BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Public concerns have been raised regarding special services and special education in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.
Assistant superintendent Daniel Silvia now oversees that department, following the retirement this year of Alice Steinheimer, assistant superintendent for special services.
Parent Kellyann Gallagher, who has a son in special education at Eisenhower Intermediate School, told the school board at a recent meeting about the Special Education Alliance (S.E.A.) and its meetings. She said parents of special education students cannot always attend regular school board meetings, but that the issues they discuss are still of importance.
She then asked the board to attend an S.E.A. meeting, to hear parents’ concerns and even their praises.
“We do hope we will see you there,” said Gallagher.
She added that there has been a lot of transition in the special services department, which is not unusual – but she also pointed out the lack of consistency, with students being moved around to different schools from year to year.
“It adds to the challenge,” she said.
Gallagher added that the situation creates a lot of angst for parents, and that younger children shouldn’t be mixed in with older students, as has sometimes happened. Adding to the inconsistency, Gallagher said, has been three different directors of special services, not including Silvia.
She added that Steinheimer,has taken an active role with the S.E.A.
“I hope Dr. Silvia will take up where she left off,” Gallagher said.
Parent Sameer Yalgi told the board he has concerns about his son’s placement for next year. He said his son has been moved to other schools in the past, and then discovered that his son was going to be moved to Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School, which necessitated amending his son’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
But then, he said, he was told his son would not be moving to the middle school after all.
“I don’t know where my son will be placed next year,” Yalgi said.
He added the constant changes are quite concerning, and that a lot of parents are “in the same boat” as him.
Superintendent Russell Lazovick said that e-mails had recently been sent to parents regarding the final placement decisions for September 2019, to eliminate the “back-and-forth” dialogue. He also pointed out that there has been “massive turnover” in administration over the previous one to two weeks, and he apologized for the confusion.
“The department is moving in the right direction,” said Lazovick.
Vanessa Oldham, a lifelong resident and former student in Bridgewater Township, spoke of her 10-year-old son, and a program to have him remain at Hillside Intermediate School for the upcoming school year. She said her son is small for his size, isn’t capable of defending himself against older bigger children and is also non-verbal and communicates with his parents on an iPad device.
Oldham said she doesn’t want him sent to the middle school, and added that she wants to see checks and balances on decisions that are made regarding special services.
“I’d like some reassurance before a decision is made in the future,” Oldham said.
Her son’s father was more pointed in his questioning of the board, and said he wants to know exactly what is going to happen in the future. He said he wants to know why there is no specific autistic school in the district, so that students can stay there with their peers for life instead of being almost constantly shuttled around.
“My son is entitled to the best education,” he said, and he also told the board that its “flip-flopping” is “disgraceful.”