GREENWICH — A recently obtained email sent on behalf of the union representing teachers in the Greenwich Public Schools to the district highlights the ongoing rift between special education educators and parents, who are on one side, and school administrators, on the other side.
According to the letter, which the Greenwich Time procured through a Freedom of Information Act request, the union says the school district is failing to adhere to its collective bargaining agreement, board policies, and state and federal regulations in its delivery of special education services.
The Executive Board of the Greenwich Education Association, the union representing teachers, issued a letter on Sept. 22 to Superintendent of Schools Toni Jones calling for the immediate remedy of the alleged violations. In one of the strongest allegations, the letter says educators have been directed to persuade parents to make changes to their children’s Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs), which lay out goals and educational requirements for students with learning disabilities.
“As you are no doubt aware, this is a clear violation of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and the process for developing IEPs for students,” the letter states.
The letter also alleges that teachers assigned to live instruction have been asked to take on additional responsibilities and service hours, which are not possible to provide without exceeding the contractually mandated workday, since students have returned to classrooms during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We request that the caseloads be adjusted to ensure the legally required services will be delivered in accordance with our collective bargaining agreement,” the letter states.
GEA’s call out comes at a time of intense scrutiny of the district’s special education services.
Complaints lodged by special education parents for more than a year have hit a fever pitch in recent weeks, as the school district has scrambled to adjust to educating students during the pandemic. Longstanding issues have only been exacerbated with students learning remotely, parents and the teacher’s union have said.
The Board of Education also recently approved a large-scale audit of the department, which began this month. And, at its Thursday meeting, the school board was presented with a report on a 2019-20 study by educational consulting firm Key2Ed, which focused on the IEP process and relationships between parents and educators.
The report, a draft of which was made available for the first time this week, reinforces the criticisms and concerns of parents and teachers around the special education process. Among other things, the report underlines parents’ general mistrust of the district in regards to special education and Greenwich Public Schools’ perceived failure to communicate and provide adequate services.
On the same day the GEA letter was submitted, Superintendent of Schools Toni Jones responded via email to GEA President Carol Sutton. The communication was also obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
“We will reach out tomorrow with the hopes that you can provide some names of individuals to start an investigation in terms of who is asking staff to ‘persuade parents to reduce service