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School Committee Meeting - Questions submitted for written response.

Questions to the School Committee presented January 22, 2013, for public record

I am the type of person that will keep asking a question until you answer me.  I have several questions that I find are never answered by some of Administration and I know many parents and other residents that have expressed an interest as to the explanation.  I have learned that memorializing any type of question is a must and so I presented the following questions.  I urge any of you that have questions to please share your question & answer. 

DATE:  January 22, 2013

Presented to:  School Committee Members

RE:  Questions Requiring Written Response

> Ms. Coogan via letter stated all schools are now equipped with tape recording devices should any parent ever opt to have any meeting taped with their own device, now the school is equipped with one.  Please confirm.

> Ms. Garrison in the Special Education Dept. said that Learning Disabled children
with a Reading Disability will now be able to use Learning Ally.  In 1948 it was developed under Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (formerly RFB&D), Learning Ally serves more than 300,000 K-12, college and graduate students, veterans and lifelong learners – all of whom cannot read standard print due to blindness, visual
impairment, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities.  Learning Ally’s collection of more than 75,000 human narrated, digitally recorded textbooks and literature titles – downloadable and accessible on mainstream devices like iPad, iPhone, Macs and PCs, as well as specialized assistive technology devices – is the largest of
its kind in the world, which students rely on to achieve academic and professional
success $119.

  • When is this going to be signed up for by the District?
  • Will ALL schools have this accessible?  If not, is Reading Street
    the comparable software you are going to use District wide?
  • Is this available to ALL teachers, librarians and mentors?  How are they made aware of this software when they start working within the District?

Can parents access this at home with their children?  For students with a disability or a notable GAP, is this available to them from home with the password sign-in?

>Joe Richer and Suzanne Arena questionedSubstitute Teachers & Teachers
Discipline in General – How are Teacher’s briefed on how to handle disruptive students?  Is this discussed after the hiring process in
training?
  Procedural Review at this point via Memorandum to all teachers citing and reviewing protocol – was this recently done? (NOTE:  referencing 11/12 Stadium incident) Why didn’t Cranston police press charges
against this teacher (who can now teach in any one of the other 38 cities or town in Rhode Island)? 
DCYF would have come in and done a full investigation and put the person on probation and mandate they go to Anger Management (at an expense incurred by the Teacher).  Has
this been mandated by the District to Teachers that are disciplined?

>(11/13/12 letter)  I would like to know the protocol that you are setting up for children with Specific Learning Disability “Dyslexia” under RIDE Reg. Section 300.8©(10), in which you have Qualified & Certified 10 teachers in Wilson?  (5/6/12 sent ltr asking:  Do you
have any Certified Orton Gillingham or Wilson trained teachers in the Cranston Public Schools? On the

  • 1.  Elementary level;
  • 2.  Middle School; and
  • 3.  High School level?
      
    • How many Wilson Level I Teachers?
    • How many Wilson Level II Teachers?
    • How many Orton Gillingham Teachers? (Trained at the Dyslexia Center for Children?)
    • How are you going to get the services to children in 1 of the 17 schools in Cranston?  If a child goes to School A
      and the teacher is at a different school, how do you get the services during the school day to that child?
       I think it’s great that you finally started allowing teachers to get the Educational Expertise; however, it’s not helpful if the implementation of the program is not well thought out.

> While I do understand under IDEA that there are Federal guidelines and anyone can just do the minimal and follow that, or provide greater services which in the
end are cost saving to the District, I am not comprehending the reason for the
District’s decision to just say “No” we don’t test for Dyslexia (in light of a
child’s obvious problem).  At least call the parent in early and suggest they get them tested asap.  Why is this not done?
 

Can you explain the advantage in your eyes as to why it isn’t helpful in testing a child?  [For example, I specifically asked when my son was in the 2nd grade and his teacher felt he might have it and the Reading Specialist suggested after my pressing “you probably should have him tested”, but I would have to pay for the test.]  Perhaps you can gain a better understanding of sitting down with a Doctor, Tutor and/or Parent to gain a better understanding of the benefits of catching this LD early.  All of the doctor’s reports that I have read, suggest that the school can call to learn more on a child’s report.  I too offer my services to come in and help you understand so you can better advocate and provide a fair education to all children.  Why can’t the school call the doctor when working with Special Education children and gain a better understanding of complex issue with that specific child?

> (12-20-11 letter sent)  Budget Savings is also overlooked by your department, as to providing FREE tutoring to students who are eligible for FREE tutoring under the Federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, but less than 15% of them are getting it, according to the U.S. Department of Education.  You have a duty and are required to inform parents.  By not notifying parents early in the school year that their children qualify for tutoring, you are diminishing children from having an ability to advance.  WHY???  The Government Accountability Office (GAO)
has been trying to collect Special Education data, which districts are claiming
to be burdensome and they are working on it.  Ms. Coogan, you should be finding out about some of these programs and if it’s not through parents then you need to follow-up to ensure a child’s eligibility and not sit around collecting a paycheck while kids are left behind.  Qualifications:  Your district is required to inform you.  Your state department of Education also has this information.  Generally, your child qualifies if she/he is getting a free or reduced-price lunch and attends a
Title I school categorized as “in need of improvement” for two years in a
row.  Title I schools are in attendance areas where at least 35% of the students and their families are low income.  I handed Attorney Carroll the information on this FREE tutoring because she said she never heard of it (which doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist), and I want to know if you ever received this information??

  •  Have you ever looked into this program?
  •  How many children have you applied this service to? 
    [Note, your Attorney, Mary Ann Carroll, stated at a Team meeting last
    year that there are hundreds of Dyslexic Children in Cranston.  Yet, almost a year later when I finally get the answer re: data on how many diagnosed dyslexic children there are – there is NO data kept.  As a taxpayer paying Ms. Carroll’s salary, I would prefer accuracy of our District staff’s statements to be accurate.]

> Summer Literacy/Math Program is ONLY for grades 1-3, and after that the
child is left without any additional supports.  If a child’s grades have declined…wouldn’t it be prudent as a DISTRICT to offer assistance?  If not in the way
of ESY, then certainly in the way of summer support, and have a teacher work with
a group vs. more regression and catch up with declining NECAP scores.  Why
are we not providing this as a District? 
[Note:  Principal of Glen Hills, Mr. DeCristofaro, provided a summer Math to struggling children in the past.  Can’t we have a Math Teacher rotation in the district and offer this yearly?]
What about Software Programs we have that could be utilized by students that are behind?  (year-round availability/Vacations/Summer)

>  You have approximately 11,000 students in Cranston with 20% of the population having been diagnosed with Dyslexia (2,200), which the Board of
Education in Rhode Island and in Cranston does not recognize as a Disability
and will not test children during the learning to read stages (which is when it
shows up).  Further, you do not provide professional development to teachers mandating that they understand this population and have training for their specialized disability.

  •  
  • Why does the school not test children for Dyslexia?  Would they consider testing if they knew the child would improve quicker and bring school test scores up?
  • What would that mean if Cranston saw a 20% improvement in their school grade scores??

> IEP/504 Reports.  What is the protocol for Teachers receiving
in hand these respective reports?
  When a Teacher works directly with a child under such a plan, they should have a copy of the child’s report.  Currently they are under “lock & key”, in a file cabinet near the principal’s office whereupon the teacher must go and only look at it when needed.  [Note: Like a CNA, this is an integral report when dealing with patients that the CAN keeps referring to and is on their person]

> NAME TAGS:  Assisting with name recognition and security for children, it would be very helpful to have Teacher/Staff with Name Tags.  Assuming there are 20% of children with LD, it would greatly reduce stress in name recognition (EX:  Subs, Itinerant Teachers, Secry’s, Teachers during the first month of the New school year, etc.]  Is this something we could consider?

> School Committee – Community Social Networking Board that notices etc.
protocol could be posted to.  Parents would have the ability to only Message to the Committee vs. posting on their board (wall).  Is this something you would consider?

>  Book buying in the Classrooms.  Teachers have reported that they use their own money to purchase needed school books.  Recently shared at a PTO
meeting that all of these purchase requests need to go to the superintendent,
whereupon there is a line item in the budget dedicated to such purchases.  Obviously teachers are not all aware of this process, where is this posted for them to obtain the procedure?

>  Playground – there is no playground at Eden Park.  I have spoken to the Parks & Recreation Department and will take on the task to get one built.  What monies are set aside for building, refurbishing playgrounds?

> Special Education Investigation Sub-Committee.

  • Who are the Committee Members in
    addition to
    the Chair, SC Culhane; SC Ruggieri  and SC Iannazzi?
  • Has the Committee met and is there a
    projected meeting schedule?
  • Why isn’t there a Special Education
    Parent (and/or SEAC Member) asked to be on the Sub-Committee?
  • Who is the Lawyer that is working with
    this Committee that does not reflect a conflict of interest?

>  Attorneys for the School District.  Are the attorneys always paid only a flat yearly salary with no limits (min/max) on time spent representing the District?  Or, are there times that they are paid an hourly fee?

>  Bullying – Why won’t the District Consider a Bullying Form to be sent home with the students involved to aid in the discussions at home and/or follow that child for 2 years probationary?

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Joe Richer January 26, 2013 at 07:34 PM
Suzanne, thannks for forwarding my question in this way. I appreciate your sense of citizenship.

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