Parents and teachers ‘shocked’ by adjustments to special education staff in Seattle public schools

Some potential changes in Washington’s largest school district aren’t right for parents. Staff adjustments have been proposed for special education programs at several schools in the Seattle Public School District.

In a statement, Seattle Public Schools said that although enrollment has been low over the past two years, it has decided to “not lay off any special education staff, the district has 74 special education staff. full-time – more than what is needed to meet students need. ” The statement further reads: “At the same time, there are classrooms where students with IEPs experience an unacceptable student-teacher ratio of up to 54: 1. SPS staff adjustments recognize the need to reallocate students. resources to better meet the needs of students. “

District managers said that to help maximize services, “assigned staff have been assigned a position in the same building. Only seven certified staff and eight classified staff move to different buildings in the area that they currently serve “.

Officials said the SPS makes staff adjustments every year in October, and this year’s decision was needed to prioritize support for students with disabilities. However, parents who have children enrolled in special education programs said they were outraged by the decision.

“I’m still a little in disbelief that this is happening,” said Aparna Prasad, whose 10-year-old son has autism. “I am disappointed and I am also shocked beyond belief.”

Prasad said her son was enrolled in a special education class and had an individualized education program plan, known as IEP. It is a legal document under US law for children with special needs to obtain resources and time specific to their learning needs. Prasad said that just as her son was starting to recover from a year of distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, she learned that these “sudden” changes were happening in her classroom.

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“Basically, you are not in a position to provide the services and support to students that are required by contract. That’s what IEP is, isn’t it? Said Prasad. “It’s a supportive ecosystem that these kids need in the classroom.”

District leaders said, “SPS recognizes that educational staff moves can disrupt students, families, staff and the school community. For this reason, SPS will provide support throughout the transition. unmet needs of students with IEPs. “

“I understand their approach could have been to look at the numbers and that’s only part of the equation. They actually need to understand, when it comes to special education, it’s all about students and what they need, how they can be better supported to do their jobs, ”said Prasad.

“Special education services should be based on student needs, not numbers, if we are truly providing the best special education services possible in this district,” said Jennifer Matter, teacher and president of Seattle. Education Association.

The Seattle Education Association (SEA) held a rally outside the district headquarters on Wednesday to voice concerns about staff adjustments. Members of the association were joined by students, parents, teachers and others from the community.

Matter said she was disappointed that the association was not part of the conversation or decision-making about staff adjustments.

“We have a moral and ethical responsibility, but also a legal responsibility to meet the needs of these students. There are minutes and services that are described in these IEPs. And, so that we can continue to serve these students, because they should be served, as they deserve – that takes thoughtful consideration. And there hasn’t been any of that kind of dialogue, ”Matter said.

“As we move forward, we are committed to continuing to prioritize contributions from SEA, Seattle Council PTSA, PTSA Special Education and our families. Our priority is to deploy our resources to respond. to the needs of our students in special education. We have recognized that it is not easy. We receive emails from our families, we hear their stress and we are committed to addressing concerns, “said Dr Concie Pedroza, Associate Superintendent of the SPS.

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