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New district position to resolve special ed disputes

Original post made on Oct 3, 2018

The Palo Alto school district has created a new dispute-resolution position for the special education department in the hopes it will shift what families of special-needs students often describe as an adversarial relationship with the district.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 3, 2018, 5:17 PM

Comments (7)

Posted by Unfair Mediator
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Oct 3, 2018 at 7:35 pm

Unfair Mediator is a registered user.

Scary!

According to the article's quotes from the job description, the person in this position will:

- "serve as mediator" - which means District employee. Right off the bat, this is not a "mediator". It is an employee chosen by the District to be on their side.

-"by keeping each side calm" -This job description insults both employees and parents, before the person is even hired. Mediator is calm, you all are not.

-"allowing each to feel that they are being heard and addressed" - Why would yet another District legalistic employee make anyone feel their concerns were addressed? Addressed? Is this legal employee going to institute a real evidenced based program for dyslexia? Do they have unlimited power and money? Can they make their high paid lawyer be polite?

The next paragraph in the description says it all about the real purpose of this position:

-"The dispute-resolution director will also be tasked with writing settlement agreements and other legal documents, developing due process procedures and coordinating all required responses to any special education litigation, including resolution meetings, mediations, witness preparation and general communication with attorneys, according to the job description."

In other words, this is a legal employee, ligation oriented, hired for due process against families and the disabled. The job duties include "witness preparation" (training teachers and therapists to testify against their students and patients, violating child and parent trust and, where applicable, their oath as medical professionals to do no harm.) That is not what a fair "mediator" does.

-"The district is currently recruiting for the position and will only fill it if there is an "outstanding candidate," Austin said."

Does this mean the position received Board approval? Was there a public meeting? Are they already recruiting because, like the debacle that put Holly Wade in power and kept bad law firms on board for years, recruiting before the job was approved by the Board? Did they create the job with a plan for whom they wanted to hire?

Why doesn't the District just spend their time and resources making Special Education better, so there are not "disputes" in the first place? It is a better long run strategy to teach their employees to be responsive and polite, to complete documents, keep commitments, and think and communicate like educators instead of attack lawyers.


Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2018 at 7:48 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

@Unfair Mediator
"Why doesn't the District just spend their time and resources making Special Education better, so there are not "disputes" in the first place? It is a better long run strategy to teach their employees to be responsive and polite, to complete documents, keep commitments, and think and communicate like educators instead of attack lawyers."

Amen!!


Posted by Truth then Reconciliation
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2018 at 8:18 pm

@Unfair Mediator,
Thanks, you speak for me, too. The burden is still on the families. And I see nothing that reassures me that there is any way to unpoison the well.

Until the job description includes truth and reconciliation, taking responsibility, apologizing for mistakes, outreach and collaboration, I see no reason this should be anymore trustworthy than before.

There is still this idea that the goal here is to get a clean slate and rather than working through the unresolved stuff still under the rug. I think until the district can really appreciate the damage it can do to families and vulnerable children, and really sees their work as a partnership, they will never be able to create a process that isn't adversarial.


Posted by Conchita Serri
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 3, 2018 at 11:22 pm

I would have recommended they hire an Ombuds, a neutral,
independent, informal, confidential, and EXTERNAL Ombuds who practices to the standards/code of conduct of the International Ombudsman Association.
This is what I do for educational institutions and it works. I’m not an advocate, but rather, a neutral resource that helps both sides come up with options for possible resolution. No one can be compelled to visit with the Ombuds, it is a voluntary decision.
- Former Palo Altan, part-time Ombuds at Pomona College


Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2018 at 8:47 am

Posted by Conchita Serri, a resident of Charleston Meadows

>> I would have recommended they hire an Ombuds, a neutral,
independent, informal, confidential, and EXTERNAL Ombuds [...] it works.

Agreed. I've seen it in another context. "It works." I don't know if it would work in this situation, but, it is worth a try, rather than another "litigation oriented" damage-control employee.


Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park School
on Oct 4, 2018 at 11:23 am

John is a registered user.

WHY NOT BE PROACTIVE!! Hire someone like you had years ago, Carol Zepecki who KNEW the Sp Ed Laws, tried to make placements work for the Student! Why hire someone to help with disputes?? Hire someone who knows the law and assits Parents thru the SST, 504 and IEP process! WE need someone who will advocate for the Student first and the Parents BEFORE there are disputes!! What is going on? Rethink who you need to hire!


Posted by Alimc
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 5, 2018 at 12:12 am

The Special Ed department has many program directors and admins. We don’t need more new admins including a so called mediator who can’t really be a mediator if they are working for the district.
What we need is more qualified special ed aides and until there are more we won’t be able to continue with proper inclusion for our special ed kids. I believe there are shortages at many schools. This should be our priority


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