Last Thursday the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s (SMMUSD) Board of Education heard a second District staff response to the Special Education Strategic Plan (SESP) that was presented to the Board in May of 2004.
Board members asked a committee of parents, faculty and school staff to create the Plan. Former District Chief Academic Officer Linda Kaminski made the initial staff response to the 88-page document in August of 2004.
According to last week’s staff report, “All strategic plans serve as a framework. It is not possible, nor is it the intention, that a strategic plan become a ‘to-do list’ in terms of direction to staff within the District. It is a general roadmap that is modified given specific financial, legal, economic, and social circumstances facing the district at any given point in a five-year cycle.”
The statement triggered criticism from the Special Education Strategic Planning Committee. Its spokesperson Clara Sturak told the Board, “Thanks for working on a document that we have no intention of looking at. Not to sound politically incorrect, but it kind of feels like Indian giving to me. None of us [on the committee] has said this is a ‘to-do list,’ and we expect you to do every single thing on it and everything on it right away, right now. We understand there are all kinds of limitations. We understand you have other children to educate in this District But guess what? You also have to educate our kids. That’s part of what your job is.
“The School Board … asked the Special Education District Advisory Committee (SEDAC) to put together a Strategic Planning Committee to write a Special Education Strategic Plan so that there would be a Strategic Plan going forward for the next five years. Then, in August of 2004, you adopted it. This is the key, you also directed the Superintendent and his staff late last year and again earlier this year to collaborate with the committee when preparing a response to the plan. It seemed like such a great idea and we were all willing to do it. But it didn’t happen. This is the first time in this agenda that we even saw this report [the response]. We weren’t even given the courtesy of seeing it ahead of time.”
Board member Maria Leon-Vazquez noted during the discussion that when the Board adopted the plan in August, 2004, “We had the anticipation of trying to see what we could work with in the future planning of our educational plan to make sure Special Education was going to be an almost seamless piece in our regular educational plan. I’m seeing the best we can do in this coming year [referring to the response]. We are doing the best we can under the circumstances we have and the budget constraints we have.”
She, with Board member Julia Brownley, then suggested that, “We have to look at it in interval times throughout the next coming year to see where we are.”
Board Member Jose Escarce called the response “an effort to extend services in a more efficient way and presumably, as a result of that, to more students” without any reduction of expenditures in the District for Special Education.
The staff response also cited actions the District will take in the areas of “curriculum, differentiated learning, equity and equality, school as community centers and universal access to quality early childhood education.”
Also included in the response were targets for the (SEDAC) to meet in this academic year. These targets were:
1.) Explore with the Coordinator for Visual and Performing Arts ways to expand the participation of students with disabilities in our arts programs.
2.) Create a special education parent handbook to be published in English and Spanish with a specific emphasis on helping parents new to special education.
3.) Work with the Education Foundation to increase funding support for the programs authorized by the Board of Education that support students with disabilities.
Finally, the staff response included targets for the Special Education Department staff:
1.) Continue work to improve compliance with State and Federal laws, including the incorporation of the new reauthorized requirements of IDEA.
2.) Develop, then implement a new IEP document and attending paperwork.
3.) Continue close collaboration with Education Services to insure ongoing improvement of curricula, assessment, and professional development for our special education staff and students.
4.) Collaborate closely with Human Resources to identify effective means to improve the recruitment and retention of highly qualified staff.In other business, tThe Board also completed its annual formal evaluation of Superintendent John Deasy that resulted in his receiving a five percent bonus of his base salary. The bonus was based upon his achievement in three targets areas that were set by the Board for the 2004-2005 school year. The Board gave him a 1.7 percent bonus based upon him substantially achieving his target in Special Education and 3.3 percent for fully achieving the target of guiding an intensive effort to focus and improve teaching and learning at John Adams Middle School. His third target — development of intervention programs and plans for additional options for youth grades 6-12 – was, according to the District staff report, deferred “in view of other complementary developments in the District” such as the opening of the District’s Community Day School.