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Palo Alto school board takes heat over special education consolidation plans

Original post made on Feb 15, 2023

Tuesday's Palo Alto school board meeting got heated as parents voiced their anger over plans to eliminate programs for students with moderate to severe disabilities at two elementary schools.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 15, 2023, 9:53 AM

Comments (8)

Posted by panative
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 15, 2023 at 11:05 am

panative is a registered user.

The one thing I wish the Board had done was to ask the presenters for more detail about their general statement that Ohlone doesn't have the space to consolidate services at Ohlone. Did the district specifically ask the Ohlone principal about whether space might exist for this specific purpose? Did they ascertain whether and to what extent Ohlone teachers might be willing to shift classrooms as needed in order to consolidate services at Ohlone? My guess is that they did neither of these things. This seems like important information that the Board should have in evaluating this decision.

As for Ms. Ladorimak, having watched her in action for awhile now, I believe she in particular attracts antipathy because of her tendency to lead with absolute certainty - which sometimes sounds quite condescending. She seems to have less of an understanding of the educational sphere than the other board members, and she seems to compensate for this by making rather sweeping, imperious statements that convey she believes the Board always knows best. (That's a pretty offensive thing to convey to parents and teachers.) Because of this tendency, when she tries to express empathy, it's pretty inauthentic. A little humility and some genuine curiosity would serve her well. I'm sure it's incredibly hard to be a Board member. It's such an important role - really want to see Board members succeed, hence these comments.

Posted by Retired PAUSD Teacher
a resident of another community
on Feb 15, 2023 at 11:24 am

Retired PAUSD Teacher is a registered user.


Well stated. I just don't know why parents and teachers were cut out of the discussion. It's possible, that even in dissenting, both could have offered sage ideas. Plus inclusion in the discussion brings a stronger consensus. I don't think inclusion in this case would have cost valuable time. It would have been time well spent, and a way to build capital with the community at large.

Posted by Laruie
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 15, 2023 at 6:08 pm

Laruie is a registered user.

What is the point of a school board it they are not involved in the process. As a mental health professional in the community once again the voices of parents and teachers are not respected or heard. The wall between them and the board is becoming more opaque than clear. Sadly this is a process that is becoming the norm. I agree that a class for 5 grades in the same class is too much for any teacher but leaving the families who are most impacted out of the process with no explanation of if their teachers, aides and previous therapists will still serve them in the new setting is intolerable.

Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2023 at 10:12 pm

PAUSD Parent is a registered user.

At last night’s board meeting, Shana Segal spoke clearly in favor of having parental input and expressed concern and disappointment this was overlooked. She made reference to the PAUSD Promise Under Special Education, where one of the goals is improving Parent Engagement by ‘building effective partnerships that foster communication between families and the district’. Key strategies include: increasing parent engagement, with an expectation of ‘listening to learn’ throughout the staff. When will the district make good on these empty promises? The future of our more vulnerable is at stake.

Posted by Retired PAUSD Teacher
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2023 at 8:48 am

Retired PAUSD Teacher is a registered user.

@PAUSD Parent

It is encouraging that Ms. Segal is stepping up for parents. I hope she makes inroads into fostering better parent outreach and input. Remember, The Promise is just another facet of Mr. Autsin's propaganda campaign. He prefers to lead by screen and backroom deals rather than by example or in person. His fait accompli announcement about the special ed changes was made via a vague newsletter blurb, and in his world that comports with "The Promise". His site administrators have been instructed to use the same tactics. During my final year at Greene the principal ran only one staff meeting: his first one. After that it was all subordinates and guest speakers. Important operating information normally shared at staff meetings often came buried in his newsletters rife with self-praise and laments about the achievement gap. Apparently, Don, or possibly some paid consultant, feels this type of disengagement and sheltering of leadership is an effective way to run a site or a district. I believe they refer to it as “risk management” at 25 Churchill. Hopefully Ms. Segal can help change that dynamic.

Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 16, 2023 at 11:35 am

S. Underwood is a registered user.

@PAUSD Parent- I agree with you, but I'm one fence further. You'll drive yourself crazy if you think of those phrases you hear again and again as empty or unkept promises. If you look at them as the new power-language, the world starts to make a lot more sense.

Posted by Silver Linings
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2023 at 4:48 pm

Silver Linings is a registered user.

So, there is apparently no financial motivation here, so why this sudden change that takes away the opportunity of PAUSD choice programs from moderate/very disabled students? This is just wrong. The parents weren't complaining about the situation, why force these kids to leave these programs? These choice programs make a huge difference in children's lives and development. I can't even imagine how it's legal to make these programs unavailable based on students' disabilities, including that the district isn't even saving money.

I really wish this district would stop with the one-size-fits-all imperiousness. It's like there's a longstanding ethos here among administrators that "win-win" should be avoided at all costs.

If the district wants to consolidate the programs, they should talk to parents at the neighborhood schools about whether they want to consolidate those. If neighborhood school programs prefer the consolidation, and students at the choice programs think the consolidated neighborhood school program is in their best interests, they can choose to move. But if not, they should be allowed to remain at their current choice program.

"The idea of a K-5 classroom, both for the children and for the teacher, is mind-boggling to me,"

It's only mind-boggling because, for the convenience of the system, our educational system segregates students into age-matched cohorts, so that they don't even grow up comfortable interacting with other students a year or two younger or older (or just in a different grade as the case may be, since we have so many red-shirted kids). Were the families in the choice program complaining about this? Doesn't seem so.

Again, I cannot imagine that it could be legal to take away the opportunity of a district choice school just from disabled students. I agree that they should have considered allowing more disabled students into the choice programs, if the principle says it could work.

Posted by Morgan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 16, 2023 at 4:53 pm

Morgan is a registered user.

According to the article, DiBrienza says, "the decision about how to structure the special education program was one for administrators to make, not the board... the board is in charge of setting district policy, not making programmatic decisions, and further that the special education restructuring didn't impact the budget."

She always seems to try to sidestep the issue when things get tough. The board isn't in charge of making program decisions? Really? Has she ever seen the org chart of PAUSD? Since it doesn't impact the budget, that makes everything ok? If the board is not in charge of making these decisions then why is the board voting on it?

On the other hand, Ladomirak say, "If we don't move forward, or if we delay doing so, or if we modify it somehow, I'm really concerned that we're intentionally depriving those vulnerable students of a change that we know is best for them — and I can't do that,"

Does she really think that she knows what is best for all of these kids?

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