Parents of special needs students say they’re ‘targets’ of proposed Brunswick classroom visit limits
BRUNSWICK, Maine — The school board convened for the first time of the new year Wednesday night with two new members and a new vice chairwoman.
And while the meeting was brief, the board voted 8-1 to table a classroom observation policy after a parent raised concerns over whether it complies with federal education mandates.
The classroom observation policy was proposed by the board in December after parents were alarmed by a classroom observation procedure instituted in November by Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski.
“This proposed policy and its regulations are more flexible than the previously outlined requirements for classroom observation,” former board member Michelle Small said at a December meeting.
But despite the board’s efforts to mollify parents, some remain unsatisfied and want to see more flexibility.
“The one visit per 60 minutes or less per month, unless a special dispensation is given by the principal, is restrictive. It does not take the individual needs of the student into account,” Melodie Huston, a parent of a third-grade student at Harriet Beecher Stowe School, said Wednesday. “It promotes additional stress for the parents of special needs students, who have multiple issues spanning multiple classes, to have the 60-minute-a-month limit extended.”
Huston questioned a requirement that parents be accompanied by a staff member during their visit, which she called “restrictive and stressful.”
“It appears to unnecessarily target parents of special needs, as no typical parents are required to have accompaniment to the classroom,” Huston said. “It creates another hoop for parents of special needs to go through.”
Huston told the board that classroom observation is mandated by the No Child Left Behind law for schools that receive Title I funds, which includes Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Huston said the school had not updated its NCLB policy regarding classroom observation since 2004, though it was supposed to be updated annually with parent input.
Board member Corinne Perreault moved to table the policy to ensure it meets NCLB requirements.
“I would actually like to make an amendment and ask the Policy Committee to make sure that it aligns with Title I program,” Perreault said. “We have a current policy that talks about the observation; I’d just like to make sure they’re all in line.”
Chairman Jim Grant was the only member opposed to the motion.
In other business, Business Manager Jim Oikle explained that Brunswick’s pending $235,000 in state subsidy curtailments to the current school budget wouldn’t have an immediate effect on the district, but it will affect next year’s budget.
“In the long haul, its $235,000 less that we have to apply to next year’s budget,” Oikle said. “We will have to address the problem.”
Greg Bartlett, assistant superintendent of schools, announced the Rotary Club of Brunswick donated gifts to 14 homeless students during the holiday season.
In a letter he wrote to the Rotary Club, Bartlett thanked them for their “recognition that Brunswick does indeed have homeless families who need support.”
The board also announced their first forum for the 2013-2014 budget on Jan. 23.
On Monday, the board’s newly elected members were sworn in.
Board newcomer Joy Prescott and incumbent Perreault, two of the three board members sworn in Monday night, both won by landslides on Election Day.
Prescott won the at-large seat formerly held by Michelle Small, Perreault retained her District 4 seat and newcomer Chris McCarthy took the District 3 seat formerly occupied by Matt Corey.
Grant was unanimously re-elected chairman of the board, and Michele Joyce was elected vice chairwoman, also without opposition.