2017-03-02 / Letters

Good Morning,

My name is Carrie Woodcock and I am the parent of two children who attend Saco Public Schools. My daughter Samantha is a third grader at CK Burns School and my son Noah attends sixth grade at Saco Middle School. Both of my children currently have IEPs as my daughter has a diagnosis of down syndrome and my son ADHD and dyslexia.

Let me start with the positive by saying that both of my children are currently excelling in their current educational settings. This has taken a lot of hard work on the part of the district and myself as the parent. While it took both children severely regressing before the right programming was put in place, we were able to turn it around by the fourth year of schooling for both. While for me as a parent four years is too long for a district to get it correct I have seen far too many districts never get it right and therefore I have been happy with the progress we have made together.

After reading through the email from Superintendent Dominic DePatsy I am extremely disappointed and frustrated by the direction the district has chosen to take with the budget cuts. Half of the cuts that are being considered will have a direct impact on the population of students who need some special consideration when it comes to learning and/or qualify for special education:

 Nine regular education technicians

 Alternative education teacher

 Before and after school reading programs

 Four special education technicians moved to a local entitlement special education grant (how long is this grant for?)

 Professional development for educational technicians

This alone is extremely frustrating as a parent of two children who have special learning needs. It becomes more frustrating for me when I take a look at the district and see programs that seem to not be affected and which my children and many have never had access too. For example, the gifted and talented programs, the multi-age classrooms, and the new project based learning curriculum being introduced at Saco Middle School. While I agree it is important to raise the rigor of curriculum in our district I believe this needs to be the case for all students.

It is extremely frustrating as a parent to watch programs being instituted and protected which only impact a limited number of students while cuts are being made to special education. It is my opinion that every student should have access to all programs and there should not have to be an application process or a specific testing score achieved to obtain programming. In addition, if cuts are being made, all programming should be considered. Fifty percent of the cuts being made directly impact those in special education. I do not see any cuts to the gifted and talented programming. In addition, we are instituting a brand new curriculum at Saco Middle School (project-based learning which will not be available to all students) when we are facing such steep budget cuts.

As executive director for Maine Parent Federation and a parent of children with special needs, I have the pleasure of being on many state committees and agencies at the Department of Education. I have a very good understanding as to the challenges of the system. That being said, the message on these groups that I participate on is that special education in Maine needs more not less. Specifically every group which I sit on talks about the lack of professional development for educational technicians who are oftentimes the individuals who are providing the direct instruction to students with special needs. The fact that you are considering this as a cut is devastating as a parent.

Please look at all of your proposed budget cuts and understand that you are not being fair to special education students within the district. It appears from where I am sitting that you are impacting those that need more instruction the most while protecting those that are gifted. This makes me sick to my stomach.

In an effort to be transparent I will also send a copy of this email to our news outlets here in Maine so they have an understanding of the local impact of the governor’s proposed budget cuts.

Carrie Woodcock Saco

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