By Monie de Wit
As a community member vitally interested in our public schools (Santa Barbara Unified School District), I have noticed there is much more that happens at school board meetings than is typically reported locally.
I’d like to share some highlights:
During the Jan 24th SBUSD board meeting, several members of the Special Education department at Santa Barbara High School spoke up about their concerns during public comment. And the board room was packed with their follow educators, some holding signs that said, “Teachers want to do more than the minimum.”
Joyce Adriansen, President of the Santa Barbara Teachers Union expressed her concern that many staff members feel unappreciated, unsupported, underpaid, and disappointed by how long they have been ignored. She made the point that “supporting teachers is supporting students,” and noted that caseloads are too large, there’s not enough room to maintain compliance or confidentiality.
Other speakers added that leadership is “Not holding us to a high level” and that they were not “Fulfilling our legal duty.” And a paraeducator in the department pointed out that turnover is very high due to low pay and inadequate training. He noted retention is difficult, and that nearly half the paraeducators quit within the first two years.
One of the speakers referred to the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) that systematically reviewed the SBUSD Special Education department in 2009. who sent the link to all the board members. For reference: https://www.fcmat.org/PublicationsReports/SantaBarbaraSDfinalreport612.pdf
I am particularly concerned about these recurring Special Education issues, remembering the FCMAT report that was termed “brutal” and “scathing” at the presentation to the Board all those years ago.
The presenter memorably added, “Students enter this district with learning disabilities and leave with emotional disturbances.”
At the time, an ombudsman role was recommended in the FCMAT report, to facilitate communication, ensure compliance and prevent future systemic problems and expensive legal fees, but it was, sadly, ignored by the district leadership.
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