Parents protest teacher shifts
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 19, 2013 1:46 PM
If exceptional children's teachers are moved from their respective classrooms in the fall, expect some fallout, EC parents say.
Safety, behavior issues and insufficient supervision of their children were among concerns discussed by more than two dozen parents at a meeting Thursday night on the heels of the recent announcement that 22 EC teachers in Wayne County Public Schools will be reassigned around the district.
The move was made in response to more than $1 million in federal cuts to the EC program, officials said. The district attempted to salvage jobs, while rebuilding the targeted program within the constraints of the 8.5 percent budget reduction dictated by the federal government.
By shifting the teachers to other schools, no personnel cuts were made, said Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for accountability/student services.
For battle-worn parents of exceptional children, though, that was little consolation.
"They're just bouncing these teachers around. They have communication already built up with the staff and students," said Karla Carter. "It's been hard for me."
She has two children with special needs, a son who has been at Edgewood Community Developmental School for 13 years, and a daughter who was there until she finished first grade.
EC parents "carry a lot," she said, often being forced to make tough decisions to accommodate their children.
She quit her part-time job.
Tracy Grimes-Lane had been in a similar situation. She said she couldn't hold a full-time job, always braced for the regular phone calls from school -- "you had to be able to go at the drop of a hat."
Her son, a "high-functioning aspy (aspergers)," will be a high school junior in the fall. While he has been in an honors class, the year ahead promises to be "his toughest year yet," she said.
"In order to keep him on a curriculum level that will prepare him for a four-year university, his curriculum is going to be off the chain this year," she said.
And now his EC teacher is one of those being transferred to another school.
"We're losing the one person we were able to rely on," she said.
"The people making decisions about our children don't know our children and don't know our walk," Mrs. Carter said. "I guarantee if you threw your shoes at them, they wouldn't want to walk in them."
Mrs. Grimes-Lane said she had written a letter to the governor and also contacted Michelle Hamm, the district's EC director, who has only recently taken over the role.
"I told Michelle Hamm, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes," she said, adding, "Just for the record, there's been no response from the governor's office."
She said she had also contacted N.C. Senator Richard Burr's office about the federal cuts and received no satisfaction. "Everybody's passing the buck," she said.
"What can we do to make a difference?" parent Laura Blizzard asked. "Do we volunteer more? We have to be willing to say this is what I'm willing to do.
"Our kids do have behavior problems, and they do have issues. The question is not what are we pissed off about. The question is what are we going to do about it?"
Jennifer Avery said it was frustrating to get "no answers." She said she wanted to know who decides which department gets cuts and why and where the cuts take place.
Mrs. Grimes-Lane suggested the group mobilize in advocating for their children and then be prepared to take action.
"We have to do it truthfully, respectfully, and we have to know what our rights are and what our children's rights are," she said. "Now, is that going to make anything change immediately in the next five weeks before school starts? No. It's going to be a long battle and it's going to be a long process."
The group also discussed holding another meeting in anticipation of taking their concerns to the next Board of Education meeting.
An open forum had also been launched July 19 on Facebook -- "Wayne County, NC Parents against Exceptional Children's Program Budget Cuts." After Thursday's meeting, it was changed to a closed group.