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Hollister School District board makes cuts to special education

Superintendent Lisa Andrew says a mental health program will be added

Hollister School District board members at the March 28 meeting continued to make cuts, approving a resolution to reduce the amount of classified employees in the special education program.

In February, the school board made a reduction in staff that resulted in the loss of 14.5 employees, 4.5 of those were full-time in the special education program. 

The decision was based on recommendations from the Special Education Task Force and the Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) Study. In 2014, the task force, made up of parents, teachers and special education directors, approved the study that would help drive the reallocation and reorganization of the special education department for the next three years.

“The professional development plan for Special Education will be based on the California Department of Education’s Special Education Task Force Professional Development recommendations of training on evidenced based practices,” the agenda item read.

While no exact number of employees was given, district Director of Human Resources Erika Sanchez said, “The total amount of people right now is a bit difficult to determine." She attributed the difficulty to seniority rankings among staff.

“What will happen with the approval of any type of reduction resolution, in the classified world, HR (human resources) meets with the employees," Sanchez said. She added that the district discusses options with the individual employees that won't be retained to provide them with the most amount of information to improve their career options going forward.

During public comment, district occupational therapist Steve Brlansky said, “We’re looking at going from two full-time to one-and-a-half, is what the proposal is?”   

He went on to say the district could become non-compliant as the limited staff would not be able to provide the services students needed.

“It hurts the students, the No.1 thing, and also sets us up for a lot of litigation,” he said. 

 "... with the proposed cuts, we will be at our max, actually over our max. It it really concerning to me," district occupational therapist Alma Nunez​ said referring to the current student-to-teacher ratio.

District Speech-Language Pathologist Cheryl Rios said that at a meeting where they were first introduced to the task force plan, the staff was told that “special ed students were not hbe eld to the same high standards for improvements as general education students are.” 

“Last week, the Supreme Court overturned a decision where they have ruled special education students must have an appropriately rigorous and challenging curriculum. Otherwise, they said 'why send them to school?',” she continued. “I ask you to to please let us maintain our premier program.”

Dr. William Gillaspie, deputy administrative officer of FCMAT said, “The potential reductions is not because anybody hasn't been doing a great job; they’re heartfelt. People who work with special education, their heart is on their sleeve. They care about the kids, they do a great job, but at the same time the school board has an obligation to be fiscally competent. "

"When we look at staffing ratios, for instance, they have to be in compliance with the industry standards,” he continued. “What we found here, the statewide average is about 40 percent of the budget is out of the General Fund, you’re headed to about 60 percent and will be up.”

Superintendent Lisa Andrew said, despite the staff reductions, the school district would be adding programs to benefit student needs along with program specialists who will support teaching staff to implement the new curriculum.

“This plan was a reorganization and reallocation so there is some funding that we are moving from one place to another based on need,” she said. “In that plan we are adding mental health, mental health coordinator and mental health intern.” 

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Laura Romero's picture
About:
Laura Romero (Laura Romero)

Laura Romero is a general assignment reporter for BenitoLink, covering topics like education and city government. Formerly, she worked as an assistant account executive at Pembroke PR in San Francisco, where she assisted with press outreach, event coordination, and social media planning. Her PR skills will be put to use as she helps implement social media strategies and develops an online giving campaign.

Comments

Frankly, this is beyond me and I'm willing to bet it's beyond 90 percent or more of the general public and the headline appears to be somewhat misleading; should read "Significant changes to Special Education Program"

I'm trying to read between the lines and put the quotations in perspective, but I wish someone would explain the situation in direct, common, English so the community can better understand the issue, these are all dressed up in politics.

As I read it -

1.  The district was in serious financial difficulty because that is the only situation where you get the state's Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT).

2.  Some of it was traced to the costs associated with Special Education, that's why the Special Education Task Force was involved.

It makes perfect sense to use more mental health funding and adding specialists in that area, over the years mental health budgets have expanded significantly, the special tax of the Mental Health Services Act is estimated to bring in $2 billion alone statewide in 2016-2017.

Reviewing the Mental Health Services Act Expenditure Report Fiscal Year 2016-2017 I could not find any grant or special program funding for San Benito County among the $32 million for Triage (the rich get richer, SF got >$4 million and 64 FTEs) nor an award from the Dpt of Veterans Affairs.  The Special Ed program should qualify SOMEWHERE for a startup grant if there is any justice in this world.

To sum up, it looks like some of the funding (and services) are just being shifted from the school district to mental health, but MH will service the same population and we are going for fewer, but more qualified, staff.

Marty Richman

Submitted by (Dabo Kozik) on

Marty, why not ask for clarification instead of making up your own?

Ok, will someone please clarify the net impact of these changes?  My comment, above, is how I see it based on the information in the story, feel free to correct my interpretation. 

Marty Richman

thepracticalconservative's picture

Marty,

As usual, you have summed up things pretty well.

FCMAT was called in because they are the preeminent agency to evaluate school programs and devise ways to come to solutions to problems.  I don't think the former superintendent was indicating that the Hollister School District was in a financial crisis when he initiated the study in 2014, but saw us heading that way unless we took action.  I can only surmise that the State of California reimbursing schools for past hold-backs provided sufficient funds to put-off the hard decisions at the time, but that is not the case today.  It is also a good practice to evaluate all programs and adjust as deemed prudent.

The District has assigned grant writing as an assigned job responsibility in our district-wide reorganization.

Thank you, Rob..

As far as grants go in this case I was referring to grants under the Mental Health Services Act.  It seems logical to me, I would think that many Special Ed students could use the support of Mental Health.  May I suggest that the school district(s) coordinate with Mental Health to put together an innovative grant request.

Marty Richman

Mufnzz's picture
Submitted by James M (Mufnzz) on

School District makes cuts to Special Education programs.

In other news: SBHS Opens Bids For Aquatics Center...

Submitted by Connie Arteaga (clwhitehouse) on

I'd like to to post the state findings for the state complaint I filed.  As of today 02/16/18 the Hollister School District has missed their first deadline of the compliance letter.  The compliance not only impacts my daughter but I was sure to include all Hollister School District Special Education students with IEP's calling for pull out instruction by special education teacher.State Compliance Findings

If we do nothing the only only people hurt are our children; who will eventually become unprepared adults.  There is a reason they say it takes a village to raise a child because each of us hold the next guy to a higher standard and because together we can be heard above all the politics and budgets.  I tell my kids every day "Organized people are successful people" Together we can make a difference.

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