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Thursday, May 11, 2006

We Got Mail

From an e-mail sent around to "key communicators" in the district, from District Superintendent John Fitzsimons:
Tikkun Olam and Shame on You.

In the most recent edition of the Five Times Jewish Times, on p.3, here appears an open letter signed by community Rabbis.

They wrote in the second paragraph of their letter, "...many children in our community have been denied vital special education services..." Not one of the signatories spoke to me or our pupil personnel director prior to making such a blatantly false accusation regarding students requiring special services. Other than rumor and innuendo, there is no data to support this claim.

The district provides exemplary services to all children with disabilities in the community. In fact, we have many letters on file from parents of private and public school parents thanking us for providing the special services that have positively changed the course of their child's education.

I would welcome any of the Rabbis to visit the schools to observe the instruction we provide and that we conduct in both the public schools and in the local yeshivas.

Shame on all of you for acting in such an irresponsible manner. How do such falsehoods serve to meet the spirit of Tikkun Olam?

John T. Fitzsimons

Lawrence Superintendent of Schools
I take issue with this communique on several levels.

First, Fitzsimons's claim that "Other than rumor and innuendo, there is no data to support this claim" is simply incorrect. There is much data to support the claim of Private school students getting denied special education services at a much higher rate than public school students, which I outline in this post. If the superintendent would like to show counterevidence that explains the disparity between the rates, that would be welcomed. But to claim to be blindsided by the allegation when it has been one I've been hearing for months is simply disingenuous. As a matter of fact, the claim and the disparity in the data was brought up by School Board Candidate Uri Kaufman at Candidates' Night just two weeks ago.

Also, Fitzsimons's claim that he has "many letters on file from parents of private and public school parents thanking us for providing the special services that have positively changed the course of their child's education" must be proof positive that there are no unhappy parents, right?

I'm also not sure what he means when he refers to "Tikkun Olam". As far as I've always been taught, Tikkun Olam means the righting of wrongs and correcting inequalities. In essence, the superintendent is turning the definition of Tikkun Olam on its head by suggesting that the proper thing for community Rabbanim to do would be to turn a blind eye in the face of injustice such as this.

Perhaps someone should inform Mr. Fitzsimons of the real meaning of the term Tikkun Olam. Maybe then he will understand that the true way to achieve it would be to vote in the candidates who have the best interests of all district children at heart - and by that, I am not referring to the candidates who are claiming to be representative of ONLY the public school community.

57 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet you fail to respond to the most cogent point in Dr. Fitzimons letter: no one spoke to him. Imagine if the same people who wrote the critical letter (which I have not seen) actually took 10 minutes to make a simple phone call to Dr. Fitzimons and explain that the impression they got from speaking to a number of parents is that services are being unfairly denied to them - before drawing conclusions, they would like to give him a chance to respond. Now, in the end his response may be inadequete or unsatisfactory, but at least he would not have been blindsided. There is a b'kavodik way to have a machlokes, and what is going on in 5T is not out of control (I live there and send my kids to yeshiva). Dr. Fitzimons sounds like the most reasonable partner private school parents are going to get to work with - alienating him is not going to solve anything.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>5T is not out of control

meant IS out of control - my typo

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Dr. Fitzimons sounds like the most reasonable partner private school parents are going to get to work with"

You obviously haven't been following Dr. Fitzsimons very closely. Dr. Fitzsimons has mastered the art of trickery - On almost a daily basis he releases skewed numbers and statistics about these very issues. Special ed. issues aside - Just two nights ago, at a public board meeting, he and his Asst. Superintendent of Business stated publicly that the district really only spends $14k per student each year rather than the $24,600 per student that is has been reported by the state. What Fitzsimons failed to explain was that the $14k figure is really just the per student cost of "Instructional Expenditures" and that the district's $14k figure is almost double the state average (just as the $24k figure is almost double the state average). But as long as Dr. Fitzsimons continues to show his mastery at deception rather than coming clean to parents and other residents of the district, no phone call to him is worth even the nickel that it may cost. And I say that with complete confidence since I've called him myself and learned this first hand.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

Hypothesis";My impression is that Special Ed is being cut back outside of SD 15 especially for private school kids. Reason starting I believe July 1 -spec. ed services taking place outside of the district boundaries must be performed by the other district personnel-but the pupils home district must pay the other district for the services. Thus, it is now a cash outlay for performing services-not even being given to their own employees.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the relevance of that? And why would you compare a district with 60% private school children with other districts which have less than 5% percent of children in private schools?

6:15 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Yet you fail to respond to the most cogent point in Dr. Fitzimons letter: no one spoke to him.

Perhaps the point would be more cogent if he was not a district employee, paid with our taxes, who has been ignoring this claim for months now. This issue has been brought up countless times - most recently to a crowd of hundreds at a Meet the Candidates night, yet Dr.Fitzsimons has chosen to ignore it. It has been brought up in many apporpriate forums, and no one in the present public school administration has chosen to address or explain the disparity between the numbers of students getting services. Suddenly the Rabbis in the community speak out, clearly frustrated by what they see as inaction on the part of the school board on behalf of their congregants, and Dr. Fitzsimons claims this claim is news to him? That's more than a bit disingenuous on his part.

The really amazing part is that he spends his time drafting this e-mail, bandying about words such as "Tikkun Olam", and STILL he doesn't address the disparity in the numbers!

We want answers. We are certainly entitled to them.

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Mel Lifshitz said...

Dr. Fitzsimons,

I would be happy to pass on your explanation of how it is possible that approximately 19.5% of the public school population receives services and only about 7.5% of the private school population receives similar services. Please don't insult me by telling me that the public school children come from poor or single parent homes or that private school children are too embarrassed to ask for services because ALL private schools encourage parents to request any services they deem necessary. And please don't bother attributing this to the minority of "private school parents" whose children attend the public schools- the 12% disparity in services is far too great to be justified by any of these "explanations." But I'm sure all the Rabbis would be very interested in your convoluted explanation of how many public school children were denied services as compared to private school children.

Please keep in mind, though, they have heard the facts from many despondent parents as to how they and their children have been treated by district personnel through the entire ordeal of requesting, appealing and ultimate denial of services (and the tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees incurred by these parents). They have also heard first hand accounts from parents (not rumors or innuendo) of remarks by district administrators such as " it's payback time" and "this wouldn't have happened if your community had voted for the budget." How dare you belittle the concerns of the community leaders after the district's legal fees have increased by hundreds of thousands of dollars (even with a contingency budget) in challenging these applications for special education services.

I eagerly await your response.

Mel Lifshitz

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Slaid Cleaves said...

The point about the disparity in special education funding was also made in Larry Gordon's editorial in last week's 5tjt. Gordon printed Fitzsimmons' response to the ediotorial as well, which incidentally, did not address the disparity point (which may tell you someting about its merit).

6:43 PM  
Anonymous p.o.'ed mom said...

Perhaps the reason more day-school kids are being denied services than public school kids is because religious parents seek testing in greater numbers than secular parents. (Therefore, "normal" kids get tested and then denied services.) If parents really feel that their kids are being denied services, you can sue the district. It's been done. Or, they can send their kids to public school and get something out of their tax money.

6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Perhaps the reason more day-school kids are being denied services than public school kids is because religious parents seek testing in greater numbers than secular parents."

You've managed to skirt the issue just as well as Dr. Fitzsimons. The point being highlighted now is that regardless of how many parents or children apply, 19.5% are granted services in public school and only 7.5% are granted in private school. Now, what does that have to do with "testing in greater numbers"?

6:50 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Perhaps the reason more day-school kids are being denied services than public school kids is because religious parents seek testing in greater numbers than secular parents. (Therefore, "normal" kids get tested and then denied services.)

That's an outrageous allegation to make without any data to back it up - aside from the fact that it's completely irrelevant.

We are not talking about the number of kids who receive services vs. the number of kids who apply for services. We don't even have any data to tell us whether private school parent are getting denials for kids that don't really need services. The only data we DO have are cold, hard numbers of the amount of students who ARE receiving services. The empirical evidence shows that there are 20% of the public school population getting special ed vs. 7% of the non-public school population. There is no way to spin these numbers to make them about whether private school parents apply for services for (in your own unpleasant choice of words) "normal" kids. That suggestion is completely irrelevant.

6:54 PM  
Anonymous slaid cleaves said...

PO'ed mom, if you are correct that yeshiva jkids are applying in greater percentages than public school kids, than they should be getting more services, not less. Instead we see the opposite. If anything, your instinct weakens Fitsimmons' case.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous p.o.'ed mom said...

OM--there are reasons that explain the 20% vs. 7% numbers. Public schools are required to admit all students who live in their district (other than severely impaired children, who are placed in appropriate schools). Therefore, they wind up with many special-needs children. Day schools are under no obligation to educate a child just because he lives in the area; they can "cherry pick" their students. When a special-needs kid arrives, they often show him the door. That's what happens in my community; I don't know if the 5T day schools are more accomodating to these kids. So you shouldn't scream "discrimination" just because fewer day-school kids get special services. It's a very different population. Have you ever gone into your local public school and visited a special-ed class? Does your kids' day school have a similar class? Probably not. And, incidentally, in my community, day-school parents do apply for services in greater numbers than the rest of the population (the district superintendent told me this personally). Perhaps it's due to greater awareness on the part of religious parents, or perhaps the day-schools are pressuring parents to apply for services.

7:27 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

p.o.ed mom, I appreciate what you and every other commenter brings to the table here, but I fear your admitted unfamiliarity with the district prevents you from being able to comment on point when it comes to this particular subject.

Day schools are under no obligation to educate a child just because he lives in the area; they can "cherry pick" their students. When a special-needs kid arrives, they often show him the door. That's what happens in my community; I don't know if the 5T day schools are more accomodating to these kids.

The day schools here indeed accept all types of students, and erroneous conjecture that they do not is not the answer for the disparity in the numbers here.

Have you ever gone into your local public school and visited a special-ed class? Does your kids' day school have a similar class? Probably not.

Yes, and yes. Also, irrelevant. If the private schools do, as you say, lack the services that you are saying they lack, how much more so do they need the services provided for them by a public school system that is in a position to provide them.

And, incidentally, in my community, day-school parents do apply for services in greater numbers than the rest of the population (the district superintendent told me this personally).

Again, as I (and others) explained above, that is irrelevant. Every single private school student could apply for services - it still wouldn't explain why so few are getting approved. Your argument really doesn't have anything to do with the question, if anything, it suggests we should be seeing higher numbers of private school students receiving services.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Common sense please... said...

OK. Now this is getting a little rediculous folks. I agree the district has been wasting money and the LTA contracts are a little out of control, but other than tossing around some meaningless figures, there is still NO proof that the district is denying services to nonpublic children.

Let those parents of children denied services (and those that lost impartial hearings offered free of charge in such cases) attend the next Board meeting to raise this issue in public. Or at least make a posting here to show there are actually ANY children denied services.

The only kids I know that don't get services are ones whose parents are somehow foolishly "embarassed" to admit their child may not be perfect and require some extra support.

Let's have debates on real issues....noy made up ones.

8:15 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

but other than tossing around some meaningless figures,

Figures aren't meaningless if they show a disparity such as this one. Let Dr. Fitzsimons (or anyone else who wants to actually work toward regaining the voters trust rather than stonewalling and alienating many of them further) tell the voters why the numbers are so disparate.

I'm still waiting to hear.

8:19 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

Is it possible that public school children are accepted at a higher rate b/c they are in the public schools and their problems are more easily appernat that private school kids who get a 15 min eval and nothign else?

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now this from Jordan Robbins, of ALPS notoriety:


What a ridiculous email!

So sad that the pirvate school community is digging their feet so firm in the ground with this accusation.

Do you really expect anyone realistic to believe this discrimination is true???

Because if there was even one case of this discrimination, I am sure no time would be wasted in filing a law suit.

Has anyone heard of any lawsuits??

I haven't.

This election/budget campaign has once again turned into an 'us vs. them' with the private school community once again making false allegations and innuendos against the public schools' and the administration.

Thanks for wrecking our schools and hurting our children! Mission accomplished.

Regards,
Jordan Robbins


Jordan, rather than making light of the parents whose already challenging lives have been made even more difficult by the district's administration and policies, why not offer some explanation for this huge disparity?

As an aside, I personally know of ten appeals this year where parents spend tens of thousands of dollars challenging the district's decision and trying to secure services for their children. While that doesn't prove they were correct, Would anyone expect these parents to spend tens of thousands more on a class action, when the district has already exhibited its deep pockets and willingness to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees?

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why all of this rudeness???? All we are asking for is an explanation! If someone were just to give some reasons, we would be able to put this topic to bed. Why in the world do people think just saying "it cant possily be so" is an explanation????? I also would like to point out that our bloghost, Orthomom, has never said that there is discrimination. She has showed the utmost responsibilty in the way she raised questions, and has simply asked for explanations.

9:09 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...



Is it possible that public school children are accepted at a higher rate b/c they are in the public schools and their problems are more easily appernat that private school kids who get a 15 min eval and nothign else?



Of course it's possible, dag. But that would be wrong, and ould prove that the private school community is not getting needed services that public school students get. What we're trying to figure out is which, if any of these possible explanations is valid.

9:11 PM  
Anonymous slaid cleaves said...

The district constantly refers to the high percenatge of minority students in the public school system as the reason for the 2:1 disparity in number of public school students to private school students recieving services. This link shows that race is not nearly enough to explain the disparity:

http://nccrest.eddata.net/state.php?state=NY&yr=2003-2004

The table at the bottom shows overall student population in NY State broken down by race. The ratios in the "ALL DISABILITIES" row indicates the ratio for each race as compared to their percentage in the popoulation. Thus, the chart indicates that black kids receive services at a ration of 1.24 or 1.34 (depend on which numbers are employed) relative to their representation in the population. In other words, they are receiving 24-34% more services as compared to their percentage of the population.

Minorities make up no more than 50% of the SD 15 population. Assuming they stand to receive 30% more sevices than the average non-minority student, that still does not account for the approximately 3:1 disparity that we see in the provision of services.

9:13 PM  
Anonymous slaid cleaves said...

Clarification:

I realize that in one place I said the disparity is 2:1 and in another, 3:1. In a sense both numbers are correct. SD 15 provides special ed services to approximately twice the number of public school students than the number of private school students. However, private school students make up 60% of the SD 15 population, so the actual disparity is 3:1.

9:35 PM  
Anonymous Momof4 is wrong said...

momof4 said...
but other than tossing around some meaningless figures,

Figures aren't meaningless if they show a disparity such as this one. Let Dr. Fitzsimons (or anyone else who wants to actually work toward regaining the voters trust rather than stonewalling and alienating many of them further) tell the voters why the numbers are so disparate. I'm still waiting to hear.


Of course figures are meaningless. And Momof4, your suggestion that the district disprove an unsubstantiated fact is rediculous. Next, you'll want people to go to court and prove their innocence even before they're charged with a crime.

Why not go to the district with the name of just ONE parent who will say their child was refused service, and that child has been found to have a learning or another disability. What's so hard about that?

Latino children also make up a smaller percentage of the overall population of special needs students. Does that mean that the district also discriminates against Latinos? I also noticed that most children who get special services have a name that end in a consonant. Does it also mean they discriminate against people whose names end in a vowel?

Sorry Momof4, normally I'm on your site. But on this one, you're way off the reality marks. Stop using numbers to make up a fake allegation. Find one parent who's willing to come forward.....

9:59 PM  
Anonymous usually anon said...

"I'm still waiting to hear."

OM, you're still waiting to hear? Why do you keep bringing up the same points without ever mentioning the possible explanations that have been brought up by me and others many times before? Again, below, are some possible explanations.

Comments made11/24/05:

abc123 said...
Edu4less, you are truly a propaganda machine. First of all, I cannot fathom how you can attempt to compare the academic performances of districts 14 and 15 considering, as you called them, "District 15's unique demographics ". As I have stated in the past (with links to prove it) students of district 15 are some of the most impoverished in the county and have among the highest percentages of second language learners. On top of that, there is a very large special ed. population. All of these students are counted in the test results. I'm all for reform and demands for better performance, but the comparison is unsound. Now, regarding transportation and special ed. services. The district absolutely does go above and beyond. Does this mean that every parent receives every service they desire? Of course not. A very common problem for school districts is when parent's feel that their child needs special ed. services, and the district disagrees. A plot to discriminate and cut costs? No. It simply means that the district feels that services are unwarranted. This scenario is played out in districts all over the country, and insinuating that anti-Semitism is a reason for district decisions is insulting. BTW, are you aware of the recent Supreme Court case regarding special ed. services, Weast v. Schaffer? The Court decided that the burden of proof in IEP disputes falls on the parents, and it is not the district's responsibility to prove that a student is undeserving. I'm sure you are also aware that some Orthodox parents have sued the district claiming that the district doesn't offer the services necessary to educate their special needs child and that the district should therefore pay their yeshiva education. Might this be true in some cases? Perhaps. But the district has special ed. programs for the severely mentally disabled (life skills classes), autistic and Aspergers children, the emotionally disturbed, and the run-of the mill learning disabled youngster. In addition, as you know, PIPS are sent into the yeshivas to provide speech and language and other special ed. services. One more thing regarding transportation. There was a situation earlier this year when a new yeshiva was opened but missed the April deadline to apply for transportation. What did the district do when September rolled around, tell the families, "To bad. You missed the deadline.”? No. They did the right thing. They understood that exceptions must be made sometimes and they granted transportation to these families. (did I just compliment the Board? I suppose I did.) Also keep in mind that people that claim that private school students are undeserving of services are, to put it plainly, idiots.

My comments on 5/3/06:

This entire thread is fruitless. Several of us have tried to explain why, in our opinions, the reasons for large numbers of refusals of special ed. services in the private school community. Krum, why not three times the services? All of the possible reasons seem plausible that could lead to such a discrepancy. Very needy public school students and a large number of private school parents that push for services they feel their children deserve certainly seem like the reason. Like I said before, it is not in the district's best interests to deny services to private school students simply because they are private school students. Every district fears lawsuits. Denying special ed. students services opens up the district to such a lawsuit, which is always fool-hearty, especially in a cash strapped district such as Lawrence. Secondly, doing so would be illegal. I doubt public school personnel would put their rumps on the line just to screw some innocent children as a part of some vendetta. Lastly, I would like to think that the overwhelming majority of people that enter the field of education care deeply about children. To deny services to a deserving child is not only unconscionable, but it would require a conspiracy too large to possibly cover up.

9:59 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Usually anon:
I agree that you have suggested some possible answers - but in this post I am talking about answers from the Superintendent, who is feigning ignorance that he ever heard of this topic raised.

10:17 PM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

No. You're suggestions don't nearly do enough to explain the discrepancy.

Demographics. Look at the link posted above. Minorities are overrepresented in special ed statewide by about 30% (follow the link posted above). I am sure similar percentages apply to low-income students. Even if we were to assume that half the LPS students were in a "high need" category, and qualified for Special Ed at double the average (I think an overly generous assumption), the ratio would be 1:1, not 3:1. In other words, demographics do not come close to explaining the discrepancy.

Overapplication. I don't know why people on this thread keep citing this as a reason for the discrepancy, because if true, it is as strong of an indictment of the current regime as you will find. Think about it: one reason that might explain lower services to private school students is that it is more of a hassle for private school students to get evaluated for spec ed. But in your attempt to paint yeshiva parents in SD 15 as aggressivley "pushing" their kids for services, you are actually demonstrating why that reason should not apply here, making the 3:1 discrepancy even more alarming.

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Krum as a bagel said...

No. You're suggestions don't nearly do enough to explain the discrepancy.


Again, stop with the meaningless ratios. Show me 1 parent that had children wrongfully denied services that actually had a real need. The reason everyone keeps pushing this ratio garbage is that they have no actual people that have been turned down.

Until then, move onto something else. This is stupid.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Again, stop with the meaningless ratios. Show me 1 parent that had children wrongfully denied services that actually had a real need."

It is well known that there were around 10 parents who had this experience this year each appealed and 8 of them ultimately lost and are now footing the special ed bills on their own. They all realized in the process that it's nearly impossible for a parent to take on the district's special ed. "dream team" and have a fair shot without expending far more than the cost of the services that they're trying to secure. The cards are stacked against these parents. I believe one such parent was interviewed in the 5TJT this week.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"Day schools are under no obligation to educate a child just because he lives in the area; they can "cherry pick" their students. When a special-needs kid arrives, they often show him the door. That's what happens in my community; I don't know if the 5T day schools are more accomodating to these kids"
Thats what happens in the 5Ts also.
They essentially play the same game-first they'll suggest an other option-than tell marginal academic kids- WHO DON'T CAUSE TROUBLE0you can't keep up to our standards. Effectively go yo public school. I have seen kids who attend night learning shiurim during the summer who attend Public School. The Yeshivas don't want them. A below average IQ really can't even attempt to do the modern day school curriculum. If the kid is learning Nezikin in 6th grade-the odds are most would have the ability to understand general material better than the bottom of public school. Remember the Public School has to make one able to have a free and an appropriate education-of secular studies wo the complications of limudei kodesh.
Real scandal how Yeshivas/Day Schools are so interested in top and how they push out andmake very uncomfortable the below average.

11:27 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

"Day schools are under no obligation to educate a child just because he lives in the area; they can "cherry pick" their students. When a special-needs kid arrives, they often show him the door. That's what happens in my community; I don't know if the 5T day schools are more accomodating to these kids"
Thats what happens in the 5Ts also.
They essentially play the same game-first they'll suggest an other option-than tell marginal academic kids- WHO DON'T CAUSE TROUBLE0you can't keep up to our standards. Effectively go yo public school. I have seen kids who attend night learning shiurim during the summer who attend Public School. The Yeshivas don't want them. A below average IQ really can't even attempt to do the modern day school curriculum. If the kid is learning Nezikin in 6th grade-the odds are most would have the ability to understand general material better than the bottom of public school. Remember the Public School has to make one able to have a free and an appropriate education-of secular studies wo the complications of limudei kodesh.
Real scandal how Yeshivas/Day Schools are so interested in top and how they push out andmake very uncomfortable the below average.

11:27 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

From this week's Five Towns Jewish Times:

"our child did extremely well through her first seven years in the district system," said a parent of a District 15 special-education student. "But then we noticed that our child was not improving at the same pace anymore, and we were concerned," this parent said. "After our concerns were summarily dismissed by the district, we considered alternative programs and became convinced that a change was needed; we felt our child would do much better in KTA" [Kulanu Torah Academy - a specialized school], the father of this child told us.

Although KTA offered the ideal environment and services for their child's growth and progress, "the district pressed through as many as seven hearings to challenge our request for these services, and then spent what must have amounted to tens of thousands of dollars in the appeals process." Their child was turned down, but nevertheless attends KTA, were the tuition is in the vicinity of $40,000.

11:28 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Thats what happens in the 5Ts also.
They essentially play the same game-first they'll suggest an other option-than tell marginal academic kids- WHO DON'T CAUSE TROUBLE0you can't keep up to our standards. Effectively go yo public school. I have seen kids who attend night learning shiurim during the summer who attend Public School. The Yeshivas don't want them.

mycroft - I don't know which schools you are talking about, but I can name you many local Yeshivas with large resource rooms and special education populations. The attitude you describe is a complete throwback, at least in any of the Yeshivas I've come into contact with. This is the year 2006, and Yeshivas have gotten with the program.

Gone are the days when a parent accepts their child being turned away from Yeshiva due to academic difficulties, and sends him/her to public school instead.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

mycroft - I don't know which schools you are talking about, but I can name you many local Yeshivas with large resource rooms and special education populations. The attitude you describe is a "complete throwback, at least in any of the Yeshivas I've come into contact with. This is the year 2006, and Yeshivas have gotten with the program.

Gone are the days when a parent accepts their child being turned away from Yeshiva due to academic difficulties, and sends him/her to public school instead."

I stand by my coments-especially in HS where the Regents is the objective criteria. Look around there are students in public HS where the father goes to minyan.
No parent "accepts" it-BUT the day schools are private institutions and can to use their euphamism "decide which students they will invite back" for another year. You see they thus fon't technically kick one out-they don't invite back. It is in my mind a distinction without a difference.
This is 2006 and the behavior of Yeshivas described is from MO to moderate chareidi -eg those found within I asssume 5 miles of where Orthomom lives. I naturally don't know where-but I assume someplace near SD 15.

5:02 AM  
Blogger DAG said...

Mom...so perhaps before we assume that children are being denied b/c they are in private school, we should examine the methodology used to determine leigibility...perhpad require a special ed observation in private school rtaher than a 15 min eval....I live in 5-towns...Im applying for PT for my daughter....This IS a personal issue for me.

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>mycroft - I don't know which schools you are talking about, but I can name you many local Yeshivas with large resource rooms and special education populations. The attitude you describe is a complete throwback, at least in any of the Yeshivas I've come into contact with.

With all due respect, as a parent who has been down this road, you are completely wrong. Especially if you are switching schools or moving into the community, yeshivos will look for any excuse not to take a kid with even minor problems. If you are already in from nursery, it is harder for them to show you the door, so instead they look to farm out special services to the district or tell you to get private help or they will not readmit. You can't fight them because they are under no obligation to take your kid, so they hold all the cards to brobeat you into submission. Been there, done that, yet none of the Rabbi screaming over the district raise their voice at these 'frum' administrators who use heavy handed tactics.
Lets have some statistics - is there any record of the # of complaints filed for services turned away? Were these complaints verified as having validity through independent testing by other school psychologists/PT/OT? Or is this all based on anecdotal evidence?

9:34 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

With all due respect, as a parent who has been down this road, you are completely wrong.

With all due respect, what makes you think that I haven't been down this road???? I won't go into details due to concerns of protecting my anonimity, but let me be clear - I am not basing my complaints on anecdotal evidence. My children's Yeshivas have been nothing but helpful in dealing with me and my children and any issues they may have.

Lets have some statistics - is there any record of the # of complaints filed for services turned away? Were these complaints verified as having validity through independent testing by other school psychologists/PT/OT? Or is this all based on anecdotal evidence?

We would love some statistics. That is what I have been saying since day 1 of this complaint being brought up. What is the ratio of non-Public school kids who apply for services vs. the number who actually receive services? How does that compare to the same ratio in the Pulic schools? This is data that we can only be given by the public school's office of Pupil Personnel Services. I the data exists, and it shows that non-Public school students are being rejected at a rate that is similar to the rate of Pulic school students, then that's something. But right now, all we have to go on is empirical evidence that shows a major discrepency in the percentage of students receiving services.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>I am not basing my complaints on anecdotal evidence. My children's Yeshivas have been nothing but helpful in dealing with me and my children and any issues they may have.

I want to apologize for the last harshness of the last comment. The point I was trying to make is that it is hard to generalize from personal stories or anecdotal evidence. We obviously have had different experiences with yeshivos, and maybe perhaps (since we are both anonymous) even in dealing with the same yeshiva. In the same way, some people have been happy with the services of the district, others not. My other point is you are asking the wrong question. The question is not how many children were turned down, but howmany children IN NEED were turned down. That can only be reviewed by an outside expert on a case by case basis. Assuming these people have approached the Rabbis who signed this letter, how many such cases are we talking about? 1 or 2? 10 or 20? That would give us a better sense if this is an isolated case or two gone wrong, or a real case or discrimination.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why has no one filed an administartive complaint with the Office of Civil Rights alleging discrimatory impact here? The statistics and information everyone is looking for would come out as part of the investigaion.

11:02 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

We cite statistical evidence, you say we need specific cases. We cite specific cases, you dismiss it as anecdotal.

Keep moving the goalposts, guys.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Yechiel said...

Here is an email that was sent out by Yaacov Gross of Lawrence who has previously written columns in the Jewish Star on various communal issues on the current school board controversy.


Voting against the public school budget and non-Orthodox school board
candidates appears to have become almost an article of faith among many
in our community. Too bad. That's what happens when Jews begin to act in
a manner that comports with the "power politics" standards of a secular
society rather than with their Jewish values.
I start by noting that numerous school districts across Long Island have
voted down their public school budgets over the past two years, and the
trend is expecting to increase. That supports a point that I've long
argued: that everybody, not just "private school parents", is
increasingly unhappy with the tepid educational bang that we've been
getting for our very substantial economic bucks. And that is certainly
true in our own District 15, where the school budget is among the most
inflated of any on Long Island.
But here's the rub: in only one community on Long Island has the school
budget vote polarized the community between ethnic groups - in ours. In
our community, the school budget and board battles have now become
proxies for a much uglier clash, one that pits Orthodox Jew
(euphemistically referred to as "private school parents") against
everybody else. That should disturb us on many levels. As Torah Jews, we
have a mission to the world, and Chazzal have been adamant in insisting
"chachomim -hizaharu biDivreychem". Wise people should be cautious in
how they speak. "Divrey chachomim biNachat nishmaim". The words of the
wise are spoken with gentleness. We cannot hope to fulfill our mission
to the world through aggressive and hostile conduct - even if we believe
it to be politically expedient or "more effective". The Torah approach
is one of "darchei shalom", the way of peace. Moreover, I would argue
that it is also the more effective approach, certainly in the realm of
community politics. Indeed, I would argue that bringing financial
discipline to the school budget could have been a much simpler and less
divisive process, in much the same way as that discipline is being
imposed in other communities in Long Island.
So where did things go wrong? Things went wrong because we created a
climate of "us" vs. "them" and, not surprisingly, "they" responded in
kind. It began with the first school budget and board battle a number of
years ago that was trumpeted with blood red signs declaring NO! to the
school budget, with Orthodox candidates who spoke openly about slashing
activities and services at the public schools. It was an election
campaign about "no", not about "yes". The message appeared to be: if our
kids don't have it (an activity or service), then their kids shouldn't
have it either. That's a very polarizing message and a threatening one
as well. Sure enough, our non-Orthodox neighbors, led by their own
hotheads and extremists, gathered their forces to meet the challenge.
Needless to say, the rhetoric has only grown more heated over time.
There are many in our community who benefit enormously from the special
services, yet from the comments of some "election activists" and the
open letter signed by some of our community rabbis - but not by all, I
am proud to note - one would think that there is an overt campaign to
deny resources to our community. I don't doubt that there are hotheads
on the "other side" who speak in terms of "payback" to our community for
our school budget and board votes, but this flies in the face of the
facts. With a handful of exceptions - and, yes, those need to be
understood and, if appropriate, contested - our community does receive
services from the public schools. We all understand that there are
constitutional limits that are imposed on our school board, not created
by them, that at times restrict what they are able to do for us. We
should also understand that it is hard for a secular school system to
respond with a perfect record of sensitivity to some of the unique
challenges and demands that are made by our community. "Rachok min
ha'ayin, rachok min ha-lev" as the expression goes - we, by choice, are
not a part of the public school system, we have made ourselves strangers
(increasingly, hostile strangers) to them - and it is simply unrealistic
to expect them to jump to attention when we finally do show up at their
door demanding services.
Things have gone wrong in our community because, in the communal realm,
we have acted like trial lawyers or aggressive businessmen - but not
like neighbors. We have abandoned any pretense at dialogue, pursuasion,
compromise. Moreover, we are acting with ever-increasing foolishness. I
have lived in our community for almost 20 years, I am active in one -
now two - of our community yeshivot, yet I know nothing about the two
"community" candidates. What have they done for the community that they
merit our trust and support? What is their plan for the school board?
How is cutting the school budget consistent with our insistence on
receiving more services? (It's like the joke about the restaurant
patron who complains that the food is bad and the portions too small.)
Indeed, how do we realistically expect to gain from a school budget cut?
We don't know the answers to any of these questions, because the
candidates don't feel a need a need to justify their candidacies since
our support is being pitched strictly along ethnic lines rather than on
the basis of merit or ideas. It's our passions, our sense of injury, our
anger that is being appealed to, not our intellects, our judgment, our
sense of communal responsibility. My friends, this is Al Sharpton
politics, and I, for one, want no part of it.
By all means, let's use our voting power to protect our core interests -
transportation for our kids, access to needed community servies. But
let's re-engage with our neighbors, who are no less sensitive than we to
the increasing bite of local taxes, to insist on fiscal responsibility
for our schools. Let's also show them that we care what their kids are
taught and how well they are taught no less than we care about our kids.
And I have no doubt that most of them (of course, not all) will respond
in kind. Besides, what do we have to lose by trying? At the end of the
day, the demographic realities are what they are.
The power of darchei Shalom - or, as Abraham Lincoln would have
characterized it, the "better angels of our natures" - is immense, and
much more effective than politics by division. Our Torah values implore
us to reflect wisdom, not cynicism. It's time to forget all this "them"
and "us" stuff - there's only "us".
Shabbat shalom.
Yaacov Gross

2:38 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

ANONYMOUS 934am

"Especially if you are switching schools or moving into the community, yeshivos will look for any excuse not to take a kid with even minor problems. "

Agreed

"If you are already in from nursery, it is harder for them to show you the door, so instead they look to farm out special services to the district or tell you to get private help or they will not readmit. You can't fight them because they are under no obligation to take your kid, so they hold all the cards to brobeat you into submission"
It is harder but even with kids who have been there since nursery-they will say in HS to even well behaved students-you don't meet our standards leave. They will tolerate anything from students who do well on SATs etc-they wont accept low academic students.

"Been there, done that, yet none of the Rabbi screaming over the district raise their voice at these 'frum' administrators who use heavy handed tactics."Assuming true and probably is it is a scandal of their yahadus.

6:48 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

I don't know Yacov Gross-but judging from his letter I wish I did Yasher koach.
good Shabbos.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

--Show me 1 parent that had children wrongfully denied services that actually had a real need. The reason everyone keeps pushing this ratio garbage is that they have no actual people that have been turned down.--

Um, hi. I was turned down. Nice to meet you.

My son is autistic and needed 40 hours of therapy from the district. He got 15. They decided that he really "wasn't that autistic". Ooookay. Our psychologist disagrees. Oh yeah, and so does your school district one.

We hired a lawyer, and we're still waiting for our hearing. This is all costing us six figures, of which we have had to beg, borrow, and beg some more.

I'm infuriated at the pedestal that some parents can sit and judge from. The pedestal of having children with no special needs, so they can sit and proclaim all is right with their world. Well, I'm sorry. The system is broken for anyone who won't attend crappy public schools.
We're punished for not using a free and broken system. Imagine that.

And just this topic does not personally affect you does not mean that you should not fight for others' rights.

I'm only sorry that I'm posting this way too late for anyone to read this.

2:59 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

" The system is broken for anyone who won't attend crappy public schools"
Sadly as a Yeshiva/Day School parent the following applies in our country-from www.ldonline.org
"Although a child may be in a private religious school, the child still has a right to be evaluated by the public school at no expense, in order to determine whether the child qualifies for special education. If, as a result of this evaluation, the public school determines that the child does qualify for special education, the parent may either opt to enroll the child in public school in order to obtain the special education services, or may request that the public school provide special education services while the child attends the private school.

However, if the parent elects to request services through the private school setting, rather than enrolling the child in the public school, the child is not legally entitled to receive services from the public school. Rather, the public school is entitled to determine how to use its federal special education dollars in relation to that child, or whether it will provide services to the child at all. Under the IDEA, the school district's obligation to children voluntarily enrolled in private schools is only to provide a certain amount of money for such services in general, rather than to provide services to individual children pursuant to their individual education plans"
BTW my recollection is that the ratio required applies only to Federal funds received by the District.
Since the vast majority of funds are local-that requirement is almost meaningless.

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanted to commend Yaacov Gross on his excellent interpretation of what has become an ugly environment for us all. It is wonderful to see that there are still people in this community that have not been brainwashed by the "hype" and can focus on the issues at hand. ALL children deserve a free and appropriate education, and if that is not the wish of the parents,then we must work together to ensure that these other children receive their respective services, equitably. As a public school teacher, I only hope that the once prestigious Lawrence school district does not fall into shambles due to the spiteful intentions of a mis-informed and vengeful community. Teachers become teachers because they truly believe they can make a difference in the lives of "children", and we do not view "children" as either "public" school or "private" school members; we leave that job of segregation to everyone else.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopefully the results of the election and changes in the make-up of the Board will promote greater harmony and unity in this community. This is an opportunity to create a Kiddush Hashem. An opportunity to exhibit the care and concern for the entire community that the Jewish community is noted for. Builders of hospitals, community centers, museums, school systems.

The unity of the Rabbinic leadership should show all doubters and critics that the path taken was done upon "daas Torah" The Jewish members of the community should proudly step up to the plate and correct the wrongs that have fostered and grown. No one should be embarassed for raising our voice. The non-public school residents contribute 75% of the budget, there is no reason why we should not seek fiscal responsibility.

Most importantly we should not rest on the laurels of this victory but must continue to strive to improve the community for ALL residents and ALL children

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoever said that the public schools do a 15 minute evaluation to see if the child has a disability obviously has not had their child evaluated by D 15. The evaluation is done by a team and usually takes about a total of 3 to 4 days. If the parent has a private evalution to present, the team may do less testing and then it may take half the time. Another point...there will always be some parents who will not be happy with the district's decisions about their child. They want their child to get the help that the Yeshiva will not give. That is understandable. The District can only provide services for a child who is found to be handicapped...not a child who has a weakness in an area. This may be hard for some parents to accept. They think, instead, that they are being discriminated against. Finally, just becasue Mr. Lipshitz uses the numbers of 19% and 7.5 %, why does everyone think he knows what he is talking about? Even if these numbers are one year old, they are old numbers and it has probably changed since then. As intelligent people, you must realize that one can manipulate data in a way that suits one's purposes. The number of private school students receving special ed serices is constantly rising and I understand that it is now close up to 10%. The 19% number includes many students who are Orthodox whose parents send them to public schools. A lot of Orthodox parents are not thrilled that they have to send their kids to public schools to get the services that their children need, but they know that is the only way they can get good services. There are so many reasons why the 19% number exists...one is a overrepresentation of minorities which is a problem in just about all districts. There are many more reasons so everyone should be careful about oversimplification of a complex issue. Numbers by themselves don't tell the whole story, as much as some people would like to think it does.

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So many of the private school people claim that they are being denied special ed services and their children merely receive a fifteen minute evaluation etc....How could you, in good conscience, state this? Look at the number of "pips" (special education teachers) that work in your buildings. If your numbers of students receiving special ed. services was so small wouldn't they be transported to the public schools to receive services? The district is not required to provide full time teachers in the private school buildings.

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10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a few comments I think will shed some light on the special Ed complaints. I am a parent member. I sit in on CSE meetings. Most of the meetings I have sat in on were children who attend non-public schools. No conspiracy, sometimes that is how it works. The meeting I saw was a mixed bag. I have seen some children who did not qualify for services and when I say, “qualify,” I mean by state standards. What does this mean? . In order to qualify you must fall below the 25% or 33% in one area, or 25% in more than one area. Now, I certainly agree the 25% is ridiculous, but the state makes the rules. I have seen children who have been classified as well. Remember classification does not mean you get everything you want either. Remember guidelines, I have never sat in any public school meetings on an initial referral. Not saying there aren’t any, but I have not witnessed any. The meetings I have sat in on have all been reevaluations. These children were already classified, and all have more than qualified with heavy learning issues. Now, there are cases where a child scores low in one area such as speech or OT but there disability does not impact there learning. Example Johnny scored in the 2% on his Occupation therapy evaluation (mostly young children) but academically he is right on target he is given occupational therapy as a support service. I have seen this type of accommodation given many times. I do not know if this counts in the statistics spoken about. In regards to comments or rudeness by staff not giving services due to the budget, I would love to hear from the person this happened to. I unfortunately doubt this though, for the fact that a representative of the child’s school is either on the phone or most times in the room. If it did happen, I would love to know who the person was that said these horrible things. They should be held accountable. Now to the real issue, our children. When meeting are scheduled we have the choice not to sign the CSE parent waiver. This way a CSE parent is always there. These women volunteer to sit and advocate for your child. I have not heard from anyone I know about any complaints. I have been thanked hugged and called by all members of this community. The reason we are asked to sign these waivers is there are not enough volunteers. So I ask the women of this community to spare an hour get trained by pupil personnel, and help protect all the children of district 15. Another idea is to ask Dr. Fitzsimmons if we can set up a volunteer committee made up of parent volunteers from the public and non public schools to investigate complaints from ANY parent that feels they were denied services incorrectly. In doing this we will accomplish three things. 1. Ensure that no rumors are started about denial of service. A parent can refer the child’s test scores for a committee to review, and if they feel there were some inconsistencies, it could be returned to the district for further review. This would assure all children received fair treatment. . 2. Save the money on appeals that have to been defended. 3. Monitor our schools to ensure any child who needs help gets it. It would also monitor children whose parents want an evaluation, and go through the proper channels, and refused one after a screening. I do not know if this goes on in the private community but I can tell you that some parents have requested full evaluations and in turn the school district “screen” them and told them they did not qualify for an evaluation. Hence reasoning for low rejection among public students. Our children have so much pressure on them to succeed, it is a miracle they don’t have breakdowns at 8. In the end, we as parents have to see that just because our child is perhaps in the lowest reading or math group, does not make them disabled under state standards or any standard.We need to accept are kids are not perfect. Together we can do this. We just have to try.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to mycroft, services are not being cut outside the district. Next year in accordance of the new laws sanctioned by the government and made worse by nys the following applies. The district the child lives in provides testing. The school district the child's private school is in provides the service. This is going to be a huge nightmare. For one New york city schools already have stated the can't service there own children. Each child will get a voucher for special education services, they must go out and obtain a provider. So if I child get's speech (usually in a group) and we pay ??? 20.00 for arguments sake, and the person finds a therapist who only does private, the other district will bill us for the services. It is truly going to be a major expense

1:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9:22 AM  
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1:47 AM  
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6:12 PM  
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7:12 PM  
Blogger Arnold Spender said...

The following is a repeat of a posting that I submitted weeks ago.
However, neither Dr. Mansdort nor anyone else has responded to it


I believe the Orthodox members of the board were elected because people had confidence that regardless of whether or not they had children in the public schools, they are responsible people with a broad concern for all of the community's children -- be they in private or public school.

I was told that the board of ed voted to return some of the tax payers monies to them. But my source alleged that the board was acting irresponsibly because, for example, the high school auditorium is currently unusable because its roof leaks (or has some other problems?) and that the money should have been used for that purpose. Are people trying to slander the board - or is there some basis for the allegation?

8:26 AM  

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