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109 Board Grills Staff on Resource Periods

Administration, teachers present ideas on special education to Board, community.

has been a major sore point vocalized by parents throughout the contract negotiations between and the .

A majority of School Board members demonstrated they were listening to the comments over the last five months during a Committee of the Whole meeting Monday at .

For more than two hours Assistant Superintendent for Learning , Director of Student Services Jenell Mroz and six special education teachers told more than 80 people at the meeting about the short and long term plans for special education in the district.

Not once was the word resource period mentioned but as soon as the presentation was over, Board members , , Deborah Muller and Ron Worth grilled Owsiak and about it.

"Where are the resource periods?" Rosenbaum said. “They are one of our main concerns. Our teachers felt less connected to the children. Will there be a return of resource periods? Is this part of your research?” he asked about the statistically heavy presentation.

Goier and Owsiak explained each student’s needs would be handled through their individual educational plans (IEP). An IEP is a program developed for each individual student in cooperation with teachers, staff and parents. More than 500 of the District’s 3,100 students have an IEP.

“We’ll look into each student’s progress to know what needs must be filled for the student,” Goier said.

One of the parents who has been attending every meeting, , expressed hope at the questions of some of the board members but remained steadfast in his view about resource periods.

“I applaud the effort of the Board to relook,” Steindler said. “I hope it is not the position of the Board to stay away from resource periods. We don’t need for special education students to take Spanish.”

Steindler is one of a number of parents who have been complaining at regular Board meetings the resource periods were eliminated to insert teaching of Spanish as part of the curriculum for all children.

When some in the crowd wanted to know who approved inserting modern language into the middle school curriculum leading to the elimination of resource periods, Board President Ellen London said the Board ratified the move.

One parent, Stephanie Degodny, wants the IEP rather than an administrative dictate to determine if special education students will take Spanish. “It doesn’t work for every kid to take a foreign language,” she said.

Muller wanted to know if children would receive services they needed outside of regular classes. “Will you pull the kids out of class?” she asked.

“We will start with their central needs,” Goier said. She reiterated each student would be given the services prescribed in their IEP and it could include resource periods. Rather than have a Spanish class replaced it could be music, according to Owsiak.

Worth wanted to know how soon students could start receiving the services a number of parents have been clamoring about. “How soon will this come about?” he asked. He was assured by Goier and Owsiak it would be as soon as possible though much of it will be in the next school year.

The presentation by District 109 staff dealt with an overview, a multidisciplinary approach and early childhood education within the District.

John Russillo February 29, 2012 at 02:00 PM
It was a pretty good meeting and it was nice to see that some action is at least being talked about after years of complaints by special ed parents. They did not listen to individual parents, but they sure listened once the parents became a group. But that was the easy part. Now begins the actual implementation of improvements. The parent group must remain vigilant and continue to educate themselves on how to advocate for their children. They must not stop bringing issues to the Board as a group, because it is very difficult to ignore a crowd.
Concerned Taxpayer February 29, 2012 at 02:24 PM
For those of us who have become familiar with Dr. Goier & Paula Owsiak, we simply have a lack of trust when they start using statistics and their data to answer questions. I'm also not encouraged that they say they will rely on the IEP to guide whether the student needs a resource period or not. That is how we got into this mess in the first place. They can write whatever they want in an IEP. Why do you think the teachers are asking for more input? It's because the admin has been writing IEP's to suit their long term goals of reducing special services staff and increasing the coaching and Spanish staff.
John Russillo February 29, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I agree. That's why parents need to educate themselves and go into IEP meetings in a position of strength. I encourage every special ed parent to join the parent advocacy group that has formed. I can get specific contact info to anyone who is interested.
HB February 29, 2012 at 04:00 PM
The first 2 hours of that meeting were "look at the wonderful things we are doing and look what we have planned". Yes, at certain levels, this district is doing a phenomenal job. Maybe the teachers should have presented this information to the board prior to this meeting so that we parents are able to ask questions of the presentation. To be told that there will be no questions until the designated community input time is a sign of control...something the board wants to maintain. I believe they think that we will all go away once an agreement is reached with the teachers. Perhaps that is why they will not provide us with a deadline as to when their projected wonderful things will be implemented. As for IEP's...providing resource periods on an individual need?? Really? Isn't that what they are not doing now? How about actually following what is written in the IEP? So much for the concern about trust. We live in an affluent area, with good schools and educated parents AND the district has the money! Why is this taking so long to be settled?
Curious Resident February 29, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Let me just say that I have now read both articles plus the presentations that were just placed online at the district website. First of all, where is the data that supports the district doing these surveys with the staff? Second of all, if the teachers don't trust the administration and fear being retaliated against, then why would they speak with the administration about their concerns? Especially if they have yet to be listened to at this point of time. Third, how is it that resource will take place during music which is a quarter only class vs having them NOT take a foreign language? IEP will drive the decision making...it hasn't for awhile now, really will that change??? I don't think so, I think they too are just saying this to make the parents happy and hope once the contract is settled the parents will just go away...
John Russillo February 29, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Well if that is the case, they are sorely mistaken. This issue is now disconnected from the teachers contract.
Harry Steindler February 29, 2012 at 04:57 PM
I like to think of my comments at board meetings as questioning and prodding rather than complaining! What I have really been working at is for the board to get engaged with the issues regarding inadequate services for children with special needs. I saw good evidence of that on Monday night. Continuing involvement from the board - continuous questioning and management of the administration is crucial. I still strongly encourage the board to hear from teachers and other special education service providers directly. There has been a high level of mistrust on the part of teachers and parents towards the administration relating to special education services. You have heard some of what parents are concerned about - parents are becoming bolder as they have become more frustrated - I believe teachers who are just as, if not more, frustrated do not feel as free to express their concerns openly. For example, I was very confused by how the re-establishment of resource periods was addressed Monday. The administration’s comments that what is in place now is not working but that no one wants the return of resource periods made no sense to me and others. If I was a board member I would personally talk to teachers in the two middle schools to hear their real views and ideas for solutions to the inability to adequately bring resource services to students. (continued)
Harry Steindler February 29, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Monday was a start – words are nice to hear and encouraging, but action will tell the true story as to whether the administration and board is truly committed to bringing our students with special needs world class services. If you continue to use your collective hearts when thinking about these children and their families you will make the right decisions – data and surveys are important, but that kind of information will not make the difference without truly understanding how it feels for a family to be dealing with these issues or a teacher to be working so hard to make a difference for these families. I’m beginning to think the board gets that – I am encouraged to see you continue to act on that.
Gayle February 29, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I am beginning to feel concerned that too much focus is being placed on whether or not there should be resource periods. What is really important is what happens during those resource periods. If it is a "glorified study hall" then the "data" will probably not sure that the resource periods are effective. There needs to be a well thought out discussion and plan for how the district can meet each student's INDIVIDUAL needs during that time period. Also, there are other accommodations and interventions that are part of an effective special ed program - those need to be addressed as well. The trust issue is still huge... not all reports about the meeting were as rosy as what is portrayed here.
Gayle February 29, 2012 at 05:44 PM
typo -show not sure
South Park Parent February 29, 2012 at 06:02 PM
According to the teachers I have spoken with, the board has never surveyed them, or asked for their direct input. They have also stated that many of the write ups in the district newsletter are inaccurate and just try to paint a rosy picture of what is going on. Where the administration has gotten themselves into trouble is that they wanted to hire these coaches and spanish teachers (24 total - 4 at each of 6 schools) and in the process were trying to cut back in other areas and they didn't realize what a negative impact it would have on the learning environment, or how parents would react to it. They have increased class sizes whenever possible, they have reduces special services staff, they have reduced Art, Music, and PE staff. What really baffles me is that they talk about a possible financial crunch caused by what the teachers are asking for in salary, yet they have added 24 completely new positions to the staff! If they knew there was a potential shortfall of money? Why would you add all those staff members? Those 24 positions alone are costing the district around 1.5 million dollars a year! They doesn't even count the new administrative positions that have been created!
Dana Poncher February 29, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Dr Goier and Paula Owsiak are correct when they say that an IEP is an Individualized Education Program BUT ONCE AGAIN WORD ART IS AT PLAY. If Resource periods and resource rooms are not available then they cannot be utilized in an IEP. I do not want to be placated I am looking for real responses and it is unreal to say our childrens issues will be addressed via their IEP because if the "resource" doesn't exist it cannot be implemented. Dr. Goier and Paula Owsiak are being asked to bring resource back into the realm of possibility only then can it be implemented in an IEP. Last I heard at the meeting that the resource teachers had been polled to see if they felt the resource period should be "added" back to the schedule or not I do not agree with this statement. Our administration received this feedback from staff really? Scary to think that we, parents, value resource time more than the educators who offer the services? I doubt this is a correct representation to the public of what OUR Resource staff wants or doesn't want.
HB February 29, 2012 at 06:36 PM
http://deerfield.suntimes.com/news/schools/10566392-418/deerfield-district-109-teachers-authorize-strike.html Worth reading again. Especially the section Jensen says "He added that the board won’t agree: To return resource services in resource rooms when deemed necessary by a Joint Special Education Team; That teachers can offer opinions in special education sessions without reprisals or consequences; To allow time for special education teachers to meet with aides to determine how best to service their case loads; That minutes should be kept of special education meetings that are approved by everyone in attendance; Or to establish a procedure for determining special education case loads." Isn't the final meeting tonight?
Mara Meyer February 29, 2012 at 09:57 PM
You may think they write what they want, however it is the parents who are integral members of the TEAM who have final approval. Any needs for assistance, call me at 847.940.9850
Mara Meyer February 29, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Call in ISBE and OSEP! Perhaps these administrators need some hands on training and direction.
John Russillo March 01, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Here is the info for the parent group: Deerfield Parent Advocates for Education welcomes any new members to the group. The purpose of the group is to empower parents to have a more active role in their children's education. Through workshops and regular discussion groups, parents will increase their knowledge of how to advocate for their child specifically through the IEP process. Examination of best practices used in other school districts will serve as way to cohesively work with school staff to ensure the best programs and services for all children. You may sign up for the mailing list at parents109@gmail.com

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