Special education: numbers down, 'inclusion' up | October 11, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 11, 2013

Special education: numbers down, 'inclusion' up

As K-12 students mark 'Unity Day,' special ed director reports on trends

by Chris Kenrick

Early and aggressive efforts by teachers to help young children with learning problems has led to a significant drop in the number of Palo Alto students who later need special education, officials said this week.

In Palo Alto, about 9 percent — 1,115 students — officially qualify for special education — less than the national average of 10 percent.

As schools across Palo Alto observed Unity Day with a range of anti-bullying and "inclusion" activities, Palo Alto's Director of Special Education Holly Wade reported Tuesday to the Board of Education on trends in special ed.

Special-education parents, who organized Unity Day activities Wednesday on nearly every one of Palo Alto's 17 campuses, said they were encouraged by Wade's report but noted that many problems remain, adding that the district needs to do a better job communicating its policies and plans to parents.

Wade told the school board that the number of students identified as needing special education has dropped by 150 over the past three years.

"We've been doing really, really targeted intervention starting in preschool and elementary school, and that intervention work has allowed us to serve students in ways so they don't need special education services," she said.

She also described aggressive "inclusion" efforts to educate many special-ed students — who in prior times might have been segregated — in regular classrooms.

At Palo Alto High School, for example, 11 classes in subjects like math, English, social studies and science are co-taught by a regular teacher and a special-education teacher.

"We've used the co-teaching, inclusion model for three years now," Paly Principal Kim Diorio told the board. "We have many sections now, as does Gunn.

"It's been a complete shift in our model of how we're delivering education. Enthusiasm has really caught on as teachers talk with one another about how successful this model is."

Diorio said "higher expectations" in the co-taught classes have led to better performance by special-ed students, and general-education teachers have learned from special-education teachers how to better gear their instruction to students at various levels.

At the elementary level, Palo Verde Elementary School Principal Anne Brown told the board, including more special-education students in regular classrooms "has made our team at the school very cohesive.

"You wouldn't notice who the children are," she said. "We have one child in particular who came to us speaking only one-word sentences. He's now up to two.

"I urge you to keep us going in this direction," Brown said. "It's also benefiting our regular-education students who are learning more about compassion, differences and unity."

Jordan Middle School Principal Greg Barnes said the school has offered inclusion-oriented, professional-development classes "not just in the special-education department but for all our teachers.

"As we ask our students and teachers to embrace this (inclusion) vision we need to put in structures to support it and make it successful," Barnes said.

Jordan Assistant Principal Grant Althouse said the school has made changes to its master schedule to better include special-education students in general classrooms.

For special-education students not able to be mainstreamed, the district continues to offer separate classrooms, including high school classes focused on "functional skills, life skills like how to navigate in the community, how to navigate a social situation and how to get around campus," Wade said.

"We also put in a social-sexuality curriculum so our students can be happy healthy adults living in the community they choose," she said.

The district also pays for private residential education for 43 students.

"We do have therapeutic support classes, but for students with more significant mental health needs where we can't mitigate it in a school setting, some are in residential settings at this point," Wade said.

"Our residential numbers are up, and we continue to provide support to those families. I see that as something that over time will go down — and we have students going in and out of residential as well."

Parent Christina Schmidt, who chairs the all-volunteer Community Advisory Committee for Special Education (CAC), said she was encouraged by Wade's report but expressed some skepticism.

She urged the district to offer more information on reasons for the reduction in special-education numbers.

"Are these students who have graduated out? Have they been taken out of our system and moved somewhere else, or have their services been reduced? I'd just like to have more information about exactly how these numbers are reduced," Schmidt said.

Despite greater efforts in the past three years to keep special-education students in their neighborhood schools, Schmidt said they are still being moved around too often. "Moving a child from school to school — and it does happen in this district — is not necessarily the best for the child," she said.

"If we're going to have these inclusion classrooms, are they being developed across the board in all schools so a child starting in kindergarten can continue on in that school?

"I think the community at large should have a greater understanding of what this means," Schmidt said. "There are still so many questions from parents.

"Parents need to see the long vision so they can understand the changes," Schmidt said.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.


Posted by mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2013 at 8:45 am

Special education numbers are down because the district was under a mandate from the state to reduce the number of minority children designated for special education. The number of minority children placed into special education was disproportionate to their number in the population. The RTI program has been successful in offering interventions short of special education that have kept children that previously would have been designated special education out of special ed. The benefits of this (in addition to complying with state law) are less labeling effects and higher expectations for minority children who are not shunted into special education. This program appears to be a success.

The story however is not a sunny one. It is a story of state intervention and regulation of PAUSD in order to force it to comply with the law. Only 17 districts statewide have received a reprimand and mandate from the state requiring it to stop designating so many minority children as special education. PAUSD was one of the worst in this area and it was only due to state intervention that it decided to address the problem. It is hard to call that a "success" for anyone but the California Department of Education, which succeeded through oversight in ending a racially problematic practice in PAUSD.

It is too bad that this story gives no context whatsoever for the use of RTI (which stands for "response to intervention"). As it is portrayed in Kenrick's story the reader is left with the impression that this was a PAUSD initiative because PAUSD recognized the issue and solved for it and that is decidedly not the case. PAUSD was forced by the state to address the problem. It would be more helpful if the weekly reported the context as well as what happens at the meeting. Just because Holly Wade announces at the meeting that the district is doing a great job does not make it the case. Other facts, which are known, bear on the situation. Just because everyone is wearing an Orange Shirt does not mean that they have actual unity.

This is important context because it is the same situation underlying the bullying issues. PAUSD is being forced by the parents who have complained to OCR, and by the actions of the federal government excercising its oversight powers, to address its issues with bullying of disabled children. We don't know whether or not these oversight efforts have been successful because there has been no public report on the status of the OCR complaints or their resolution. We still do not know what went wrong at these various locations. What we do know is that the principal who presided over one of the most serious and troubled situations was promoted to the district's director of secondary education - a decision that shows questionable commitment to turning over a new leaf.

Posted by Gyorgy, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 12, 2013 at 9:14 am

Was it not Superintendent Kevin Skelly who decided that more special education kids should be mainstreamed to save the district money?

Well, lower scores are the outcome of this.

Gee, thanks, Kevin.

Posted by Where have they gone?, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 12, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Christina Schmidt raises some good questions. In our neighborhood many of the kids with special ed needs have transferred to private schools. To my knowledge the district has never tracked the students who choose to leave PAUSD and why. This seems to be important information to inform a numerous issues, particularly in light of significant declines in the rate of enrollment growth the last two years.

Posted by Unbelievable , a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 12, 2013 at 4:41 pm

There have been at most 5 OCR complaints and only 2 related to special ed. That is out of 1115 students. So much for the district being forced to do this. These people just can't give credit where it is due.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2013 at 4:58 pm

"Unbelievable" is incorrect.

There have been 5 OCR complaints in the past three years that are related to special education. All of these have been reported in the Weekly -- 1 regarding 504 procedures; 1 regarding FAPE and a 504 plan; and 3 regarding disability based bullying. At least two of those involved retaliation-based claims as well. In addition, there is an ongoing OCR compliance review related to sex discrimination at Paly based on sexual harassment and sex-based bullying. I believe that there was a seventh complaint based on race that was found to have insufficient evidence.

That is a total of 7 OCR complaints in the recent past, 5 of which were disability related.

Posted by unbelieveable, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 12, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Mr. Burke is incorrect. There have been 5, one of which has already been dismissed and was race related and not special ed related. So much for being "forced" by OCR complaints.
This is the district doing what it does best, teaching our kids. That is where this improvement has come from.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2013 at 7:10 pm

1. High school student, special Ed accomodations. District settled then retaliated. Reported in Weekly aspartame of bullying cover package.

2. Terman student. Disability bullying. . Finding against district. Resolution agreement.

3. Jls student. 504 procedures. Resolution agreement.

4. Duveneck student disability bullying and retaliation. Pending.

5. Jordan student. Disability bullying. Pending.

6. Paly. Compliance review re: rape culture. Pending.

You can have your own opinion. You can't have your own facts.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Of course in fairness to unbeliever there are so many OCR complaints it is getting hard to keep track. I find a spreadsheet helps. At we know that board members and staff can keep track even if TS readers can't. Perhaps the weekly should post a scorecard for the public to make it easier to follow and stay updated along with a running legal fees total expended by the board on this.

Posted by unbelieveable, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Of course, in fairness to the Edmund, the OCR complaints are getting dismissed out of hand so it's hard for Edmund to keep up.
It just makes Mom assertion that these dismissed OCR complains are the cause of the districts improvements more unbelievable.

Posted by Holly Wade, Really?, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 12, 2013 at 7:47 pm

The district, the special ed. administrators and the schools principals did a great job a putting a good show. They are trying to calm parents who are thinking in leaving the district because of the so many issues going on in PAUSD. They claim they are doing better, but really? not too long ago there were people protesting outside Gunn High School. It was about a student with special needs. Somehow it is hard to believe them, they say one thing when reality speaks the opposite. I wish they would say: because we were ordered to do something about bullying and disability harassment, we are doing so, and so, and because we were ordered to do something about so many people of color in special ed. we are doing so and so. Thanks to Office of Civil Rights, we are starting respect All students rights. Plagiarism is a crime, PAUSD is taking credit for doing something they were ordered to do, not because they notice that they were failing the kids. In fact they thought they were doing great, when the first OCR complain was brought up. They were not even worried.

Posted by unbelieveable, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 12, 2013 at 8:23 pm

[Portion removed.] This work has been going on for years. Improvement has been happening for years.
Where do you get your information? One parent protesting about not getting their own way is not "reality". There are 1,115 in the special ed program.

Posted by They are all in it together, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2013 at 8:45 pm

It was a good show. Perhaps you should send a letter thanking Tabitha Kappeler-Hurley, our $150K employee not responsible for the benefit of children, but paid to make me think that Holly Wade has not woefully underperformed for three years.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 12, 2013 at 9:16 pm

The power point slides were more professional looking than usual. I presume that was Tabitha. However the content was as poor as usual. For instance not reporting on the race and other basic demographic data of the special Ed population was odd. And we need to see reports by school so that progress of various schools can be compared. To have both site based control and a norm against school based level reporting means no accountability.

Posted by have a hunch, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2013 at 11:38 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Whatever, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:36 am

Then simply go to another district [portion removed]! Some people just love to complain.
Palo Alto is an excellent, way above average district!!!

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2013 at 11:33 am

@moderator - may I suggest to move or add this thread to the Schools & Kids category? (it is under the Palo Alto issues category, now)

Posted by Mom, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Happy parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Palo Alto schools have served my family very well for many years now. I am very grateful. Are there problems? Undoubtedly, like everywhere. Personally, I believe that unhappy people are overrepresented in this forum. Happy parents just don't intervene. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Doesn't smell happy, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 13, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Happy parents intervene all the time, but happy parents don't accuse others of being unhappy.

Posted by So Sad, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Special Education did not support all students in mainstream classes from the first day of school, despite the impression Special Education tried to give to the Board and public. To succeed in neighborhood school, special education students need case management and services in place on the first day of school. By policy, Special Education tells families services will not start the first 3 weeks of school and end 2 weeks before the school year. Materials are not available. Disabled children and teachers are left to fail during those times with no advice or services. In one case Special Education didn't hire a speech therapist working at multiple schools until 3 weeks after school started. Schools still have the same 1/2 day a week of n Occupational Therapist, 1.5 days a week of Speech therapists, school psychologist working at various schools and services delivered by a psychology intern. When Resource teachers trained to teach children with learning disabilities are absent, no substitute teacher is brought in, although it is not legal for aides to teach children. Unlike regular classroom teachers, Special Education staff do not start before the school year begins to be ready the first day of school, they use time after the school year begins to figure out who the children are and what they need. This year a Resource teacher did not come to school the first week of the school year. This would never occur with non-disabled children. Parents would never accept a school telling them they don't plan to educate their children for several weeks of the school year. There is a new extreme Special Education policy each year,this year it is that classroom teachers will have differential teaching and kids will be taught by aides. The teachers we've asked said they have not received support or training or help from Special Education. To verify, the District can look up this information in their own strategic plan. When abandoned, all the pressure and extra workload is put on the general education classroom teacher. The examples of team teaching cited above sound lovely, but they are from the high schools and middle schools, not the elementary schools. Dr. Wade should have made that more clear. The Palo Verde Elementary School principal's comments that you wouldn't know who is a special needs child by looking at them shows an ignorance of special education and are demeaning.

Posted by Kirra, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 14, 2013 at 12:06 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by They are in it together, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2013 at 7:29 am

I think you hit it right on the head: this IS a great district, just delivering a good quality of education. We really deserve a great superintendent, a great assistant superintendent, and a great director of special education. And thank you for your advice on other options. My option is to urge the board to do one great thing and replace those three at once, ending six years of mediocre service to so many students and parents.

Posted by Question, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 14, 2013 at 9:34 am

@They are in it together - a question. You urge the board to replace 3 top managers in the district. Do you think that there are much better replacements readily to be had? And that they would want to come to PAUSD, esp. in the wake of the parent-driven purge that you propose?

It is fine to complain if you feel that way, but I'm don't think you are offering a practical solution.

Posted by Happy parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2013 at 10:18 am

@Doesn't smell happy

Are you trying to say that the people complaining here are happy with the schools?

In the case of our family, we are very happy with PA schools. And the overwhelming majority of parents we know are equally happy.

What I am not happy with is the very few families that expand so much energy trying to give our school district a bad name.

Posted by No Doubt, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 14, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I doubt that if you had a special ed kid ( mine is deaf) who had been mainstreamed prematurely that you would be happy with PA schools. We are taking ours out next semester!

Posted by They are in it together, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2013 at 7:15 pm

I am not complaining, I am recommending that the board replace Kevin Skelly, Charles Young, and Holly Wade. Is there any evidence that the board should sign them up for another year, or another one of those three-year contracts? There are plenty of replacements ready. Is the only reason to keep them, despite all the failures of the last 3-6 years, because we think that we are stuck with them?

Posted by No Doubt, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 14, 2013 at 7:50 pm

People in this town have been crying out for Kevin Skelly to be dismissed for the last two years!! What happens? [Skelly], who has gotten the district I to so e inextricable messes, gets a raise and an extension of his contract!

Thanx for listening, BOE!

Posted by wow, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 15, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I love Kevin Skelly and he also has a great jump shot and is great on the boards along with the pick and roll. Knows how to play the game bebeee!!! Runs a great district office too bebeee!!!

Poor guy, what a thankless job. Next person will get the same treatment, guaranteed.

Web Link

Posted by Kerrrrrraddogg, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm

@wow: Clearly you have never met or observed Kevin Skelly in person! If you had, you would see that he does not do well with an audience, dodges questions, never makes eye contact, and is disrespectful to students and parents, ESPECIALLY special ed students and their parents. He says one thing, does another that is diametrically opposed! he has a checkered past in another district where he caused quite a scandal, but apparently the BOE never checked his background.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by All Our Schools , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm

People are not complaining PAUSD is no good overall, they are saying one part of the District does a poor job. Specifically, they responding to an article, memo and public presentation to the Board of Education that draws conclusions without data. It was a public presentation, no one forced presenters to make these statements. The information was at best unclear, and also gave the appearance that services are equally available at all schools and to all disabled children when they are not. It mixed information about different levels of schools so it appeared all schools have programs that are only available at middle schools and high schools. It is hard to imagine public servants providing such poor quality information to their Board. PAUSD is a public school district. All residents of the PAUSD boundaries pay taxes to support their school district, so this is a very important subject to all residents. PAUSD is lead by a Board of Education elected by residents of PAUSD boundaries. Palo Alto Online is performing its valuable function in a democracy of reporting on the problem occurring within one part of PAUSD and providing a public forum for information and discussion. Without this pathway to free speech, public information about Special Education would be controlled by a few PAUSD employees whose interest is making themselves and their programs look successful.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 15, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I'm sorry, but it is simply wishful thinking to say "you wouldn't know who the children are" when they are mainstreamed into classes. It is often quite apparent who these children are. And their fellow students certainly know as well.

In some cases this works just fine. In other cases, it is a huge distraction in the classroom, disruptive, and not a great situation for any of the kids.

Teachers are trying their best, but the range of abilities and behaviors they are expected to accomodate are very challenging.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 15, 2013 at 5:29 pm

@Resident - Of course it is obvious who they are, which is why they end up getting bullied. Which is terrible of course, but a predictable consequence of the inclusion program (besides dragging down test scores).

Posted by Mary, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 15, 2013 at 5:47 pm

The Special Ed inclusion project is a farce. The Spec Ed case mgrs have only ONE study skill class period available for their students. They have no REAL added value to the regular classroom. How is this project being evaluated? Where is the REAL data? Someone has cooked the books.

Posted by They are in it together, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Another lawsuit against PAUSD, and what is it about? Special Education in 2012. Who handled the Chadam issue first? Holly Wade. Who did it get kicked up to? Charles Young. Who finally had to reverse the decision, but only after a lawsuit was filed? Kevin Skelly. He was a rookie superintendent, Young was a rookie assistant superintendent, but Wade had been the director of special education in Saratoga, where she was a teacher under Skelly when he was principal. What's next? Bringing in personnel from the East Bay, where Young and Kathleen Ruegsegger are from? How much worse can this get? Kevin Skelly, please announce by the end of December. It's only fair to the district. You're still guaranteed something like $300k or more, right? Charles Young, it's been three years, apply for a superintendent position in the East Bay. Holly Wade, there really is nothing to say at this point.

Posted by wow, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 15, 2013 at 8:40 pm

If Kevin goes his rebounding and ability to run the pick and roll will be sorely missed by those of us who play in staff student basketball games with him!!! The guy is a beast who we love playing with and the kids love competing against. He is just a regular, good guy!!!

To bad for him because he is in a no win situation and I guarantee the next superintendent will face the same scrutiny after about four years also. Just the nature of the beast in Palo Alto. A fantastic school district with a few to many intellectuals with a little to much time on their hands to create a little controversy. Is what it is and I commend Kevin for hanging in there.


Posted by They are in it together, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2013 at 9:34 pm

It's a tough job, takes tough people to do it, but it's hardly no-win. Skelly has cost the public close to $2,000,000, and that is not including the $1,000,000 interest-free loan. You're right about one thing: Skelly is the man, and that is the problem.

Posted by wow, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2013 at 8:06 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Kerrrrrrraddogg, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 16, 2013 at 11:23 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by PA Schools, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2013 at 6:59 pm

It is Special Education who finds children eligible or not eligible for their own services. When they reduce the numbers, it saves them money and makes them look good. It's a pretty big claim to say children no longer need Special Education services because they received help in preschool or elementary school. Where did the kids go? Most were not magically cured. Support this claim. Show the data.
From the very beginning of the middle school programs teachers said the number of spots in these classes was very limited. Inclusion classrooms in elementary school were only held in Kindergarten in 1 or 2 schools last year. The rest of the elementary school children were mainstreamed with much lower levels of support. Resources are severely imbalanced between schools, almost non-existent at some schools, even those with very large enrollments. Disabled children are denied access to classes as too high functioning. It is not uncommon to hear teachers say they are relieved when a child fails or becomes aggressive since now Special Education will accept them. Special Education ignoring teachers is a concern. Each year, children are referred for evaluation to Special Education but found not eligible for services. Special Education does not have to count these children through the years, they are no longer responsible for them. The programs advertised in this Update are not accessible to them. When so many students end up in residential placements, it is a worry if these children were denied appropriate services earlier. Trying to restrict the number of disabled children receiving help or preventing disabled children from qualifying for services should never be a goal.
There is constant pressure on families to remove their children from Special Education, to place them on development plans which carry little weight or to exit the program. It is extremely unlikely Special Education is succeeding in helping children with services they do not provide. A group of children is allowed to fall through the cracks. PAUSD needs to track what happens to these children rejected for services who have deficits but don't qualify for help. Left to flounder in mainstream schools, they fail academically and socially, disrupt classes, and may end up in either private schools or residential placements. These outcomes need to be seen as a complete failure of PAUSD Special Education, not a victory.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 17, 2013 at 9:29 am

@PA Schools - Special ed students are not sick, therefore they can not "be magically cured". Special ed kids are not all severely handicapped or extremely disruptive. Some of them are the quiet kids in the back of the room. Special ed also includes students that receive help for learning disabilities such as dyslexia. A lot of the kids who received significant help in elementary school can cope with little or no assistance as they get older. Many students no longer need help if they learn the appropriate coping mechanisms - that is kind-of the point of special education, getting the students to function on their own.

I'm not sure why you think "PAUSD needs to track what happens to children rejected for services who have deficits but don't qualify for help" , if they don't qualify for services, there is no way to track them.

Posted by Double wow, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 17, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Why can't we all just get on the happy happy praise praise program? Jesus people it's like you think a bunch of disabled kids are more important than property values!

In seriousness,the district engineered it's selected leaders for the CAC and now can use those half picked CAC parents to show that all is well (nice orange shirts!). Maybe the lawsuits will be filed on orange paper.

The last hand picked CAC chair was terrified that Wade would retaliate against her by withdrawing services for her own child which Wade reportedly threatened to do. The message is clear -- all is well, everything is going great, yay.

And I think basketball is a nice skill. So what if he can't manage effectively. Let's use strengths based management and praise what he's good at like Heidi.

Posted by PA Schools, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2013 at 2:46 pm

This thread relates to a meeting and public statements in which Dr. Holly Wade told the Board of Education that the numbers of students receiving Special Education Services are down because they received interventions in preschool and elementary school. It is valid to ask Dr. Wade to support her conclusion with data. Public education policy and the future of disabled children in PAUSD will be based on her statements.

It is possible to track students denied services or removed from services. Special Education does know which students they evaluate and reject for services. They do know which students once qualified for services but no longer do because they have improved. This information is very well documented through a required legal process for referral, evaluation and documentation for Special Education. It is very easy to track who does and does not get services, when services stop, and how successful these children are as they continue in school. The District has provided other forms of tracking and provided data, most recently as part of their Strategic Plan. It knows how to do this.

In some ways Palo Alto Resident is correct, Special Education includes children who receive help for all kinds of disabilities. Or it should. And Special Education includes help for children who have learning disabilities. Or it should. While not all are sick, some are and do need assistance and accommodations to receive an education, especially students educated in the hospital. Palo Alto Resident is incorrect in that Special Education does not provide help for students with dyslexia, because it is not considered a disability. Special Education policy is that dyslexia not exist. Fortunately, children may be found eligible under learning disabilities or other categories of disabilities. Sadly, the reality is children without a severe disability or not extremely disruptive have a much harder time getting help. Some of us do have the quiet children with learning disabilities who sit quietly in the back of the room. We know the struggles to get them help. Special Education is the one who evaluates and qualifies the students and gets to say if children get their services or not. Dr. Wade herself said the numbers of students in residential treatment are up. This is the most restrictive service there is, it is reasonable to examine if these students received adequate services prior to the treatment, and if and how the outcome could be improved in the future.

We hope there are many students whose outcome is that they no longer need services because Special Education provided appropriate services in the past. That is fabulous, what everyone hopes for. We need data to know if it is actually happening or if there is a relationship between the two. Holly Wade provided it as a conclusion, so she needs to show the data to support it.

Posted by Oh Wow, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2013 at 3:38 pm

CAC did overturn their election, and it did elect different candidates. Members were told it was because Dr. Wade refused to work with them and would withhold public information unless the election was overturned and the candidates she picked elected. Palo Alto Online, this would be a great story to verify. Special Education has implemented an adversarial culture against families of disabled children. Families are told they have to be happy and may not bring up problems. Fortunately, Ms. Schmidt interviewed by this press was brave enough to stand up in the face of it and speak the truth, no matter what retaliation it may bring from Special Education. Bravo.
In the memo to the Board in this story Dr. Wade refers to a group of staff and parents whom she took them on a retreat. She says, "This work frames a major piece of our work this year as we work with the Special Education Advisory Committee (SPEAC) to continue to educate our families on our supports for students in school."
If SPEAC is going to form the major piece of Special Education's work, who are they? I looked on the PAUSD web site and couldn't find it so far. Are these parents making or influencing decisions for all Special Needs children in PAUSD? How are they chosen and by whom? Do they represent a range of disabilities and family experiences within PAUSD, or the ones who it worked well for and were hand picked as supporters of Dr. Wade's plans?
At the end of the Update to the Board of Education Special Education she speaks of a plan to sign a contract for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ARD). This would require families to go to resolution in disputes with Special Education made by a contractor who is hired and paid for by Special Education. It's an extra layer of bureaucracy and governance, it adds more process for families to have to meet to get help, and it could slow their ability to get help and services for their disabled children. It could hinder people from exercising legal rights to protect children and file complaints about violations. Hope the Board of Education will address this. With all the risks, the public needs more information and oversight by the Board of Education.

Posted by Welshman, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 17, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Bottom line: Skelly is an embarrassment, a liability, and lacks people skills. Why keep him.

Posted by Doesn't smell happy, a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm

It's just a matter of time until Kevin Skelly is gone. Charles Young is also a liability, very few will sing his praises, and by no metric has Holly Wade been effective in her position. These are interesting times, but there will be little satisfaction when those three leave or when the current board goes away. This district will have some serious rebuilding ahead. In the meantime, as many posters have predicted, get ready for more lawsuits.

Posted by Safety First, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 18, 2013 at 11:27 am

PAUSD plans for behavioral and mental health needs greater oversight. There are a hodgepodge of different behavioral and mental health professionals paid in warrants approved by the Board. Anyone can call themselves a 'behaviorist' or 'behavioral therapist'. Unlicensed behaviorists do not have to meet any training standards, ethical rules, and with no oversight body to report problems, PAUSD does not have to meet any standards. The person PAUSD put at the microphone doing safety training has no licensee, no credential. Private family information is on laptops they can't locate or are stolen. Safety first PAUSD.

All these contractors and consultants care for our most vulnerable children. Most parents can't speak up since they do not have training in how the mental and behavioral health works. Special Ed can't supervise mental health staff with degrees in education. Parents fear if they report problems Special Ed will not help the children. PAUSD needs to hire professionals who are truly independent and meet professional standards. They must give independent opinions on children's need for services, no matter what the current Special Education policy is.

The Update plans for para-professional to teach TOSAs to perform mental health and behavioral health functions. TOSAs are teachers who go into classrooms. They will teach how to handle disabled children in front of the rest of the class. Maybe it can work, but ask if Paras should train teachers to handle aggression, fleeing, disruptive behaviors, self harm, mental illness. Safety comes before full inclusion at all costs. Special Education reports fewer kids need services, but that more are ending up in residential treatments. It's not working.

The proposed ARD contract is another consultant paid by Special Education to resolve problems. That is Special Education's job. Dispute resolution can't be decided by consultants PAUSD pays, it's one-sided, unfair to parents, and will slow getting help for children. First listen to what parents and teachers tell you about problems and address them. You can't contract out your basic management and what you are paid to do.

Posted by Welshman, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 18, 2013 at 12:11 pm

How long until Skelly is out of our lives forever. How much damage will he do in that time. He is out of control, does not think before he speaks, and there is no system of checks and balances in PAUSD. he is already costing an extra $150,000 for the PR person needed for damage control ( damage committed by Skelly,).

Enough is enough. Kevin Skelly, if he had a conscience or sense of empathy, would resign. But he hasn't even the dignity for that. Can't the PAUSD parents recall this guy? he hurts the district, he hurts the kids, therefore, he hurts the future. Enough with him!

Posted by They are in it together, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2013 at 8:10 pm

The three in the most trouble with civil rights violations and lawsuits (Kevin Skelly, Charles Young, and Holly Wade) won't all be together in PAUSD 12 months for now. The number of folks who recognize the deterioration of the PAUSD brand is increasing, but it hasn't reached the point to where Skelly is compelled to act. His final play will be to dump Young or Wade or get 12-18 months ($300-450K) out of his contract.

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2013 at 9:25 am

@moderator - may I ask, again, why my postings were removed without leaving any trace that I ever posted? The following is a sample:

@Moderator - I posted the following few times, responding to "They are in it together". My postings were removed without a trace I ever posted.
May I ask why there was no trace left?

@They are in it together: I responded to you here -Web Link

Posted by Oversight, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 19, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Dr. Wade as Director of Special Education reports to Charles Young, the head of Educational Services, who reports to Superintendent,Dr. Skelly, who reports to the Board of Education. I doubt Skelly, Young or the Board know much about Special Education. If they did, they would have practiced more management oversight with Dr. Wade and never let their employee present such a poorly written and incomplete report and presentation to the Board. I can only hope the Board did not understand it, as they did not challenge the assumptions and broad conclusions. Meet the Board at an event, they just pipe out what Dr. Wade tells them, that it is all a success because Dr. Wade told them so. The Board will say that before full inclusion kids were all locked away in dark classrooms (they weren't), that now they are getting all the help they need by putting them in neighborhood schools without the help they had before. Huh? How is this possible? Oh, yes, the other children in the classroom will teach the disabled child, making up for lack of speech, occupational, behavioral, safety, educational support. Special Ed paid thousands to a high priced consultant to tell the District that successful full inclusion is achieved by making the other kids in the class responsible for teaching the disabled child. The consultant even had a tear felt conclusion about a mainstreamed child somewhere else who died and kids went to his funeral. Heart wrenching, but not data for a policy conclusion.

Parents will put up with a lot of garbage from the poorly run Special Education Department, but misleading conclusions that force a public policy is going too far. Board of Education, demand better.

Dr. Wade was the person in charge of when the OCR findings said a disabled child was so bullied they could not obtain an education. It happens all over the District. She and her staff had been told, but if parents tried to get help, the response was "all kids are bullied" and "we can't do anything about that." She really is the senior manager responsible who allowed it to happen. The destruction of children and family lives she created is irreparable. She ignored problems in order to say she achieved full inclusion, no matter who it hurt. Now she has unlicensed, unsupervised, partially trained staff giving Safety training. Some things a school district should be able to teach themselves. She wants to hire a consultant for Alternative Dispute Resolution to provide intervention strategies and training - that is what all the high priced employees in Special Education are paid to do.

If children were mainstreamed into all schools, but a full inclusion program with trained staff was only offered at a couple of schools, what happened to the rest of the children at other schools? How did teachers handle it with out support, training, and staff who start later in the year? The help children in PAUSD receive depends largely on their luck in landing at a particular school. There is a vast disparity between schools, and some neighborhood schools have never had resources others take for granted. Yes, all schools have speech therapists, but some provide social help for kids live on the playground and others say it is not possible, so all children suffer.

Dr. Wade has a Ph.D., one of her staff has an Ed.D., Dr. Skelly does also. To get those degrees they all studied educational evaluation and assessment. Dr. Wade knows what she is doing by putting out a report without numbers. PAUSD recently hired a District employee whose sole purpose is to do educational evaluations. There are plenty of staff to check the conclusions, they just don't want to.

Posted by Concerned parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 19, 2013 at 8:01 pm

You are absolutely right, no one could have said it better. I wish you would have been at the board meeting the day they were claimin success, when Holly took all the people who work for her to cheer and support her and kiss her a.. It would have been great to asked her all this questions, perhaps an e copy of this e-mail should be sent to Skelly, Holly, and the rest of the gang, who were putting on the show. By the way, East Palo mainstreams "all Special Ed. Students" in regular classes. This is as to save money, now they do not have to hire as many special education teachers as they did before. They started this more than ten years ago. So what PAUSD claims to be doing is not really out of this world. Also the lady who spoke at the board in favor of special ed. is t he same one who Zepecky asked to speak up right before she left, after the suicides. Again, she spoke on her behalf. Of this is one of those who has the best services for her child. This is what it takes in order to get the services, you really have to kiss their a.. and this is why they took her. At least they should take a different person every time. Perhaps they should write a note to the next special ed. director. Sadly but true. After the full inclusion, we are in no way better than E.P.A. Our kids rights continue to be violated in so many ways. I know that some parents do not complain because they are very afraid that their student will be retaliated against, and they do not want to risk the emotional state of the child. Very understandable. Time to leave people, do not wait till your get fired. Leave with dignity, just like Michael Milliken.

Posted by Concerned parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 19, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Here is the link to the recorded board meeting. Someone was kind enough to posted in another posting about the lady who spoke at the meeting on October 13, 2013. You do not have to watch all the meeting, you can go straight to the special education report. Watch how seriously Holly takes her job. At some points she is acting out. Also she cannot start talking unless her supporters come and sit down by her side. At least she should pretend to be profesional. These are the people who are taking care of our kids.

Web Link

Posted by They are in it together, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2013 at 6:10 am

It's not dignity that you'll think of when one or more of this trio of Kevin Skelly, Charles Young, and Holly Wade escape PAUSD, and it wasn't dignified when Michael Milliken left. It's all about finding another job in another district. Both Skelly and Young are seeking another superintendent post, though one is looking more than the other. It will be more difficult for Wade because of certain commitments. Young's play is to go back to the East Bay where he lives, but timing will be critical. None of this, of course, has anything with helping our special ed students and parents who have been discriminated against for the past few years.

Posted by do the math, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 20, 2013 at 7:05 am

To see how "inclusion" works just do the math.

Take a simplified example at the high schools. 10 sections of Spanish II exist with most having at least one LD student (ADHD, dyslexic, processing speed issues). Only 6 Special Ed teachers are employed. That leaves 4 students of Spanish II with no help. And it also leaves no teachers available to run Study Skills classes or go to History, Bio, English, Chem, Math, etc. with their other students.

Try elementary school: One Resource teacher for at least 10 classrooms.


And this comes from a Superintendent who claims to have taught Mathematics!

Posted by Double Wow, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 20, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Wow there is a ton of anger at the district's dealing with special education and it does not seem to be from the usual suspects. I recall that Ken Dauber of WCDB advocated for a focused goal on relations with special ed families but the board did not do it or even respond to the suggestion. It's too late for ADR in many cases. People are too angry for mediation.

Posted by Oversight, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm

The minutes from the Board of Education meeting 10/8/2013 are now posted on the PAUSD website. See if you agree with the Board's comments and praise for the dats-less report. Did they say the Board has other slides they were looking at in the meeting, but not made available to the public? Isn't there an open meetings act?

It is hard for an ADR to address breakdowns in communications when there is none. Special Education just doesn't communicate with families. It does with the Board of Ed.
The ADR consultant is a motivational speaker. He is listed in the 10/22/2013 Board of Ed Summer Report as part of the "curriculum" giving motivational speeches to summer school students. That's curriculum? How much did that speech cost? How much will the District be paying him as an ADR consultant?
Looking at the tasks on the powerpoint slide, all but mediation is really a basic management function of the Special Education Office: "...early intervention strategies, resolution options, and specific training designed to  improve services to students with special needs." What does Special Education do now? Unless they close the Special Education Office and contract the whole thing out, you can't bring in a consultant to do your job. First, they need to define what their job is, what tasks should they perform, who will do the tasks now that they hired an extra high paid Coordinator in a senior position, management of special education staff at the school sites, how to measure if they are succeeding in their jobs, communication metrics, performance metrics, office skills, length of time to return phone calls, and that to date unimportant task of communicating with parents.

Posted by Double wow, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 20, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Maybe he can motivate the board to grow a pair and provide the oversight they are supposed to ?

Posted by District results are too good? Fire them!, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 20, 2013 at 5:08 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by All Our Schools, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Somewhat related thread at:
Web Link

Posted by Concerned for our future, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2013 at 6:01 pm

I am curious, how many of us who have posted here have been to a BOE meeting to share concerns? I applaud all who have!

In a recent conversation with a Board member, I was encouraged to show up and share in public. I know there's a limited amount of time we are allowed to share, but when we share, it and we become recognized and our concerns are actually recorded. In numbers, we can make a difference for all of our children!

To each caring contributor, I and the children thank you!

Posted by Attendant, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 25, 2013 at 6:24 pm

I have attended BOE meetings-- except the secret ones closed to the public--and I have met Kevin Skelly in person, twice. I was less than impressed with most of the board members, in particular Heidi Emberling, who appears to contribute nothing more than her presence. Kevin Skelly was a shocking disappointment--seems fearful and apprehensive about questions and ignores many of them. [Portion removed.] Board members, especially Emberling, seem unqualified for their roles. Dr Skelly may be qualified for his job on paper, but to meet him is to see that he is NOT. [Portion removed.]

I think we currently have the least qualified and most ineffective school board in the history of Palo Alto. At least since the 60's when I moved here with my parents!

Posted by They are in it together, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I've attended a couple of board meetings and this board is just awful. I challenge the apologists to list any real talent or accomplishment that Kevin Skelly, Charles Young, Holly Wade, or any of the board members have. I look forward to reading proof of how these folks represent the best of PAUSD.

Posted by slam dunk, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 25, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Oh that one's easy. You only need to look at other recent candidates to know we have the best on offer.

Posted by State Compliance Review , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2013 at 12:26 pm

The State of California is doing a compliance review of PAUSD Special Education to verify if in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). There is a parent meeting November 12. Attend that if you want to hear how inclusion is actually working and what kind of a job Special Education is doing. Board of Education members will hear a completely different story than the one presented at their meeting.
Special Education Verification Review parent guardian input meeting, scheduled November 12 at 25 Churchill Ave, Palo Alto 7pm-9pm.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Dear State Compliance Review:

Can you share more information about this? Was it based on parent complaints to CDE or is it routine? There has been no information presented about this in any board meeting or public forum and it has not been reported in the Weekly. Please share more details.



Posted by State Compliance Review , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2013 at 3:14 pm

More information about Special Education Compliance Review can be found at web site for California Department of Education, Specialized Programs, Quality Assurance Process
Web Link

Does anyone know how to find results from the last Review?
There was one a few years back. Parents are asked to attend a meeting and to complete a survey.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2013 at 3:34 pm

A compliance review would have been conducted in conjunction with the overidentification of minority children in special education. As we have been notified by the state that PAUSD is no longer under supervision for being disproportionate, it seems likely that this review is for a different subject (though I suppose it could be just the wrap up on the disproportionality issue it seems like perhaps that is not it. Just speculation.

Anyone having more information about this session, whether it is open to the public for all parents to attend, and the reason for the session is invited to email me at edmundburke65@gmail.com

Posted by Compliance Review, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2013 at 4:02 pm

A quadrennial review of Special Education that Districts must conduct happens every 4 years, it looks like it but is not clear. (Neither PAUSD or State of CA web site are very clear.) The State uses a Compliance Review to monitor if a District is in compliance with IDEA. The State produces results and where Districts need to improve. Input at the last review meeting was very negative. We have been unable to find results from the last two reviews. If anyone knows how to locate them please post.

Posted by Compliance Review, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2013 at 11:50 am

The Special Education Compliance Review meeting is not posted on the PAUSD calendar as of this writing. The web site does post Dessert day at Walter Hayes, PIE double donation days at Walter Hayes (go Walter Hayes), Project Cornerstone training at JLS which only applies to the people being trained.

PAUSD web site's calendar is a puzzle. What they choose to post, why they post events but only for some schools is a puzzle. Some people do use the PAUSD Calendar to look up when and where events will be held.

Perhaps the Special Education Compliance Review meeting is not on the calendar to discourage attendance by parents who could provide real life information about the job Special Education is doing. Parent reports might conflict with the above Board of Education presentation saying Special Education has achieved full inclusion and how well they are managing their taxpayer resources.

Posted by Rachel, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 16, 2014 at 12:13 pm

As always we have very poor financing for special education kids. It is very sad as they can be pretty talented writers (find quality writers for your schools essay: Web Link ), singers and so on despite their condition. We need make sure these kids are treated the same as our children is our future. Moreover we should remember that bringing up such children is not only the mission of their parents and government, every person has to be compassionate. These children shouldn`t be isolated and one day they will find their place in this World.

Posted by Mom of Experience, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 16, 2014 at 1:20 pm

I know from the experience of trying to adequately educate a child oxygen deprived during la or and delivery, that this school district tries to save money by " mainstreaming" learning disabled children far too soon.

Then when these children pull in bad grades, the schools say they are slow or stupid and should be put on a private school for special-needs children. Probably to keep them from lowering their scores!