As changes in state mandates continue and an ever-increasing need to be fiscally responsible, many duties in the Washington Township School district are being handled at the school building level rather than administratively.
And that’s why, according to Superintendent Jeff Mohre, the Director of Special Services position in the district is not included in the 2014-15 budget and is being formally eliminated by the board of education.
A need for greater support at the school level has been created, Mohre said, as administrators become saddled with Common Core State Standards, Teacher/Principal performance and accountability and other initiatives overseen in the central office.
The elimination of the position will save the district about $50,000, Mohre said.
Mohre said he was finalizing a “new administrative schematic” to reflect the new support structure in the district’s school buildings.
While the director position will be gone, the Supervisor of Special Education will still oversee curriculum for that category in the district. Maryann Millar currently fills that role, and is being offered a contract in the amount of $148,163 this week for work in the 2014-15 school year.
“Based on the current success of our programs, and the professional skill of our faculty, I have full confidence in our collective abilities to continue to provide effective programming and services,” Mohre said.
Child study teams in the district will continue developing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and collaborate with each student’s parents or guardians as well as teachers, Mohre said. The plans are then implemented by the student’s teachers.
The coordination of services like academic support, gifted and talented, nursing, guidance and homebound instruction, which are now primarily done at the school level, has “enabled the elimination of the director position,” he said.
That reasoning isn’t working for one concerned resident, however. Elizabeth Rupprecht, a school social worker and adjunct instructor charged that the district isn’t ready, nor is it equipped to handle the loss of an administrator in such an important role.
In her letter to the editor to Long Valley Patch, which can be read in its entirety by clicking here, Rupprecht implored concerned residents to speak up to the board of education, and said, “do the principals and supervisor have the expertise and experience to take on additional work including evaluations (3 required observations, consultations and reports each year for every Special Services staff member), collaboration with parents regarding the programs, services and possible out of district placements found in their IEP’s. Please note that many of the principals are fairly new and may not have the expertise and experience to fulfill these tasks.”
Further, Rupprecht took issue with the position’s proposed elimination not being found in the district’s recent budget presentation.
From a transparency and trust standpoint,” she wrote, “why was this decision made secretly with no itemization in the budget presentation and no notification to the parents of students with special needs?”
The 2014-15 budget for the district, which did not include the Director of Special Services position, was adopted by the board of education on Tuesday, April 29.
What do you think? Is this a good move by the district to save money, or is the cost savings not worth the loss of a special services director?