The authors of this letter, Jeff and Cathie Josephson, have sent a copy to the Board of Education for discussion at . The district has told them that there is no program for their daughter Erika with in the district as she transitions to high school and that she must attend BOCES. Erika has been educated in Northport schools for seven years and has met with success.
At recent meeting of the questions have been asked about the special education classes within the district. Superintendent Marylou McDermott said that the special education goal was to “take the elementary school special education model and move it to the high School."
Dr. McDermott stated that if there was the “appropriate skill level of the staff then the model would be for all children." I have been told it is not about the program, it is the skill level and advancing to the next level.
Northport district can do this, they have proven it, so why stop at elementary school or the middle school? This practice should continue to the high school.
There are a large number of special education children within the district, the elementary and middle school levels, whose parents are being told that there is “no program” in the district as they transition to the next level.
As a parent of a special needs child that has been educated in the district, quite successfully for seven years this concerns me. As a past SEPTA president, Vice President and multiple SEPTA board positions, I have become an advocate for many special education families. I also am a volunteer with the Long Island Parent Network. Additionally, I am a parent member regularly at CSE’s (Committee of Special Education) I see that BOCES' screenings are being requested as the parents are being told that there is no program available in the district. It is being implied that these children cannot continue to learn in the system, even though programs have proven to be successful.
The programs that were put into place by former Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services John Lynch have demonstrated great success not only for my daughter but many other children.
The Special Education administration has told me that they can no longer educate my daughter and others in the district. The district has spent much money, and time in training staff, purchasing equipment to give my daughter a positive learning experience. She has made gains that her entire team as well as us, her parents are very proud of. We have been looking at other school options since the beginning of the year and there is no other program in New York that can give her the same opportunities than she has received in the district, yet we continue to be told that they will not educate her any longer in the district, being told that there is not a program for her at the high school.
Dr. McDermott continues to say it is not about the program but the skill level. The current Special Education administration would like you to believe that they can no longer educate my daughter and other children in the district. Our daughter has flourished in the district, there has been milestone progress. Children are entitled to a LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) This would be a specialized program at a general school in the district. A BOCES program is more restrictive. There has been much success in the district and this should continue. Removing them from the community where they live and will live, will further isoloate them from this community.
As the School Board talks about children coming first and doing what is right for the children, I am requesting that the Board of Education analyze the current special education programs, as well as teaching staff/assistants and aides to ascertain the appropriateness of discontinuing the successful special education programs. It is my understanding that the education of each child outside the district costs more than $100,000 per child each year. Given the number of children that have been told that there are no programs in the district and that their child should receive a BOCES screening, the cost would be exorbitant to the district. If we do the math, the cost at a minimum to educate 10 children at a BOCES program would be 1 million dollars per year. If they remained in the district the costs would be substantially less. Furthermore since the district has already spent a significant amount of money on professional development, it would make sense to keep them in the district.
As parents, our daughter needs come first. The BOE say’s “Children first” We hope this include special education children. We have seen so much progress with our daughter and are so appreciative to the hard work that the staff has done for her. They have advanced her to a new and higher level. It is our wish that she continue her learning path in the district. The program has been successful for 7 years. Why is the district now going to turn her away from the best education years of her life? Take her away from her peers? Take her away from her community that cares about her and her success.
Thank you for your concern and consideration of this extremely important area.
Jeff and Cathie Josephson
14 Lindberg Ct.
Northport, NY 11768