Friday, December 13, 2002
Special ed in Carlisle: more expensive than elsewhere?
At the December 3 meeting of the Carlisle School Committee, chairman Suzanne Whitney Smith asked for help in responding to an e-mail from a Carlisle resident who asked for additional information on special education in the Carlisle School. Whitney Smith said the resident was concerned about the high cost of special education in the school, and wondered if parents of special ed children could be asked to bear some of the expense for what the resident called "the Mercedes of special education." The resident also asked if special education students were receiving services above the "normal" amount given to a typical Carlisle student.
"We continue to try to educate people about special education," said school superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson. She explained that many children leave the special education system after a few years. Committee member Nicole Burkel agreed, saying the goal is not to push students off IEPs (Individual Education Plans), but to keep them in the district, which is most cost effective for the town. Committee member Michael Fitzgerald said the Carlisle School has a moral and legal responsibility to educate all children to the best of their abilities. Burkel agreed, "It's what we are required to do." Incoming Carlisle School Business Manager Steve Moore pointed out the IEPs are negotiated between the school and the parents, and if the student's needs are not met, the student may have to be educated outside the system, which is more costly. Fox-Melanson pointed to the preschool as an example of keeping the costs down by providing in-town services. However, she noted, they are seeing students with more demanding needs. "It's certainly not a problem here any more than anywhere else," she said, explaining that the state has mandated inclusion but has not fully funded it. If class sizes continue to rise, the teachers won't be able to help students who are on the borderline; those students may require IEPs to receive the extra help they need, Fox-Melanson explained. The committee decided to talk with Carlisle School Director of Special Support Services Linda Stapp about doing more community outreach to explain the special education program.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito