Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sped Head Put Hold on SEAAC Committee

Seemingly no urgency here despite the state of Special Ed services in SPS.  It will be interesting to see what this "marketing campaign" for more diversity on SEAAC will look like.  It looks like a bit lift to find that many people from such a variety of groups.  

That this will now run until the end of November likely means nothing will happen until after the winter holidays.  Nothing like deliberate speed.

Bold mine.

Dear Special Education Advisory and Advocacy Council (SEAAC) Nominees,

We want to thank you for your application to serve on the Special Education Advisory and Advocacy Council.  We are looking forward to a productive year working with the Council to address the five goals for Special Education in the Seattle Public Schools Strategic Plan.

At this time, we are putting the selection of the committee on hold.  While we are very pleased with the parent/guardian representation in the pool of applicants, there are groups that are not yet represented.   Therefore we are extending the application deadline and will begin a marketing campaign next week, beginning on October 27, 2014 to recruit more nominees.   Specifically we will be recruiting Council representation from the following:

·         More families from our ethnically and culturally diverse populations representing students with a wide range of issues who are receiving Special Education services

·         More SPS Special Education teachers that represent the diverse programs and regions of the District
·         SPS administrators

·         Community Organizations that serve families with children with disabilities

·         Representatives from universities that can work with us to educate and recruit highly qualified teaching staff.

We are very excited to begin a new school year partnering with families and the SPED community to continue to improve communication and the quality of services provided to our SPS students with special education needs.  Other efforts to partner with varied constituents includes the following activities: Special Education PTSA meetings, Special Education Task Force, Special Education Implementation, RC-CAP Steering Committee and university advisory teams.

Your nomination form/application will remain in the pool of candidates.  The new deadline for additional nominations is November 14, 2014.  It is our goal to widen the engagement of the Seattle Public Schools’ Special Education Community by increasing and diversifying the number voices on the Council.
Appointments to the council will be made by November 26, 2014.

Thank you again for your interest in serving on this council and for your patience as we expand our Special Education Advisory and Advocacy Council recruitment efforts.

Best Regards,

Wyeth Jessee 
Interim Executive Director of Special Education
Seattle Public Schools


Jet City mom said...

What groups are not represented?
personally, I think getting SPED back on track ( was it ever really ON track?), is much more important than waiting until the committee meets some esoteric benchmark.

They should be ashamed of themselves, the district will seize any excuse not to more fully serve students.
Did they not reach out to all groups as much as possible when recruiting for the committee in the first place?
Then what more can they possibly do now?

Unless they want sham appointments, such as when our school did not have enough minorities on the parent board to satisfy teachers, so one parent agreed to be named as co chair, in name only.
The district just wants to look good, not to do good.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The district just wants to look good, not to do good."

I will have to remember that phrase; I think, in many cases, it's true.

Anonymous said...

The reasons given for this further delay in re-establishing SEAAC are pretty flawed. Anyone familiar with SEAAC would know that the meetings are regularly attended by representatives from Open Doors and the Arc. These groups serve all immigrant and poorer communities with students receiving special education services in SPS. In the past year, one of the SEAAC Board members was from Open Doors and regularly informed the District of difficulties for families whose native languages aren't English in the IEP processes. Ditto the Arc. In the past year via SEAAC, the ARC offered to organize translator training for IEP meetings in SPS and establish a cadre. Meetings were held. In the end, SPS shelved the contract no reason given. And our ELL parents continue to report difficulties accessing translator services for IEPs.

I wish this letter would not have insulted the time and good will of these important community partners and good faith contributors to a committee that is supposed to be of interest to the Superintendent of SPS and his executive cabinet. I am troubled by Dr. Nylund's disinterest in working with family advocates in a direct and regular way at a time when the District is pledging itself (and being forced on many levels by the feds to make these pledges) to reform. One thing about the SEAAC Boards.

And contrary to what the letter states, there is no parent engagement through any of the other committees that were mentioned. The SPED Task Force has not met this year to my knowledge. The CCAP Steering Committee meets in secret with no transparency and certainly no community/family partnership. The SPED PTSA has not been tapped for any partnership in the reform processes.


Anonymous said...

This is the final smack down. Wyeth Jessee has shown himself to be the smug, paternalistic, top-down twit I expected.

Furthermore, if Nyland and the board just sit idly by while this arrogant, dismissive attitude stands - well, then OSPI here we come. Serious, there are many illegal practices going on that seriously hurt students - but, hey, as long as Jessee kisses OSPI's ***.

This is war....

Anonymous said...

This is war ...

I really don't think so, because OSPI condones the silencing SEAAC. OSPI didn't move a muscle when presented with a corrective action plan that met none of the needs defined by SEAAC and the SPED PTSA in our joint letter to OSPI of Oct 2013. I do not think that this matter is of much material significance at OSPI, sadly.

But it does say something to me about Supt Nyland, in that he seems to feel that he can lead the District even as an interim without strong relationships with families and advocates of students with special needs. That's pretty much something the School Board has to take up with him pronto, IMO.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Nyland has two meet and greets this week. I would suggest going and talking to him in person.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to talking, planning, meeting... etc... The time has passed. Nothing seems to work to 'fix SpEd'. Only law suits and regulators/overseers bringing down heat seems to get any actual attention to fix or improve anything for any SpEd students.

I get where this is war is coming from. And I agree. The time for talking is over. The time for action is now. What this looks like? If your son or daughters IEP is not getting respected, go to a lawyer. Yeah, you'll be label as 'that parent', but so what. It's mano-au-mano time; in every trench, every squirmish. Just don't lay down. Unfortunately, so many parents are disenfranchised (not English speaking, unemployed, no access to transportation, working poor- no time/totally exhausted, etc) and can't/won't do battle, but if enough do, the district will qui july get the point. They can pick us off one by one, that's easy to do to SpEd and it's what they always have been doing. But it's just got to stop, and polite or even heated meetings aren't going to result in any solution any time soon. History teaches us that.

Jesse just told us to F-off. Let's be clear about that. The only question is what now makes the most sense for our students. Smells like lots of law suits will get them services they are required to be having in places that make sense.


uxolo said...

The PCDAC (Positive Climate and Discipline Advisory Committee) is also in a holding pattern - with a double-talk reply as to why Nyland is not ready to have the committee continue to work.

What can WE all do about SPED?

Anonymous said...



Melissa Westbrook said...

I would suggest a class action suit as well.

Anonymous said...

"Marketing campaign?" What the heck does that mean? Unusual use of words, don't you think?

Also, I assume that proposed "representatives from universities" ALREADY educate "highly qualified teaching staff" - I see the role of university representatives as educating the sped administration about best practice - that's who needs educating.

And perhaps one needs a good look at why these highly qualified teaching staff choose NOT to work for Seattle.

What a mess.


Anonymous said...

Class action suit, say what? Because they don't want to listen to and partner with special needs families???? Let's not be frivolous.


Anonymous said...


It's not a class action suit because the District is dragging it's heels to meet with parents; listening to the issues from the community of parents and experts and being willing at least to been seen like they are listening and going to fulfill their obligations per the laws (FERPA, IDEA, ADA, etc), the issue that is drawing the ire and law suit(s) is the lack of action to meet student IEPs.

That is what parents are exasperated about. That is why we want to get their attention with writs. Nothing else has mattered. We don't want more 'studying the problem', we want the problem solved.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

All we need it 50 families to donate $300.00 and we can have a very good lawyer get the suit started. I'm willing to try a crowd funding attempt or a bake sale or whatever it takes!

We need someone to speak at the next board meeting and let the board know they are about to get sued for millions.


Anonymous said...

Seriously? There's gonna be a new deadline, and that's going to bring greater diversity to the candidate pool? Gee. I guess it was the tight schedule that excluded all the diversity right out. Can't wait to see the marketing plan. Since they are never able to even count up how many sped students the district actually has.... it's going to be interesting to see how they find anybody at all.

What they really want, is a group of really satisfied constituents, that pats them on the back. Sure. Let's see them find it.

Sped Parent 2

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't know if I think they want to pack the committee but they surely want parents who play well with others (according to their script).

I just don't get how they think this could work, given the evidence of how poorly Sped has been handled in this district.

Anonymous said...

Talk of class action suits where anybody receives money is fairly frivolous. As anyone who has engaged in any kind of research knows, the only remedies under IDEA (besides lawyer fees and named plaintiff fees) are educational. There could be sanctions, though.

SpEd class action lawsuits have to be limited, specific, and amenable to resolutions with the school district and some higher authority with specific measurable outputs. Class certification in the past few years has gotten more difficult. The Washington D.C. case which originally was certified as a case back in 2005 was decertified and then divided into four classes in November 2013: children who were not identified for services; children who weren't provided with a timely evaluation; children who didn't receive a timely decision about their eligibility; and children who weren't provided with a "smooth and effective" transition into preschool programs. All of these classes could probably be found in Seattle Public Schools. The point is that you can't file a lawsuit alleging a class made up of students who didn't receive education from a teacher with an endorsement in SpEd, students who weren't served in least restricted environment, or students with dyslexia who didn't receive any SDI related to their disability. Those students would likely all be separate classes, at least in that district .

SpEd class action lawsuits often last in excess of 7 years. Wisconsin students lost a 12-year-old lawsuit brought by Disability Rights Wisconsin against Milwaukee Public Schools, and even tossed out a settlement reached with the state in 2008. A class action suit filed against the state of Pennsylvania settled for the plaintiffs after 10 years.

However, having said that, there certainly could be a case for:
as in New Orleans: offer plaintiffs the same variety of educational programs and services available to their non-disabled peers as mandated by Section 504 and plaintiffs are unlawfully disciplined and excluded from educational programs due to defendants' failure to implement discipline policies and practices that adhere to IDEA; a group of parents in the Morgan Hills district in California has also recently filed against the California Department of Education alleging various violations of FAPE. The state has filed its answer to allegations and is seeking to have the case dismissed. So far two years have passed.

I guess my point is that class action lawsuits are not a POOF solution and won't provide any immediate relief to your student's current situation.

Legal Eagle

mirmac1 said...

Legal Eagle, unfortunately all those barriers exist which is what Ron English and friends count on.

There ARE many OSPI complaints waiting in the wings however, many repeat ones. This is what brought about the CCAP in the first place. Complaints like: refusal to provided a 1:1 aide when the IEP team identified one as necessary for a students' FAPE; depriving preschoolers of play equipment, safety and security; warehousing SM4 students without curriculum or materials; denial of accommodations in an IEP; over-reliance on emergency-certs to "teach" self-contained classes; delayed provision of SLP and OT/PT services; and etc.

What would it mean if parents filed all the complaints that are warranted? The district could lose control of $10M. Money talks, BS walks. Time for the interim SpEd Head to go.

Anonymous said...

Mirmac1, those all seem like pretty serious complaints (and many of them would be easy to investigate). Not providing a 1:1 that is required by the IEP? Delayed provision of related services AGAIN?

Is central admin confused about the law or just refusing to comply? Have people filed complaints with Seattle OCR as well for 504 violations?


Anonymous said...

I'd like to make a note that this announcement of a decision to put the selection of SEAAC comes NEARLY A FULL 3 MONTHS AFTER the 2014-2015 SEAAC was scheduled to convene. According to the SEAAC recruitment accouncement, which can be found on the SPS website, the SEAAC term was scheduled for August 2014-July 2015.

3 months later, it was already painfully obvious that the selection of SEAAC was "on hold".

I nominated myself for the 20-14-2015 SEAAC. I did not receive confirmation of my nomination, or any other communication regarding SEAAC from the District, until I received the email posted by Melissa on October 2014.

The facts are that this announcement comes 3 months into the current term, without a mere recognition of the fact that 25% percent of the 2014-15 has already passed.

But gee, it's so nice to hear that "We are very excited to begin a new school year partnering with families and the SPED community to continue to improve communication and the quality of services provided to our SPS students with special education needs."

This letter references "begin a new school year" as though it not being sent out at the end of October!

A start to "better communication" would be to agree to talk about facts instead of playing pretend.

Naomi, SPED parent

Anonymous said...

For 2014 SPS has 13 citizen complaints(CC), 18 due process actions(DPH) and 5 OCR investigations.

This represents a near 300% increase over 2013 counts of 5 CC, 4 dph and 2 OCR investigations.

If SPS SPED is improving then I would expect these numbers to drop, not explode!


Anonymous said...

As far as a class action is concerned, can you find some important specific violation of IDEA (yes) named plaintiffs (probabaly), some hard proof that at least 30 or so other students are similarly affected (probably), an attorney, firm or nonprofit willing to spend a lot of time on a lengthy case (far more difficult)? If you can get all that, are you williing to wait 10 years for results? Frankly, any class action filed now will probably benefit other people's children far more than your own.

What this area needs and doesn't have is a nonprofit legal group willing to stand up to OSPI and SPS and to file a few of these kinds of suits. Other cities have nonprofits that do this. This could be a disabilities rights group, or a civil rights group or even just a group that legally represent disadvantaged groups.

Leagle Eagle

Anonymous said...

SPS seems to be saying that it did not like the makeup-format-output of the last SEAAC. Looks like they want a new focus and people.

Once SPS does have that diversity of voices it seeks I bet it won't get going until after the holidays. At some point they'll hire a permanent special education director and that will void whatever this new SEAAC does. So will this year's SEAAC result in any changes in practice in SPS? Not holding my breath.


mirmac1 said...

Well, over the years I've approached the ACLU, the NAACP, the Northwest Justice Project, and Disability Rights Washington for a class action. Not much interest. You'd think Seattle would have a robust group fighting for civil and disability rights.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, what does"plays well with others" even mean? The only thing the district listen to is a stick. Is that playing well with others?

Sped Parent 2

Anonymous said...

How sad, ultimately, for our students.

The top brass, whoever that is for these few nano seconds, is 'forum shopping', plain and simple.

The problem in a nutshell is they don't like the mirror that is being held up to their faces by the folks on the committee, so they're trying to get different folks. The problem is not the mirror being held up, the problem is what's in the mirror staring them back in the face. Doesn't matter whose hands are holding up that mirror. Seems like they are hoping to pick parents who won't call them on the major problems and the constant non-compliance of SpEd services in SPS.

Delay, stall, new committee, different task force -- these are not the signs of a willing partner in our children's education.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't give up on DRW. I hear they just hired a new attorney just for special ed, which is a first for them.
Leagle Eagle

Anonymous said...

Thanks Legal Eagle for the heads up on DRW. They've sure been a disappointment. Families have tried to get their attention to some of the systematic denials of FAPE for quite some time.


mirmac1 said...

No kidding. I have not tried to hide my "poor attitude", once I saw the business as usual signals. It has led to a predicted result.

It is clear to to me that SPS admin expects passive yes men, or expends energy on denials and making excuses. Dang, they make a lot of money to play this fruitless and destructive game. I'll work for free as long as I see some material results. If I don't, well then we revert to 2-3 years ago, litigation and confrontation.