supporting special education in the Upper dublin school district since 2005

SPEAC © Copyright 2015

THE HISTORY OF SPEAC

The Special Education Advisory Council of Upper Dublin (SPEAC) was formed in 2004 by parents who shared common concerns and frustration with the educational process and the delivery of educational services to students with special needs in the Upper Dublin School District. The timing could not have been better. A change in the district’s leadership and the willingness of a new superintendent of schools to meet with the members of SPEAC, opened the door to communications for what would become the beginning of a collaborative relationship between SPEAC and the district and over time, a significant shift in special education in the Upper Dublin School District.

In the fall of 2004, recently hired Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Michael Pladus, agreed to meet with the members of SPEAC and listen to their concerns. In May 2005, as the result of a series of meetings, Dr. Pladus and members of SPEAC agreed to initiate an independent study of the district’s special education services. Dr. Pladus brought forward the proposal for the study before the Board of School Directors and obtained Board approval to commission the study.  Subsequently, SPEAC and Dr. Pladus, arranged to invite a team of independent consultants to meet and discuss the purpose and scope of the proposed study. Following this meeting a list of specific review questions were established and agreed upon by district stakeholders and the consulting team. The district’s primary outcome of the study was to develop a review with recommendations for improvement to the special education program. The program review began in November 2005.

The consulting team consisted of Cassandra Cole, Ed.D (Indiana University), Teresa Grossi, Ph.D (Indiana University), and Gary Rodichok, Ph.D (Interboro School District).  The team conducted observations in all four elementary schools, the middle school, and the high school and included discussions with building administrators, general and special education teachers, students, and families. The team reviewed documents including achievement and promotion data, budget guidelines, teacher schedules, teacher caseloads, related memos, district brochures/documents, the strategic plan, out-of-district numbers, staff training schedules, staff summaries, parent letters and emails, parent survey, school newsletters, teacher schedules, special education plan, Pennsylvania parent guide, and summary of Gaskin case.

On January 9, 2006 the consulting team delivered a detailed study with extensive recommendations for program changes and improvements and concluded the district should continue to work to merge the special and general education systems into a single, unified system of education for all students. The study was to become the start of a new framework of special education in the district.

The report noted an adversarial relationship existed between a very small minority of parents and the district creating a culture of mistrust, defensiveness, and conflict. The leadership of both groups came to agree that in order to make progress towards achieving the recommendations of the study, a collaborative relationship built on trust, understanding, and reasonableness was needed from all involved in the process. It took effort, commitment, and a vision for the future of special education from both groups to begin a new era of collaboration. SPEAC has continued a collaborative relationship with the district through changes in administration and leadership and our relationship continues to be embraced by dedicated administrators, principals, teachers, and board of school directors today.

Throughout the years since the publication of the study the Upper Dublin School District has made many changes in the educational process and the delivery of educational services to students with special needs. The Special Education Advisory Council of Upper Dublin remains committed to continued change and improvement to special education through a collaborative relationship with the district.