Saturday, June 18, 2011

And The Dept of Ed Does It Again...

2,500 kindergarten students have no appropriate school placement  for the fall.
The DOE missed the June 15th deadline. 

Earlier this year (April) the DOE rolled out a new program called SESIS - a Web-based system for tracking students with disabilities, called the Special Education Student Information System (SESIS).
The program is supposed to ease the schools' delivery of services for disabled students by providing a system for tracking students' needs, but some teachers say it's riddled with problems.
They say they never received proper training, schools don't have enough bandwidth to run it properly, and they wait up to two hours when they call the program help line.
"It's impossible to know how many kids throughout the city aren't getting services because of problems with SESIS," said Julie Cavanaugh, a special education teacher at Public School 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
 "It's not functioning properly - there's a serious flaw in the design," said Cavanaugh, adding that it's taking her twice as long to create records for students with disabilities using the new system.
And basically what it comes down to is: poor planning and lack of basic training. While the DOE and New York State cry broke, slashing budgets and cutting funds, implementing SESIS mid-year was reckless, completely inefficient and an extreme waste of money.  

Luckily The Boy has a place for kindergarten.  But my Turning 5 meeting was kind of a nightmare.  And it was confusing.  Not for me, but for the educators, psychologists and social workers running the meeting.  I mean, no one really seemed to have a clue.  There was a lot of questions and "I'm not sure" and running out of the room to ask someone else.

But let's get back to the 2,500 kids who have no place to go in September. If the the DOE fails to provide appropriate placement, the kids may be provided with a Nickerson Letter.*  Getting the Nickerson Letter is like hitting the lotto; it allows kids to a private school education for one year.  Sound great?  No - it's really not.  Because we're in June, almost July.  And most likely, many of the schools that accept the Nickerson Letter will be full.  

And then what?  Crossing my fingers and hoping the DOE has a Plan B.

*Nickerson letter (only in New York City): If the CSE fails to offer your child an appropriate placement within 75 days from the date of request for evaluation, within 65 days from the date of consent to evaluation, or within 30 days from the day of the CSE review that made the program recommendation, the Board of Education should automatically give you a Nickerson letter. In this letter, the Board offers to pay your child's tuition at any state approved non-public school that accepts your child for the remainder of the school year, or, if you enroll after April 1, until the end of the next school year. With the Nickerson letter, you will receive a list of the schools in which you may enroll your child. You should be aware that this list of schools is limited, and a Nickerson letter does not guarantee that you will be able to find a place in one of these private schools for your child. If the CSE offered you a site or sites, but you feel their recommendation was inappropriate, you may also request a Nickerson letter from the CSE, but it will be more difficult to obtain one.  

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.