Sunday, February 28, 2010

Parent Letter: Dismantle MDUSD Special Ed/Student Services Dept, says study

Below is a letter from a concerned parent (not this blog):
Special Ed. Study Recommends the Dismantling of Mt. Diablo School District’s Special Education/Student Services Department and for the Principals to be Responsible for the Program Management of Our Students with Special Needs and 504 Plans.

The Mt. Diablo School District hired MGT of America, a consultant firm, to perform a study of their Special Education Services/Programs. The report has been received and recommendations include the complete dismantling of the Special Education/Student Services Department. Instead, there would be:

  • One Director.
  • Three Program Specialists to train site staff.
  • ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) to be handled by the district legal counsel.

Principals to take on the primary role of program management for their special education/504 students.

In addition to the increased responsibilities they have acquired due to staff reductions, Principals would now be responsible for special education/504 student services/programs.

  • Can our Principals handle this extra responsibility?
  • How much time will be taken away from the everyday management of their site due to this additional responsibility?
  • Are our Principals knowledgeable in State/Federal laws regarding the district’s responsibility for serving our students with special needs?
  • With only one Assistant Director for special education under the Curriculum and Instruction department, who will provide necessary support/guidance to our Principals and staff?
  • Will Principals be able to learn every aspect of every disability to be able to confidently place and serve every special ed./504 child placed at their site?
  • Currently there are different programs at different sites. Will Principals know which students should be placed in which programs?
  • Who will coordinate the related service providers i.e., speech/OT/PT/Nursing?
  • When it is time for students with special needs to transition from preschool to elementary to middle to high school, how will the Principals know which sites to assign the transitioning students. Or will every site have full time staff to provide all the programs/services every student in their school will need? Who will coordinate?
  • MGT is also recommending the elimination of the Mental Health Collaborative and placing these students in their home schools with a site clinician. The MH Collaborative is supported and paid, approximately 95%, by County Mental Health Services. If students are placed back at their home schools, County Mental Health will not provide services to these students due to their own budget restraints. Will the district hire therapists at each site to provide the services these students require? How will Principals deal with these students placed on their campuses? Whose safety will be compromised?

Why would the board of education implement these recommendations?

  • Cost of the study was over $99,000. If the district does not implement the recommendations, will their constituents complain about the dollars spent?
  • They do not understand what is cost effective vs. more costly.
  • They would not have to admit their failure in not adequately using their resources in the district to determine reductions without compromising the integrity and compliance of the program.
    o Did they request specific budget reductions from qualified staff in the district?
    o Did they ask the CAC to assist them in developing specific recommendations?
    o Have they factored in the “Cost of Reconstruction” after they butcher the foundation of the consent decree?
    o Have they factored in long term costs onto the cuts for a “real value”?

Why should the board of education NOT implement MGT’s recommendations?

  • MGT of America is a consulting firm based out of Florida who apparently does not understand California law or Mt. Diablo’s philosophy of providing required services to students with special needs.
  • Implementing MGT’s philosophy would be jeopardizing the health and welfare of all students, special ed. and general ed. by placing students in improperly supervised programs.
  • The recommendations are not appropriate for our district needs.
  • Programs could potentially go out of compliance due to lack of program knowledge.
  • Lack of support will lead to more litigation.
  • Costs of mismanagement will “encroach” on the general ed. fund.
  • Parents will not request ADR from the District’s legal counsel; therefore, parents will file directly to the State and legal costs will skyrocket.
  • Most important, it is not good for kids - all of our kids!

It took 10 years with a Consent Decree for Mt. Diablo to build an infrastructure that is in compliance and working. If we follow MGT’s recommendations and restructure, it will definitely bring about noncompliance and millions in litigation costs.

We need to act responsibly. The board, district staff and parents need to work together to determine the most appropriate way to reduce costs without reducing compliance and jeopardizing the safety of all of our students.

To view the complete report, you can go to the Mt. Diablo School District’s website at and look under the Board of Education Agenda or the CAC blog at I am also attaching the report to this email. (see agenda:

To receive emails all year long regarding special education events/activities
in the Mt. Diablo School District, please register at

Parents / Staff / Community Members
Attend the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 6:00pm to express your opinion.

Please do not count on others to attend and speak on your behalf.

Meeting with be held at Monte Gardens Elementary School
(next to the District office)

Send Emails to the District Superintendent and Board Members
Dr. Steven Lawrence

Paul Strange

Gary Eberhart
Vice President

Dick Allen
Board Member

Linda Mayo
Board Member

Sherry Whitmarsh
Board Member



  1. Has this been forwarded to all board members and the superintendent?

  2. There are 11% of students classified in this area.
    The two biggest populations of Special Ed (4004 students total) are Speech (31% ) and Specific Disability (32%). Twenty five years ago my child fell into those categories. The MDUSD did a wonderful job on bringing him up to level during Elementary school.

    Considering the prospects of cumulative escalating neglect increasing the severity of such situations in these two categories, it does not seem cost effective to destroy the programs for these populations.

  3. i don't know anon, how about you? Have you written to them or forwarded it? ALl their emails are right there.

  4. Talk to most teachers in MDUSD- they'll tell you that special ed is killing education!

    The money spent, the teachers and specialists used for one-on-one, etc.

    I'll take your word for it that special ed is 11% of the student population, but what is the amount of money spent on that 11%? Is it 30% of the budget? 40%? Higher?

  5. I can't understand them getting rid of the mental health collaborative schools. Why would they do that? My understanding is these schools help keep students from being expelled, and teach them the skills needed to re-enter into their home schools.

    After all I have fought to get put into place for my son, now this!?!

    This will open up the district for millions in lawsuits!

  6. @Dodger Dog
    The 11% figure comes from the report exhibit 1-4

    According to their exhibit ES-1 the total projected savings for the elimination of the program is 5.9 million of 5.6 if you remove their flat 10% transportation cut.

    The cost for these 4004 students is then $1,409 each.

    The 'savings' on the population of 34,953 students is
    about $160 per student.

  7. if you really want to know how much special ed is costing the district go to the district's web site and look at the budget. every year many millions of dollars are removed from the general fund to cover the unfunded mandated special ed programs. if the feds and the state would fully fund the mandated programs the district would be much better off financially. special ed is not a 'want' it is a 'need', i'm not sure that the majority of the current board can distinquish between the two. if they accept the recommendations then get prepared for many, many law suits - we the people will be making a whole lot of lawyers much richer.

  8. I think that services for special ed have gone beyond providing a "fair and appropriate education."

    Instead of just providing support to allow special ed students to gain parity in the three "R"'s of education, there is an array of mental and physical services that the district must also pay for.

    That doesn't level the playing field in my opinion. It goes beyond a fair and appropriate.

    Where do we draw the line when it comes to how much money we will spend? I know a lot of these decisions are made at the legislative level, but they aren't funded, so the money comes out of the general fund.

    If we say that general ed students can only have the basics now--no driver's ed, home ec, art, music, etc. then how can we justify going beyond just providing a fair and appropriate education for special ed students?

    In my mind, there is no one advocating for general ed students and the programs that will make their lives richer.

    To use an analogy, if the district is responsible for getting special ed students from point A to point B, does it have to be in a Cadillac, when other students have to make do in a Hyundai?

  9. Anon 12:48...I agree completely with your commnet. .

    This is the problem with instituting deluxe services when times are good...there is almost no way to dismantle them when the budget must be cut. Notice how several posters here have mentioned that the district will be sued...not sure if they are threatening or warning. They are correct in their assessment though, people will sue to "get theirs" and to hell with the district and everyone else. So much for common sacrifice.

  10. The district has been sued over this.

    Any idea how many students attend private school, and MDUSD is picking up the tab?

    How many students have one-on-one support? How many have laptops provided to them? How much money and time is wasted (attorneys, administrators, teachers) in IUP's that are useless, because the parents want to take no repsonbibility for their child's actions or inactions?

    Yes, special ed is needed. What is also needed is to re-define what special ed is, and isn't.

    Special-ed, as it currently stands, is crippling the district.

  11. At my son's middle school there are two students that I know of who have private aides with them all day. Not sure what other duties these aides have.

    What it an "IUP"?

  12. Parents of special education students need to stop threatening lawsuits if any money is cut from the special education budget. MDUSD and all the general ed students are facing another 35MM in cuts and special education funding needs to be cut back proportionately. Special ed already receives a disproportionate amount of funding for the 11% of the population and that % will be even more out of whack if costs aren't curtailed.

    General ed parents are going to start threatening lawsuits using the same language - fair and appropriate education - if they begin to feel their kids aren't being treated faily and then the board will have to deal with 89% of the population threatening lawsuits.

    Dismantling is drastic but the outside consultants did indeed find serious problems in the way we provide special education services to our kids.

  13. I know a couple of one on one special ed aides. All they do all day is follow one kid. Sometimes, they can help out in the classroom if circumstances permit, but it is nothing that can be counted on.

    I have seen some special ed students receive services that cost staggering amounts of money, and I am sorry if this sounds harsh, but there is little return on that money.

    Mainstreaming is good, but to a point. Maybe we should consider that mainstreaming is good in many, but not all situations.

    I think it is unreasonable to expect the public schools to provide extensive services that go beyond "fair and appropriate" to special ed students, while slashing the budget to the other 89% of students.

    I get annoyed when I see the amount of time and energy some special ed parents invest in fighting the district. I wonder how their kids would fare if they directed that same amount of energy to them.

  14. My child is general ed. I had to hire a private foreign language tutor because the teacher hired by the school was incompetent. The following year they lightened this teacher's class load by about half and provided an "assistant" to sit in the classroom to monitor the teacher. My child's advanced language class was one of the cut classes so I then had to pay for an online course so my child could continue to accumulate foreign language class credit.

    I also had to hire a private math tutor because my child's 9th grade math class teaching was completely botched (long story, but it involved a revolving cast of teachers, uneven grading system, gaps in instruction, etc...).

    What's my point? It's that everyone has problems and with it and don't expect "the governement" ie...the taxpayers to pick up the tab.

  15. special ed kids in my school get special air conditioning installed.. while our "general ed" kids sit in sweltering heat our special ed kids get air. I'm not saying they don't have special needs, and I'm not saying I know how it feels to have a special needs kid, but what I do know is that district wide there is a growing resentment of the special needs PARENTS (not kids) all these threats of lawsuits, all these special treatments being demanded. It's gone too far in my opinion.

  16. California’s budget crisis has taken a heavy toll on public schools and students. A report issued by the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at UCLA, looks at the impact of deep budget cuts on student welfare and school learning environments. Researchers found, what most of us already know: that schools have increased class sizes, cut back on textbooks, and reduced or eliminated summer school and other academic programs.

    The question for parents is: what do we do now to keep our children competitive in the college admissions process? It was reported this week that UC Berkeley has admitted more out-of-state students, since those students pay higher tuition rates. Consequently, our children find themselves less prepared and fighting for fewer positions in our elite public institutions.

    However, parents can still look to the private sector to level the playing field. If California isn’t willing to spend the money needed to keep our children competitive in the college admissions process, then as parents we should have options. Check out if you have children that are interested in attending a good college.

  17. I have one special ed student and one child who is not. I agree that it would be nice for there to be better education for general ed. students BUT people saying this should come from Special Ed. are wrong. If someone has a disabled child, their lives are already much harder than most people. It's a financial burden (many services are NOT covered by healthcare), it's stressful, and the services kids get from schools are definitely NOT cadillac vs. hyundai. When you are getting all upset about special ed, think about what it would be like if your child were disabled. Also think about the longer term - if we can help the disabled to be more productive when they grow up it will be a lesser cost burden on society. I know from having a regular ed. student that all the cuts are hard but there needs to be another solution to the school funding issue in California.

  18. I just finished reading the comments from all the "anonymous" parents. I also have a voice and disclose my identity without fear. I model advocacy for my disabled son. I agree with the parent who says having a disabled child is already filled with challenges both at school and in the community. The argument should not be a "them or us" mentality. For those unfamiliar with the law, IDEA is an excellent source to refer to for the why of special education and compliance mandated for services. Also refer yourselves to No Child Left Behind. The informed parent is a powerful entity in communicating with each other and all levels of stakeholders in education in this district.