The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 18, 2005



Special Education regulations are changing

Almost everyone agrees the special education system can be improved, though there are disagreements about the best way to provide fiscally responsible, high quality education. Now change is at hand in Massachusetts, and the challenge is to ensure that we do not harm the children in the process.

The state's special education regulations are a powerful tool directing how schools implement state and federal laws governing special education. Among other things, the regulations describe how school districts and parents are to share information and collaborate to design an individualized educational plan (IEP) for students with special needs.

The Massachusetts Board of Education is proposing several substantive amendments to the regulations. Some of these changes may have negative consequences for the 16% of all Massachusetts students and one in ten Carlisle students who receive special education or support services. The parents of these students (including me) might want to study the details of the amendments. Areas involved include evaluations, placement, and some parental consent requirements. The removal of checks and balances may be an effort to streamline the system, but will increase the opportunity for human error at a cost to the child.

For more specifics, visit the Department of Education web site ( and click on "proposed regulations" to download a copy of the current version with the proposed insertions and deletions clearly marked. To see which changes are of concern to children's advocacy groups, visit the web site of the non-profit Federation for Children with Special Needs ( and click on "urgent announcement from Education Law Task Force."

Any public comments can be sent to the Board of Education at: or mailed to 350 Main Street, Malden, Mass. 02148. The opportunity for public input is brief, with a deadline of March 1. Final action by the Board of Education is anticipated by April 26.

Water works

With the trickling calliope sounds of snow melting from my roof in the background, I am moved to sing the praises of drainage. "Don't write about drainage!" my kids admonished me. "It's too boring." "On the contrary," I replied. "Drainage is not at all dry."

Like reliable plumbing or a 401(k) plan, however, drainage is a topic that you have to be over a certain age to appreciate. First, I had to explain what I meant by drainage. "It's when rain and melting snow flow away from your house instead of into the basement, like in our old house." "That was so cool," reminisced my youngest, recalling the two feet of H

Now that I live in Carlisle, the land of the ceremonially wet and swampy, drainage appreciation takes on a more communal aspect. Even with two-acre zoning, moisture management is a shared responsibility that often extends beyond property boundaries. We are the proud owners of a drainage easement, a large tract of lowland that entitles our neighbors' water to trespass onto our land. We are technically the burdened estate, but the result is an intermittent stream that adds beauty and music to our Marches and Aprils. Farther up the road, we depend on our neighbors periodically to flush the culvert that is supposed to carry water below the pavement, thereby avoiding a sheet of ice in the winter. New construction and even landscaping projects require a consideration of flow patterns. Showing eternal optimism that people will do the right thing, we took a leap of faith a few years ago and carpeted the basement. So far, so good.

After nearly five years on the Planning Board, I can state with authority that drainage gets little respect from the uninitiated. The most carefully thought-out plans can be worthless if not carried out to the letter. I'll never forget the bizarre sight of what looked like a water cannon shooting out from the bottom of a telephone pole across Concord Street in a development under construction my first year on the board. This is not just a small town engineering failure. A new sewer I pass each day in downtown Boston has little need for the engraved warning that everything dumped down the drain goes straight to the Boston Harbor because the grate sits high and dry at least a foot away from the lake that forms just steps lower during wet weather. Drainage is not like horseshoes; close isn't good enough, and even professionals need oversight to verify that they are getting it right.

I'd like to conclude, in the manner of Leo Tolstoy, that all good drainage is the same, but all bad drainage is bad in its own way, but it's really the same story. Either way teaches the same lessons for life: start with a good plan that shares benefits and burdens, pay attention to details, then follow through.

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2005 The Carlisle Mosquito