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Teachers union statement on proposed SPED cuts: ‘Data was ignored’

by | Dec 2, 2022 | Education, Featured: Education

Editor’s note: The Hopkinton Teachers Association on Thursday released the following statement regarding proposed cuts in special education staffing at Hopkinton schools.

Hopkinton Public Schools are at a crossroad. At [Thursday’s] School Committee meeting, Director of Student Services Karen Zaleski proposed cutting staff and reducing services for students receiving occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech and language therapy. These cuts are based on flawed data that grossly misrepresents the workloads and caseloads of these service providers.

Dr Cavanaugh blamed faulty data on her building principals who she says provide her with this information. While Dr. Cavanaugh says this decision was not made “hastily,” asserting it started back in March, it is also true that Hopkinton educators presented her ample data in the spring as well. This data painted a compelling picture of the needs in the schools. This data was ignored.

This inaccurate data and statements that promise no impact to services to students are misleading, and the implementation will mean forcing students into groupings that may be inappropriate or lead to worse outcomes for those students. In fact, these assumptions disregard the expertise and skill of staff, underestimates the challenges of scheduling multiple students to meet during the same window, and would decrease the quality of services provided to students currently.

“Despite the additional data and corrections to the information provided by the actual staff doing this work, the district administration insists on presenting data that in no way accurately illustrates the service needs. It is irresponsible for the superintendent to present this information to the public and dangerous to use it to make such critical decisions. Our students and educators deserve better,” HTA President Becky Abate stated.

The district’s presentation utilized a snapshot of information provided in early September, prior to additional students entering HPS and current students being assessed for the level of service needed this year. Director Zaleski also omitted the essential time staff need to evaluate and test students, consult with other educators, hold meetings on student progress with parents, and the key time to initially assess student progress.

HTA Vice President Jennifer Jordan implored the “School Committee to do what Dr. Cavanaugh is not doing: Listen to your valued and skilled educators when they tell you what they do, what they need, and what will happen if reductions are made.”

The district certainly is facing a budget that requires reductions based on the town allocation, but a budget that fails to meet the current student needs in Hopkinton is an unacceptable outcome.

While it’s possible some minor schedule adjustments and staffing allocations could be made, the proposed cuts are taking a hacksaw to student services rather than a scalpel. For the benefit of students and the dedicated staff who do this work daily, the School Committee must strike down this plan and preserve the high quality of Hopkinton Public Schools.

1 Comment

  1. Beth Malloy

    Schools are for education first. Cutting money nets and jobs from special Ed is ridiculous. Yet that seems to be where the schools go first. Cut from elsewhere. Asking for 5 million for a new track while cutting services from our most needy students is wrong in so many ways.