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Reader: Why Was City's Special Ed Program Really Closed?

A Bielefield School mother wonders why the DEAL program at Lawrence School was closed down in spite of it saving taxpayer money and providing a nurturing and safe learning environment for all children.

To the Editor:

Recently there has been much conversation about the closing of the DEAL program housed at Lawrence School and its possible impact on the current issues being faced at .

At the last , Dr. Frechette cited a report from the Connecticut State Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education, that covered a March 20-24 monitoring site visit. As a result of that visit, Middletown was told that it "... needed to decrease the number of students in all disability categories who spend time in segregated settings as defined as students who are educated with their nondisabled peers."

The report went on to say, "This plan is to support the increase of students being appropriately educated in the district and within the general education environment that have otherwise been sent out of district or educated in separate classes due to behavioral needs or cognitive disabilities."

This is in direct contrast to the Cambridge report posted on the Lawrence School website. Within this report one sees a very different perspective to that of the BOE Administrators claim that they needed to disband the program. Allow me to highlight some of the statements on this report.

"In addition to its own regular student population the school provides education and support for 30 students in the Daily Experiences/Activities for Living Program. These students would otherwise be placed out of district  because of their significant learning and emotional needs. This is a district-wide program that serves all eight elementary schools in Middletown and which provides students with strategies to enable them to return to regular education, classrooms in their own schools."

"What the School Does Well. The excellent behavior management strategies that are consistently demonstrated by staff ensure that the school is a calm and safe environment where students behave well, forge excellent relationships and learn the difference between right and wrong.

"The school provides well for all students but particularly for those in the DEAL program to enable them to return to regular education, classrooms in their own schools. The learning difficulties experienced by students include autism, neurological impairments, emotional disturbance, intellectual disabilities and medical fragility."

At the recent Board of Education meeting, Ted Radzka stated there was an increase in budget needs due to (among other things) an increase in cost to out of district placements and magnet school placements.

This is the reason why I became vocal about the issues facing Farm Hill. As a parent of a child in the DEAL program I was not told the DEAL program was being closed. It was just done. This is the lack of communication that parents are frustrated with. The conflict between the contradicting statements of the Cambridge report and the Administration is what leaves parents without a sense of trust.

Allow me to connect some dots. The DEAL program was closed. The children became ICM students at Farm Hill and Bielefield. The recommendations of Izzi Greenberg for redistricting (and closing of DEAL was under this) was not implemented. Farm Hill school did not have the staffing or resources to ensure a safe transition of this redistricting. Now, we have a divided confused community. As a direct result, children that would have been sent to DEAL are being sent out of town (farther away from our community) and the cost is increasing. More parents are applying to magnet schools for their mainstream children (myself included), cost is increasing.

No one is able to tell me where the ICM children's home schools would be. This is due to confidential laws that protect the children. The same administrators who fight to protect confidentiality of their clients have not fought to keep them safe and in an appropriate environment.

Why was DEAL really closed? Why can't it be brought back? If it worked (excellently, according to the Cambridge report, staff and parents) why not keep it? It saves the taxpayers money and provides a nurturing and safe learning environment for all of our children.

Jane Majewski, Middletown, Bielefield and Keigwin School parent

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