in ways that create healthy environments for all people.

    Often scaffolds are used to help regular education children to great levels as given to them by the Special Education departments. Think of this example.

    Lets say a child has a hard time swimming and is afraid of the water, and the child is getting older and needs to know in an emergency how to swim to the edge of the pool to safely get out etc. For years and maybe a lifetime that child may never learn how to swim. It may be a secret. Then one day, that child is given a sort of plastic round fun life preserver type of toy to put over their shoulders and with that scaffold tool, begins to find great joy and knowledge in how to kick. Then, after learning how to kick, they learn how to do the doggie paddle with hands cupped, then they travel all over the pool without fear. In time, through that scaffold tool, they develop confidence to swim short distances on their own without any tools.

  • Nontcair

    That 135.5M hrs figure represents the total amount of education services expected to be purchased during the K-12 careers of the kids entering kindergarten in the fall (the Class of 2027).

    That 67.7K figure represents how many tutors would be required to satisfy that aggregate demand in just *one* year.

    ow-OOOO-BAH! ow–OOOO-Bah! Error. Error.

    Clearly, only a small fraction of those tutors would be required in the first (K) year [f(t=0)/2,000)].

    But of course, you’d have to increase the number of tutors as the Class of ’27 moved up to first grade and the Class of ’28 entered kindergarten. And so on.

    In 2026 you’d finally reach the equilibrium state, wherein all grades would be occupied (assuming 0% population growth and all that).

    Hold on ..

  • http://hotmail Mark

    To conclude my point listed in #36, for I have learned that to truly understand, a person presenting information must clearly tie the bow and put down the analysis and conclusion…

    The Special Education children can offer the gift to the Oakland Unified School District of how new systems need to be in place that work.

    If the O.U.S.D. has a tremendous issue with regard to uplifting the reading levels of say 1/3 of all it’s students, then the Special Education students can lead the way in establishing good, cheap, working methods that uplift reading, and the regular education teachers can take and use the same systems in class for struggling readers who have not qualifed for the label of having a disability. The methods for remediation are the same between the Special Education studnet and the the regular education student, so the teachers can work together to get it together, to have a better positive impact on reading levels all across O.U.S.D.

    For example (a concrete example) there is a web site that helps children read. It costs a little bit of money, maybe, if analyzed $1.00 per student (if the entire district were to embrace it). This web site can be used at home by parents and better yet, students can self learn on it, and move into it each day. Contrary to simple logic, the use of computers and such things as cell phones are intact with poor or low income families so they can tie in easily.

    This web site is called: Razkids. I am not associated with this company in any way. I have used the program with a child and I really like the way it works. This company works with classrooms and charges a certain amount of money to work with a teacher. I say that entire schools can tie into it at a cost savings discount. Maybe the company might work with the entire district at a cost that is very low.

    The thing is, if we find ways to help students with special needs read, then the students who are not determined to have disabilities can be given the gift of learning by those Special Education children who have blazed the trail and led the way!

    Dibbles and Sipps are two other programs, but the problem is the Special Education teacher and the Regular Education teacher often does not have time to pre-plan well because of extra work related tasks. Care will be needed to stop the administration of schools from sucking up all the time from the teachers for once a week gathered lectures of information that really is of no great importance. Perhaps there could be a once a month meeting at the school and all other weeks could be silenced. This means the teachers could use the one day a week that is minimum day for private growth. That private growth can be logged into the computer for all to see, so that time is utilized wisely.

    The Special Education department may soon demand that the time wasted on weekly minimum day get to gethers is cancelled, thus, the regular education teachers may get this gift of time, from who, from the students with disabilities who have yelled out for better teaching, and better quality of education in all areas.

    Thank you Special Education Students and Teachers!!!

  • Stacey Smith

    First, thanks to all who have posted such thoughtful comments so far. Mark, loved the swimming analogy. I would add that some children will always need the life preserver – a critical support because it allows them to be in the pool with everyone else, where they belong. Second, here are a few updates for those interested:

    1. OUSD is interviewing this week for the position of director of Special Education (Programs for Exceptional Children). That’s all I know.

    2. At their 5/22 meeting, the board approved a pay raise and slight change in the position title for head of special education (“Officer” to “Executive” or something) and I think it is worth noting that there was not even the least bit of discussion around the change even though the board received an advance email of the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education (CAC) formal “Advisory Letter”. Among other things the letter asked that the position be changed to allow for more influence in implementing the program district-wide.

    Right now the special education director cannot make sites follow the law/support these students if they don’t want to, for example. There is little time or ability to coordinate across district departments. Plus there are decisions about the program that are being made from above and must be followed even if it is not necessarily in the best interests of the students. Many special education directors have been publicly cautious but frank about that over the years. For example, in February the special needs community was told that as of immediately they had to go through the “Options” process for placement for next year. A month after the Options process had closed for the district as a whole! There would be no tours available of the school sites, which general education families were able to have for months, only information about the special education program/classroom at a site. When asked if this change could be postponed until next year so everyone could have equal access to the complete process, the answer was that the decision had not come from the special education department and postponement wasn’t possible. It may have been well-meaning but whoever made that decision wasn’t thinking about how important the general school community is to these children and their families, many of whom have other children to think of, nor were they thinking about how inequitable the decision was to this singled out special population.

    My point: it would have been nice for the board to just ask a question about the position and the concerns raised by the community before voting last week. Does anyone know if the position description changed?

    3. The link to the CAC Advisory Letter is here:

    4. The State did do an audit of OUSD in 2010-11, while OUSD was under local control, and I was told the SF Chronicle report was referring at least in part to that audit. I couldn’t find the link to the audit, but the overall audit for all districts for that year is here: http://www.sco.ca.gov/Files-AUD/k_12_annual_rpt2010_11.pdf

    Speaking of accountability and influence, principals have been mentioned a few times here as being the main point of accountability for making sure special education students are well-supported at their schools. Any principals out there who want to comment on that? Share the challenges and/or share how you do it well at your site?

  • http://hotmail Mark

    The more I think about it, the more I firmly believe that people with disabilites have helped our world in ways we really do not grasp… Here are just a few areas one can search on their internet search engine to find people you know, but never knew, who have disabilites in our society… it is really thought provoking. Thank you Special Education Students and Teachers…

    Famous People with Mood Disorders – A mood disorder is a condition whereby the prevailing emotional mood is distorted or inappropriate to the circumstances. Types of mood disorders include depression, unipolar and bipolar disorder.

    Famous People with Tourettes Syndrome – The exact cause of Tourette’s is unknown, but it is well established that both genetic and environmental factors are involved. The majority of cases of Tourette’s are inherited.

    Famous People with Spina Bifida – Spina bifida falls into three categories: spina bifida occulta, spina bifida cystica, and meningocele. The most common location of malformations is the lumbar and sacral areas of the spinal cord.

    Famous People with Cerebral Palsy – Cerebral palsy (CP) is a term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious diseases that cause physical disability in human development. There is no known cure for CP.

    Famous People With Epilepsy – Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures. These seizures are signs of abnormal, excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain.

    Famous People with Dyslexia – Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that effects many people, it manifests primarily as a difficulty with written language, particularly with reading and spelling. Dyslexia occurs at all levels of intelligence.

    Famous People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – OCD is a psychiatric disorder manifested in a variety of forms, most commonly characterized by a persons obsession to perform a particular task or set of tasks.

    Famous People who Have and Had Dementia – Dementia is the steady progressive decline in cognitive functions due to damage or disease in the brain beyond what might be expected from the normal human aging process.

    Famous People with Hearing Impairments – A hearing loss is a full or partial decrease in the ability to detect or understand sounds. Hearing loss can be inherited If a family has a dominant gene for deafness.

    Famous People with ALS or Lou Gehrigs Disease – Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or Maladie de Charcot) is one of the most common neuromuscular diseases occurring worldwide today.

    Famous People with Club Feet or Foot – A clubfoot, or talipes equinovarus (TEV), is a birth defect. The foot is twisted in (inverted) and down. It is a common birth defect, occurring in about one in every 1,000 births.

    Famous People with Schizophrenia – Schizophrenia is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a mental illness. A person with schizophrenia may show symptoms like disorganized thinking, hallucinations, and delusions.

    Famous People – Speech Differences and Stutter – Stuttering is generally not a problem with the physical production of speech sounds or putting thoughts into words. Stuttering has no bearing on intelligence.

    Famous People who had and have Polio – Poliomyelitis, polio or infantile paralysis is an acute viral disease spread primarily via the fecal-oral route. Spinal polio is the most common resulting from viral invasion of the motor neurons of the anterior horn cells.

    Famous People with Parkinsons Disease – Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that impairs motor skills and speech. Early signs and symptoms may sometimes be dismissed as the effects of normal aging.

    Famous People that use Wheelchairs – Well known people who use wheelchairs since birth and later in life. Wheelchairs are used by people for whom walking is difficult or impossible due to illness, injury, or disability.

    Famous People who have and had Vision Impairments – Sight Impaired is vision loss that constitutes a significant limitation of visual capability resulting from disease, trauma, or a congenital or degenerative condition that cannot be corrected.

    Famous People with Multiple Sclerosis – MS is a debilitating disease affecting the brain and spinal cord. No one knows what causes MS. It may be an autoimmune disease when your body attacks itself.

    Famous People with Asthma – Asthma is a chronic condition involving the respiratory system in which the airway occasionally constricts, becomes inflamed, and is lined with excessive amounts of mucus, often in response to one or more triggers.

    Famous people with Aspergers Syndrome – People with Asperger’s Syndrome are often described, as having social skills deficits, reluctance to listen, difficulty understanding social give and take, and other core characteristics.

    Famous and well known Amputees – Amputation is the removal of a body extremity by trauma or surgery. A prosthesis is an artificial extension that replaces a missing body part.

    Famous People with a Cleft – A cleft is a congenital deformity caused by a failure in facial development during pregnancy. The term hare lip is sometimes used colloquially to describe the condition.

    Famous People with Meniere’s Disease – Meniere’s Disease usually affects only one ear and is a common cause of hearing loss. Named after French physician Prosper Meniere who first described the syndrome in 1861.

    Famous People with Psoriasis – Psoriasis is a disease which affects the skin and joints. It commonly causes red scaly patches to appear on the skin. The scaly patches caused by psoriasis are called psoriatic plaques.

  • In and out

    Well, Stacey, for starters a good question would be directed at special ed parents mostly in the flatlands. How long did your principal stay during your IEP meeting? Did the principal by any chance show up for a few minutes to bless and sign (without much clue of what had been signed)?
    But, again, look into those who supervise the principals. The principals are only the first line of at will administrators, the pawns of geniuses of the stature of Smith, Hal, Montes and other careerists.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BridgetheChasm Charlie at Bridge the Chasm

    Stacey – great article and thanks for participating in the blog.
    Bloggers – fabulous stuff.

    So what specific actions should we (those of us participating in this blog) take that will resolve not only the cost/budget issue, but also the fact that children are being abused by not having their IEP implemented?

  • Sue

    Thanks for a great question, Charlie.

    As a parent of a Skyline high graduate who has autism, and had an IEP every school year from pre-k through his graduation, I can’t begin to express how much it means to have other people interested in advocating for kids who need it.

    My husband and I had the courage and the knowledge to be successful advocates for our son, and whenever asked we were always willing to help other parents get the services their child needed. So many parents don’t have what they need to be successful in their dealings with the district. It’s not their fault, but they need help understanding what their child’s rights are, and help not being intimidated by district representatives who are more interested in protecting the district than in serving a child.

    If you or anyone wants to help, get to know the families, learn their rights and legal terms to use, and support these families. Can you attend individual IEP meetings with families and become their advocates when they can’t successfully advocate for themselves? Familes can have another person join them at meetings and help them with the IEP process.

    Fixing what’s not working in the district means just that, advocating successfully for one child, and then for the next one, and the next… until all the kids are getting the services they need.

    Once we get *all* the children receiving the education they have a right to, then these lawsuits against the district won’t be necessary anymore, and that would be great for the district’s budget too.

  • Sue

    Oh, and, please consider not just attending the meetings to write the IEP, but visiting the schools afterwards and verifying that the IEP is being followed, too.

    We didn’t run into many of them, but there were a couple of teachers who “didn’t believe in IEP’s” and wouldn’t follow them – had a middle school principal change a grade when the PE teacher wanted to fail our son for participating in his regular street clothes (he loved PE but didn’t have enough executive functioning to remember his gym clothes every day) which was out of compliance with his IEP.

    The greatest IEP document is useless if it isn’t being followed.

  • Stacey Smith

    Charlie, the simplest answer I have is more education, more responsibility, and more accountability – and when I say accountability I mean consequences and rewards. And I echo many of the recommendations above. But specifically here are my top three:

    1. Lower special education caseloads and class sizes right now, keep it that way and make sure priority for any additional hires needed to manage that change goes to dual-credentialed or fully, non-emergency credentialed teachers. Special education teachers need the time to provide the specialized instruction students need, monitor goals and student progress, case manage IEPs, and working to make sure their students are included in the school community –and that includes time for professional development and coaching from great teacher-peers. An overworked teacher, especially a “green” or poorly trained and supported one, potentially brings harm not only to the 10-35 students they are supposed to be helping but also the entire school community which can be hundreds of students and staff. The teachers have begged for smaller caseloads and class sizes and the union is making it a key contract issue: http://www.change.org/petitions/oakland-unified-school-district-governing-board-sign-a-fair-contract-now?share_id=uTWJdNqntY&utm_campaign=signature_receipt&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition

    2. Adopt aggressive academic and non-academic measurable goals for special education student performance and other students with special needs, linked to current state and federal goals for this population, and it must hold the highest expectations for this population district-wide, with all departments sharing responsibility for that success. The group that comes up with these targets must include special and general educators, principals and members of the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education and other special needs stakeholders and there must be special needs representation of all grade levels (preschool, elementary, middle, high, young adult). It can and should be done by June 30, 2013. The new goals must then be integrated into all key district documents and performance measures starting with the Community Schools Strategic Site Plan or other site plan so that schools will be able to modify their plans and budgets by early fall accordingly.

    3. A formal letter should be sent within the next month to the Federal Office of Civil Rights from special education/special needs and general education families, all OUSD unions, and other key community stakeholders asking for an immediate civil rights investigation of the district and action, including possible takeover of the certain district functions, to end the ongoing discrimination against students with disabilities that the OUSD board and top leadership condone.

    I’ve thought hard about this one and after this last year I can only say the willful negligence of the OUSD Board to fulfill its legal, fiscal and moral obligations to these children is breathtaking. All year the board has had people from every level of the district come to its meetings and report on crisis after crisis affecting special needs students and their school communities. The lack of instruction, the unsafe conditions, the huge compliance issues that are far greater than the figures I shared in this blog. (Check out Angela Woodall’s Trib article: http://www.insidebayarea.com/breaking-news/ci_23362134/oakland-unifieds-special-education-director-leave-june-30). And folks publicly testified to the fact that the Superintendent and his staff have completely ignored the Board’s directions of last June 27th to fully staff the program and keep class sizes and caseloads from increasing much less the other engagement and education components.

    In the face of all of this evidence the Board has consistently failed to hold both itself and the Superintendent and OUSD leadership accountable. It has allowed the work of the Strategic Plan to continue for years while these children remain “profoundly invisible,” in the words of one advocate, and ignored within the district’s work and the work products that are then supposed to guide and inform OUSD’s future work. I am finally convinced that since the Board cannot act responsibly someone else must step in to make them. These children and their families and school communities have waited too long already and have suffered far too much harm. As a community, regardless of our individual roles, we can no longer stand by and let it continue to happen.

    Of course, that’s just my opinion. Anyone else want to chime in?

  • http://hotmail Mark

    Yes, the special education departments must hire only fully credentialled special education teachers.

    The following is just my opinion, and perhaps wrong, but I believe it currently.

    I think the administrators (Principals and Vice Principals) of elementary, middle, and high schools like to hire green teachers. These teachers are often under a five year process to be considered off probation or something like that.

    So, it is my opinion that the administrators like to hire green people because the green people will never express a difference of opinion in how an operation should be run. This means, any out of compliance issue would be kept silenced by the green hire. This is the current, alive and well, process of hire at O.U.S.D. in my opinion for Special Education.

    The decade of this going on has gradually caused great out of compliance issues because the green teacher cannot do both teaching, quality writing of individual education plans, and study for tests and papers due at fast paced on line university want to be teacher intern pathways.

    The definition of an intern is murky. An intern falls under a different category than other teachers that are in self enclosed classrooms. The intern has unique agreed upon qualifications of classwork that allows them to teach full time, alone, in a classroom. It is different than an emergency credential teacher. The intern teacher passage way has caused, in my opinion, a devaluation of the complicance issues at schools.

    I hope that Stacy will fight to ensure that no intern programs will be used in Special Education in the upcoming year.

    There are just too many seasoned, fully credentialled, Special Education teachers, looking hard to find jobs.

    The Special Education department will need to fight for fully credentialled teachers and they will need to take over for the classrooms that are far out of complicance in many areas.

    It is that simple.

  • http://hotmail Mark

    The school board can intervine and ask the personell department to only offer all schools Special Education teachers that are fully credentialled for year 2013-2014. Someone with integrity will need to report to the school board the input of any fully credentialled Special Education teacher who applies to the teaching pool for O.U.S.D.

    Otherwise, there are secret ways a substitute teacher can roll over to a full time intern teacher in the Special Education classrooms which of course have caused that fully credentialled Special Education teacher, that maybe is a bit older, with maybe not that perky smile or quick walk, to be passed over.

    I want to express that the intern teachers are often not doing things correctly in my opinion. They lack seasoned experience. Often, and this is my opinion, they leave the profession as they get consumed in situations that they wish to leave quickly.

    Perhaps the most important thing that the intern teacher might find hard to do is the preplanning for each day. Can you imagine having say tests on Friday, two papers due in one week, and constant reading on general subjects regarding education, combined with handling each child in unique ways according to the I.E.P.

    I guess, maybe, there is age discrimination at schools, for the older applicant, in my opinion, with the full credential, needs to step in front of the want to be teachers, who think they are teachers, after quick classes for a month, and some check in by a visiting helper.

    Well, that is not working, and the school board may demand fully credentialled teachers take the Special Education jobs.

    However, and I am not sure, I think organizations such as Teach for ******* may offer the district some kind of financial kickback so that this organization and others are wanted in O.U.S.D. because of some kind of financial perk kickback.

    Only, in my opinion, taking such kickbacks have caused those in higher leadership to receive a so called kick in the pants. And worse, it caused children and parents to get low quality education.

    Let it be also known that any intern of any classroom needs to have a letter sent out to all parents of all children in that classroom that the teacher is learning to be a teacher but is not fully credentialled.

    Is this going on. Has there ever been such notification to parents at any school. Has this notification mandate been followed? Has this mandate been discontinued?

    I do not know.

  • J.R.

    If only it were true that he reason for decades of district-wide apathy and low performance were solely because of green teachers. The Historical record of this district says otherwise, failure has been around a very long time and you should never discount motivation and passion in ones work. The difference between not so good,good and great have far more to do with mastery of subject matter,perseverance,diligence and love of teaching kids. Years of teaching(beyond 5-7)are way down the list. The personal emotional makeup of teachers is what counts.




    Yet the most important and overlooked aspect of education is the home life, where often(in the inner city anyway) chaos reigns. Unprepared, unskilled,unemployed,and uneducated parents for the most part do not tend to produce well prepared,diligent, educable children. Until we start speaking truth, things will not get better.

  • http://hotmail Mark

    In response to J.R. on comment #49, I hear you but wish to state the following:

    The history of O.U.S.D. in the past, regarding Special Education, involved a great deal of complaining by the teachers in Special Education. I think if you ask veteran Special Education teacher from O.U.S.D. they will tell you that there has been an exidous of seasoned Special Education teachers at O.U.S.D. because their complaints were not answered well.

    So, and this is my opinion only, the flood gates were open wide at O.U.S.D. by high level district management to hire intern teachers at the bottom pay scale and the seasoned Special Education teachers were not taken care of well, so many left.

    In my opinion, the O.U.S.D. cares to just keep hiring green teachers, but not to ensure that seasoned ones stay around. If the seasoned teacher leaves, then that is considered OK because a green intern teacher will fill the place with a bright face irregardless of the age. But then something happens. Turnover, because the green teacher may find that the entire job is not suited to him or her.

    The seasoned Special Education teacher also, has no classes to take, no studying educational theory, and instead can focus all his or her time to the daily work in the realm of Special Education. The resource teachers are overworked. They have to take great time to preplan lessons for all children of different learning levels. The Special Day Class teacher also has lots of work to do each day. They deal with behavior, preplanning of lessons, planning lessons for the instructional assistant(s), communication with parents too.

    Often the reading levels of students are three or more years behind, so the Special Education teacher must preplan exciting and inventive ways to get older students to buy into the reading process.

    O.U.S.D. has spent how much on studies from outside groups. A lot, that is for sure. When if O.U.S.D. is to have good leadership, it needs to carefully sharpen the right questions for the future:

    1. How many intern teachers in Special Education exit the district and what is the average # of years they work at O.U.S.D.?

    Also, With these intern teachers, how much of what they do in teaching and in writing I.E.P.’s are in compliance each year (who checks on this)?

    2. What is the same question when the district hires a teacher who is fully credentialled. How long do they last and what is the quality of their teaching and paperwork each year.

    Only if the district takes the time to ask such sharp questions can a direction of banning all interns from teaching Special Education be adopted.