PATERSON, NJ – Efforts to reduce the backlog of speech therapy services for local public school students remains a top priority, according to Paterson Public Schools officials.
In a statement following Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting Superintendent Eileen Shafer said that while over 28,000 hours are still owed from the past two academic years recent efforts, including hiring 20 additional speech therapists, bringing the total to 48, are beginning to work. In total 6,468 hours of compensatory speech therapy services have been completed as of November 30, reducing the backlog of those hours that began in the 2016-17 school year.
The backlog was further reduced, the report stated, by 709 hours due to students being discharged after completing programs and parents declining the offer of compensatory services.
“Special education students who need speech therapy must get the services to which they are entitled,” said Superintendent Eileen F. Shafer. “We still have a long way to go in working through the backlog of compensatory services. But we are moving in the right direction and we will not waver in our commitment to our students and their families.”
Saying that while the schools “face some challenging circumstances,” Chief of Special Education Cheryl Coy added that they are “undauntedly moving forward,” in providing the services, including the launch of speech therapy sessions on Saturdays beginning in January.
Asked about the efforts to eliminate the backlog, education activist and former Paterson Board of Education Commissioner Corey L. Teague said that “while the district it trying its best 28.000 is still unacceptable.”
The parent of two children with individual education plans, or IEPs, Teague added that he is going to continues to do his best to assist parents in finding alternatives for speech therapy while the district works to cover the hours.
“I will not rest until every second of the compensatory hours is met.”
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