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Upcoming changes to MDUSD special education programs

By Theresa Harrington
Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 at 7:23 pm in Mt. Diablo school district.

The Mt. Diablo school district held a meeting for parents of special education students Tuesday night to discuss upcoming changes to Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), the Middle School Continuum of Services and Programs; Autism Programs; and Transportation.

Here is a link to the PowerPoint presented at that meeting:

Unfortunately, I arrived a bit late and missed the introductions from Mildred Browne and Lorrie Davis.

Below are links to video clips of other portions of the presentation:

Christian Patz speaking about AAC Services:

Carolyn Patton speaks about middle school programs and begins speaking about autism programs:

Patton continues explanation of changes to autism classes:

Patton explains the district’s efforts to maintain a continuum in autism programs and talks about projection letters being sent to parents:

Here’s an overview of the classroom changes from the PowerPoint:

– Intensive Program Being Consolidated at Walnut Acres Elementary
◦ Two Classes (K-2 and 3-5)
◦ Classes moving from Silverwood Elementary and Ygnacio Valley Elementary
– New Strategic/Benchmark Class at Ygnacio Valley Elementary
– Mountain View Strategic/Benchmark Class moving to Pleasant Hill Elementary
(She also said Sequoia Elementary will get a new Severe Handicapped class)

Middle School
◦ Continuing Autism Program at Pine Hollow (New teacher)
◦ Continuing Spectrum Collaborative Programs
◦ New Strategic/Benchmark Program at Foothill MS
◦ Expansion of Magnet Program
High School
◦ Continuing Spectrum Collaborative Programs
◦ Ability to Expand High School Magnet Program at Concord High
◦ New Program at Ygnacio Valley High if needed (CVHS program if students opt out of charter)

Patton takes a break from PowerPoint to introduce herself and explain her background and special education philosophy:

“If we can reach agreement on goals,” she says, “we can almost always reach agreement on where those goals can be met.”

Patton talks about transportation and says she anticipates there will be “impacts” based on recommendations made after a FCMAT study on transportation and special education is completed:

Patton said there won’t be any changes to transportation for the extended school year. She anticipates FCMAT will take six weeks to complete its report, so the district may not have any recommendations to share for about five weeks.

What is your reaction to the upcoming changes?

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42 Responses to “Upcoming changes to MDUSD special education programs”

  1. Anon Says:

    So basically. They called this meeting wwith short notice to tell parents they have no idea what’s happening and won’t know for 6 weeks…..well into next school year planning for parents. Hmmmmm. What is the district going to do next. The call went out to all special Ed parents and the meeting focused on autism. What about the ld kids? Are they going to start teaching them to read and do math?

  2. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The meeting also focused on AAC, middle schools and transportation. But, the district won’t know for five or six weeks what changes to expect in transportation. The “projection” letters will be sent out June 8, so changes regarding placement will be coming up quite soon.

  3. Leesa Says:

    Special Ed teachers were not told ahead of time about these changes. They were not even invited to the meeting. There has still been no communication from the district regarding the changes to Autism classes.

  4. Anon Says:

    So now the parents who need the most support and answers can’t go to their teacher like they were told to do. The District is flying by the seat of its pants. This is just terrible. I do know they are moving a very dedicated teacher from Hidden Valley to Bay Point. Lucky Bay Point but the kids in her class at Hidden Valley will suffer a Great loss. I just don’t understand what they are thinking.
    Perhaps they have the CAC way too involved. Remember these are the people that had no clue how an IEP works and tried to put fear into people during the CV battle.
    Now no one at the District is returning calls! so much for working as a team. I just don’t understand why it is so hard to plan and give real information. All they are doing is freaking out the parents!

  5. Theresa Harrington Says:

    There was one teacher at the meeting whom Patton said was very popular at Mountain View Elementary. That teacher is being moved to Pleasant Hill Elementary and will have to recreate her “motor room” there, Patton said. Although the teacher now teaches students in grades 1, 2 and 3, she will be limited to two grade levels, according to the new plan.

    The CAC did not seem to be driving the changes. Patton said the Superintendent’s Council asked that special education programs be limited to three at each elementary site, due to the elimination of vice principals. The CAC asked for the meeting so that parents would be better informed about upcoming changes, which had been communicated to the CAC, but not to the greater community.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    @Leesa#3 Better check with MDEA — typical Lawrence habitual procrastination and unprepardness. Trying to cram down our throats his half baked ideas of change because of the lack of leadership in the district.

  7. SR Says:

    The issue is that they are violating the rights of students with IEPs and 504 Plans under IDEA 2007. When you move a child from one placement to another, that requires prior written notice and the opportunity for the IEP Team, and most importantly the parents (and student when appropriate) to participate in the decision.. Look up IDEA 200 FR34. Prior written notice is NOT a “projection letter”! They are claiming that this is a location change only and not a program change for students affected, but they do not have the same services and supports available at the campuses that some of these classes are moving to. Patton refused to answer my direct questions regarding this at the meeting in any meaningful way. And, once again, transportation will be a total disaster with complete lack of planning in the fall. Disgusting! Sad for the students most vulnerable in the district.

  8. Anon Says:

    @SR, You are right. They would be in violation and that is where the law suits will come from. I would imagine that the transportation could not start until the following year. And they can not move students without IEP meetings. Placements are written into the IEP so this summer will be extremly busy. Fortunate for the district many parents just do what the District says and they don’t realize that what steps need to take place.

    What did they say at the meeting about the Assistive Technology timeline? I heard they were pushing it out to 90 days. I am not sure they can do this either. I believe the law says 60 days for assesments.

  9. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Anon, unfortunately, I missed some of the Assistive Technology portion of the meeting and I didn’t see a timeline mentioned in the PowerPoint.
    However, questions about that can be directed to Christian Patz.
    Here is the department’s contact info:

  10. SR Says:

    @Anon #4. I have contacted the CAC on a number of issues and received no direction other than to come to the meetings. Perhaps I should have done this, however, it has been my experience that the district does not listen in an IEP meeting when an attorney is present, so I assumed it would be a waste of my time to attend a CAC meeting where more likely than not there would be no response from District and that is provided a District rep. is in attendance. The CAC has no power or influence with District Decisions.

    @Anon #8, the district has to respond to a request for evaluation within 15 days and if they deem it appropriate for an evaluation (AT, Psych, OT, Speech, etc..) they have 60 days to conduct it and hold an IEP.

    Our Special Needs students will not get an education in this district until we as parents come together in a meaningful way.

  11. Theresa Harrington Says:

    There are several special education items on Monday’s agenda, including this item, which mentions the FCMAT study:

    Here’s the entire agenda:

    Special ed items are 16.11-16.17 and 16.21, along with the third interim report at item 16.2.

  12. Doctor J Says:

    Wow, Oak Grove parent files police report — another instance of a Principal not notifying the parent that a student has been injured — this time from bullying and retaliation. Rose Lock “investigating” ? How many weeks — or should I say, how many Board meetings of Katherine complaining — before Lock called Katherine ? Hope the police file charges — maybe that will wake up Lock, Lawrence and company ?

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I have also confirmed that a police report was filed April 3 regarding allegations that a Sun Terrace first-grader inappropriately touched another student in a sexual way. Police did not file charges, since it cannot be proven that a first-grader has criminal sexual intent, said Lt. Garrett Voerge.

    “Administratively, what was going on in the school, I don’t know,” he said. “Clearly, from the report, there was nothing to indicate a criminal sexual intent by a first-grader, nor could there be legally.”

    I had originally heard about this from a parent of one of the victims, who told me she was not informed about the incident by the school until days later — after police had interviewed her child.

    However, Voerge said police do not interview children without informing parents, so it’s still unclear to me exactly what happened.

  14. Parent@MDUSD Says:

    The district phones are all going to voice mail, I think they and many school principals are just trying to outlast the parents til the 14th of June. What a mess!

  15. District Parent Says:

    If the district does the IEP and I do not consent to the change in placement, what happens next? Does my child stay in the same placement?

  16. CW Says:

    As parent of a child who is going to be transitioning in a few weeks from an autism class at the George Miller Center to one of the MDUSD preschools (placement still TBD), I was totally frustrated by all the jargon used at the meeting. I got that SDC-SH was the most severely affected kids and that SDC-LH was the next step up. But I have no clue what “strategic” vs. “benchmark” vs. “intensive” vs. “magnet” means in plain English. Ms. Patton kept throwing them around as if all parents at the meeting would obviously know what the heck she was talking about.

  17. District Parent Says:

    @CW, I didn’t understand it either. I still do not know what those terms mean.

  18. Theresa Harrington Says:

    CW: I interviewed Patton today and will post the explanations for those terms.

  19. Doctor J Says:

    Lawrence eliminates Delta View bussing; DV Principal suddenly retires. Connect the dots. Perhaps Nancy Baum was a little too outspoken for Steven. Also, note the sudden retirement of PHE Principal Jennifer Voris. The Elem Principal Pool needs to be bigger. What if they don’t have enough candidates . . . again ? Will they open a “third solicitation” ? No wonder they had to recruit from Secondary earlier in the month.

  20. Theresa Harrington Says:

    At the special ed meeting, parents were told that Voris was very supportive of moving the autism program from Mountain View Elementary to Pleasant Hill Elementary. The teacher is going to have to re-create her “motor room” there. Overseeing this would have been an additional responsibility for Voris and will be for the new principal. Voris’ departure could be unsettling to special ed parents — and the autism teacher — who were seeking reassurance about how smooth the transition would be.

  21. Doctor J Says:

    Both retirements were sudden — not on the agenda Thursday night, but appearing this morning. Baum was hand picked to succeed Petersen at Delta View to maintain their massive API gains, and it was not supposed to just be a two year gig. But Nancy was never known to be a quiet mouse — she often spoke up to protect her staff and students. Push come to shove, she likely walked the plank to retirement rather than put up with Lawrence’s sleight of hand on the Delta View bussing. She voted with her feet and after June 28 she may have lots to say about what really happened. As for Voris, she is very devout and would not tolerate lies either. I suspect that what was portrayed at the Spec Ed meeting was not the truth. She also walks the plank for the truth and won’t be beholden to pretend something is true when it is not.

  22. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I agree those two retirements were not originally posted with the agenda, when I checked it yesterday morning.

    The attachment is dated Friday, June 1, but doesn’t say when it was added:

    I continue to urge the district to develop a system for alerting the public when attachments are amended after the agenda is first published. Thank you for bringing these additional retirements to the public’s attention.

    I also am very surprised the district removed the original bond resolution from the April 23rd agenda. These agenda packets are supposed to be permanent records of the meetings. When an original resolution is completely deleted from the record, the public has no way of knowing what was changed.

  23. Flippin Tired Says:

    It’s not a motor room, it’s called a Sensory Integration Room. It took dozens of people hundreds of hours to create it. Mrs. Huston was the driving energy behind the room. She did the research, scrounged up the funding, got people to volunteer their time and talent. There is not another one like it in the district – so absolutely, take the kids away from it. Why not move the other SDC classes out and put all the Autism benchmark classes at Mtn. View? That makes more sense. The principal there is wonderful.

  24. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#22 — You might check the official Minute book which is required to keep ALL official notices and agendas forever and attachments. Brown Act stuff. The electronic record can be easily tinkered with, but to change the official record would be a crime.

  25. Theresa Harrington Says:

    FT: I did a google search on “motor room” and “autism” and found that it is the same thing as a sensory integration room. Ellen Terminello, who runs the autism preschool program at Valle Verde Elementary, refers to hers as a “motor room.”
    It’s unclear whether the district asked for any input from the community about the proposed changes. But, as I have said, the intent appears to be to lighten the load for elementary principals regarding their need to attend IEP meetings.

    Dr. J: I was unaware that there was an “official Minute book.” Where is it?

  26. Doctor J Says:

    Ask the Board Secretary, Steven Lawrence ! Board By-law 9122; A simple google shows there are lots of laws that cover this: Ed Code Sections 35145, 35163, 35250, 35025 Gov Code 54954.2, 54957.5. Also, Gamut online was pretty slow for me, but you can look up Board By-law 9320, 9322 and 9324. Perhaps 1340 too.

  27. Sue Berg Says:

    I don’t know if having the Electronic School Board Agenda has changed the practice of maintaining hard copies of Board meeting minutes. That system was introduced after I retired.

    However, at least until 2009 a hard copy of each Board meeting’s minutes, signed by the Superintendent after the Board adopted them, was placed in a binder and maintained as a public record. Binders full of all Board meeting minutes throughout the district’s history were stored in the Superintendent’s Office and an adjacent storage room. Binders containing Board meeting agenda packets over the years have also been maintained.

    The minutes and agendas do not gather dust and can make for interesting reading. On occasion it’s necessary to check a past Board decision when considering current issues. The most well-known example is the Board decision (some time in the 90’s as I recall) to place the Crystyl Ranch development in the Northgate High attendance area.

    Whether the minutes are maintained in paper or electronic form these days, they should contain the same text as the document the Board approved. Minutes amended at subsequent meetings are noted as “amended” in the official records.

  28. g Says:

    Sue Berg: Do you know if minutes of “Closed Session” EVER becomes available for public access. Is there, perhaps, some time limit (two years, five years) or something.

  29. Sue Berg Says:

    G, the Board president reports out the ACTION, if any, taken in Closed Session at the beginning of the Open Session, and that action is included in the regular meeting minutes. As such, that report constitutes the “minutes” of Closed Session.

    The purpose of Closed Session is for the Board to discuss confidential matters as delineated by the Brown Act (e.g., personnel, real estate, student discipline, employee negotiations). I realize it is frustrating to you and others not to see/read a detailed account of those discussions but they are, by law, confidential. Only the actions taken and the Board votes for those actions are officially made public.

    All minutes of Board meetings/records of Board decisions and votes are kept in perpetuity.

  30. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:


    Good to see the district apologist back on the blogs. What other names have you been posting under lately?

  31. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s a new blog post about the Valle Verde Elementary autism magnet program in Walnut Creek:

  32. SR Says:

    Did I miss something? I thought this feed was discussing Special Ed Changes for next year. If we are discussing the BOE, perhaps it would be more worth while to figure out a way educate them on how the current Administration is violating IDEA and CA Ed Codes.

  33. Theresa Harrington Says:

    SR: I think the board came up because of the retirements of two principals added late to the agenda, including the PHE principal, which could impact the additional special ed program planned at that site.

    How is the current administration violating IDEA and CA Ed Codes?

  34. SR Says:


    If the district is making placement changes (ie Projection Letters) for children with IEP/504 Plans, by law they have to provide Prior Written Notice to the student/parents. It’s pretty sneaky to provide such notice on or after June 8th, when the school year ends on the 14th. If the student/parent disagrees with the new placement, then they (District) must hold an IEP meeting and allow the disagreement to be resolved either through the IEP process or via Due Process Complaint against the district. The catch here is that the district is claiming that these placement changes are merely changes in location to the child’s program (and therefore legal). However, this is untrue. The receiving schools do not have the programs in place (such as social skills groups, sensory/motor rooms, available opportunities for mainstreaming and reverse mainstreaming, and other supports) that have been painfully crafted over a period of years at several campuses. Because these supports are not in place (as verified by Ms. Patton’s silence after my direct questioning at the meeting on 5/29), this constitutes a placement change and not merely a location change as the District claims. If parents/student disagree, what opportunity exists to hold an IEP meeting over the summer with the SPED teacher, gen ed teacher, principal, program specialist, OT Therapist, Speech Therapist, and any other relevant support or service provider (all are required personnel at IEP meetings)? Slim to none I suspect as they will all be off for the summer. What are parents options other than to accept the new placement when the old one no longer exists? This is a violation under IDEA FR 34.

  35. Very sad and feed up Says:

    The changes in special education are not for the benefit of the students, they are cost saving measures to the detriment of the special education population. Students are being placed closer to their home schools without concideration of learning levels appropriate for the class. In addition many of changes to the Autism programs are with no concideration of the students abilities and services. What are the qualifications of the new director? Teachers were not even informed of these changes, they heard it second hand from parents complaining after the meeting. Communication is at its worst and it is effecting not only students, parents and teachers, it is destroying the already tarnished reputation of MDUSD special ed.

  36. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Yet, the CAC chairwoman praised the meetings last night:

    Do you agree with her comments?

  37. SR Says:

    I agree that the District should communicate with Special Education Parents. I disagree that it was a “good job” as Ms. Davis states. The CAC has no power with the district and the members have no sway or meaningful influence. If we as Special Education Parents want to see change we’ll have to look elsewhere because the CAC is not designed to help.

  38. Anon Says:

    I agree with SR. The CAC does not help and they can make situations worse. No one seems to be able to answer the many questions and the CAC still has not posted q & a on their web site…’s been a week how long does it take? The changes are horrible and most will be in violation of IEP’s. Most placements outside of the home school say The child will be placed in ABC class at XYZ school. to change that they will have to call an IEP and meet with the parents.
    They need to communicate! They need to listen and understand that we know our children, They only see them on paper. The District should have thought this out talked with the teachers, made a plan and then talked with parents. Special Education should be special. These kids deserve better. I feel for them. The world needs their incredible minds!! They are AWESOME!

  39. District Parent Says:

    Parents have begun receiving their projections letters. Are parents happy with the changes that are being made?

  40. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Perhaps things will start falling into place after the new elementary principals are appointed Monday. We know there are openings at Delta View Elementary, Shadelands, Pleasant Hill Elementary and Westwood Elementary.

  41. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Questions and answers from the May 29 meeting have been posted to the CAC blog:

    Also, please take note of the upcoming transportation changes mentioned during this Pawar Transportation discussion:

    Most notably, the district is planning to send a letter to parents about “clustering” students for pickup and drop-off instead of picking up and dropping off at each student’s home. This would start in the winter. FCMAT is also questioning why the district transports special ed students from their homes to their home schools.

  42. Theresa Harrington Says:

    It looks like the CAC blog is accepting comments on the special ed questions, as long as they are appropriate:

    Also, here’s the link to the CAC annual report, which includes notes from the meeting with the FCMAT rep at the end:

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