Special ed complaint costs creep into six figures
Over a four-month period, the Darien school district has paid $170,103.29 in costs associated with the special education complaint that was filed with the state on March 20.
The legal fees spent on the complaint from April to July -- $108,134.50 -- represents almost 63 percent of the total legal fees -- $172,674 -- the district has disbursed.
Osypuk's salary since being placed on leave is $46,016.29, while the Duby McDowell Communications company has received $15,952.50. when added to the legal fees ($108,134.50), the cost to the distict totals more than $170,000. The district only released legal and public relation fees through July.
With every school day that passes, Osypuk is paid $649.69 while on leave. Osypuk was placed on leave while the state and district investigated violations against the Individuals with Disabilites Act. Her yearly salary, according to the 2013-14 budget, is $169,570. Her salary the year prior was $166,704.
The costs stem from a March 20 complaint by a group of parents who claim that the Darien Public Schools violated the IDEA 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.
The district has also used Duby McDowell Communications for public relations consultation regarding the complaint. McDowell was a political reporter for nearly 15 years in Connecticut before she formed her communications company.
The district hired Theresa DeFrancis on April 25 to serve as a special education consultant to review and revise staff development materials. The contract, which was signed and approved on May 15, states that DeFrancis will be paid $140 per hour and $70 per hour for travel time until Dec. 31.
On June 25, the Board of Education unanimously agreed to hire Sue Gamm as its own private investigator to review the complaint and subsequent allegations against the Special Education Department. The decision came following a private parents' meeting with several representatives that yielded information regarding IEPs being changed without parents' permission -- a violation of the IDEA.
Gamm is contracted to work until Oct. 31 at the cost of $225 per hour. The option to terminate or extend her contract is permitted.
According to her contract, Gamm will be responsible for "reviewing and investigating allegations that individuals employed by the Darien Public Schools violated special education laws during the 2012-13 school year."
The state Department of Education recently released the second of two reports following an investigation of the Darien Public Schools' special education program that validated parents' claims that IEPs were being changed after PPT meetings.
The first state report, which was released on July 18, provided recommendations to correct 10 areas that it found to be noncompliant with special education law. In total, the state made 16 recommendations.
The other six recommendations "may not rise to the level of a specific violation of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act)," but were "unclear or incomplete."
The preliminary report concluded that the training materials issued by Osypuk, used during the 2012-13 school year, "contain overly restrictive, inaccurate, noncompliant and/or incomplete guidance."
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