Thursday, January 28, 2010

With Budget Vote 2 Weeks Away, County Starts Staffing Unapproved, Undefined Program

Here's an interesting (and disappointing) development with the Montgomery County scheme to shift preschoolers with special needs to a new experimental program in public elementary schools. I call it a "scheme" because emerging details suggest that the public hearings, meetings with board members, and letters and phone calls from parents may not have really mattered -- because the county is moving forward with the implementation of this program BEFORE IT HAS BEEN APPROVED.

Yes, as we await the Board of Education's Feb. 9 vote on the FY2011 budget, which includes this proposed plan, the county has hired the first teacher for the program. She started working on Tuesday. That's according to a parent who talked directly to Felicia Piacente, the director of the Division of Prekindergarten Special Programs and Related Services.

Specifically, a parent spoke with Ms. Piacente about her child, who is scheduled to transition from Infants & Toddlers to special education preschool in March. As part of the transition process, the parents and the service coordinator from Infants & Toddlers visited several programs and determined that the Montgomery Primary Achievement Center (MPAC) was the appropriate placement. But before the IEP meeting, the parents learned of Superintendent Jerry Weast's plan to eliminate funding for MPAC. The parents are struggling to find any information they can about the new preschool program, but Ms. Piacente informed them that the program does not yet have a name, schedule, or classroom they can visit.

In addition, Ms. Piacente told this parent that the teacher for the new preschool class at Cashell Elementary School started on Tuesday. No paraprofessionals have been hired, and they won't be until the program has students. The teachers and pareprofessionals will receive no program-specific training.

Is anyone else outraged? Email BOE@mcpsmd.org if you value parent involvement, support appropriate education for all student, and expect transparency and honesty from your elected officials.
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