Special-ed parents petition for answers from the DOE
By Sarina Trangle
For nine business days, Abby Lester worried about which therapists would work with her 3 1/2-year-old son Casey Taggart, who has cerebral palsy.
Now her services have been restored but she has joined with about 2,5000 others who signed a petition denouncing the DOE’s growing reliance on agencies to supplement the city’s special education personnel and requesting that an executive order limit the city’s authority over special education.
Ms. Lester was among several local families held in limbo after the Department of Education told independently contracted special education personnel to stop working until the city reassigned teachers, counselors, therapists and aides under a new guideline.
The city expanded the number of agencies the DOE uses to meet children’s needs when the city’s own special education personnel can’t accommodate them.
The DOE’s Committee on Preschool Special Education has since gotten a handle on the details. Most local families, including Ms. Lester’s, have now been paired with teachers, counselors, therapists and aides. But Ms. Lester, a lifelong Riverdalian, said she still hasn’t received any notification from the DOE about how the new contracts will work.
“They were so secretive about it. They did it right when school started. And they didn’t let anybody know,” said Ms. Lester, a librarian at Sarah Lawrence College. “I know we’re OK for right now. But what happens next year? Because clearly having signed contracts with them [DOE] doesn’t guarantee anything. Next summer, I’m concerned that we’re going to have to deal with something similar.”
Previously, the DOE used a small number of agencies to supplement DOE special education staff. But when the three-year agency contracts expired on Aug. 31, the DOE partnered with 90 agencies, more than double the number of organizations it previously contracted with.