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Board of Ed to request $807K from finance board

Published 12:01 pm, Saturday, May 17, 2014
  • Board of Education Chairman Betsy Hagerty-Ross and the rest of the board voted to ask the Board of Finance for $807,000 to compensate for the short falls as a result of fixing the problems within the special education department. Photo: Megan Spicer / Darien News
    Board of Education Chairman Betsy Hagerty-Ross and the rest of the board voted to ask the Board of Finance for $807,000 to compensate for the short falls as a result of fixing the problems within the special education department. Photo: Megan Spicer

 

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The Darien Board of Education will ask the Board of Finance for a special appropriation of $807,000 to cover the shortfall from unexpected costs and services to address the special-eduction complaint filed in March 2013 that exposed illegalities in the department.

"We have to be sure of this number because there's no going back to the well," said Board of Education Chairman Betsy Hagerty-Ross at Tuesday's meeting.

The district needs $806,900 to cover the 2013-14 shortfall, according to a report from Michael Feeney, the district's director of finance. However, the board voted to round the number up to $807,000 to make sure it "captures everything," Hagerty-Ross said.

Hagerty-Ross said she would ask Board of Finance Chairman Liz Mao to add discussion of the appropriation to the BOF agenda for its Tuesday, May 20, meeting at Town Hall.

The costs stem from a March 2013 complaint by a group of parents who claimed that the Darien Public Schools violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by removing the "team aspect" of the Planning and Placement Team meetings, at which students' programs and goals for the year are determined. Under the law, educators are not allowed to make any sort of predetermination about the students' programs before meeting with the parents.

Additionally, investigations by the state Department of Education and attorney Sue Gamm revealed that Individualized Education Plans were altered after the PPTs and that services were not delivered to students, despite the IEP saying they had.

In addition to hiring Gamm, the board also hired special education ombudsman John Verre to oversee the department and its restructuring while the former director of special education, Deirdre Osypuk, was on paid leave. Osypuk resigned on Jan. 29.

The district has also used Duby McDowell Communications for public relations consultation regarding the issues following the complaint.

Additionally, attorney Theresa DeFrancis was hired to revise the district's special education policies and operating manuals, and attorney Mary Gelfman was hired to assist parents through independent hearings regarding their children's Individualized Education Plans.

The Representative Town Meeting will have the final approval.

In January, Mao said the Board of Finance knows it will need to cover the school board's deficit.

"We don't like it, but we're prepared to fund it; that's what our reserve fund is for," Mao said.

mspicer@bcnnew.com;

203-330-6583;

@Meg_DarienNews