MORGAN HOOVER, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
July 15, 2009 12:00 AM
Special education proponents were represented in full force at the Santa Barbara School Board meeting Tuesday night.
The major source of contention for the advocates was the "Bridge Program" parent letter and program information sheet, which the board was scheduled to simply approve after having drafted it at a closed session.
The intention of the letter, which is sent to parents of children who are "not fulfilling their potential" in school, is to suggest that parents enroll their children in an alternative school, or "Bridge Program."
Joan Esposito, a representative from the Dyslexia Awareness and Resource Center, along with several parents of special needs children, expressed disgust at the letter's failure to suggest that parents have their children evaluated for special needs.
"Don't dump them into another program," said Mrs. Esposito. "You are supposed to search for and serve these kids."
Dr. Robert Noel took issue with the letter's draft also, insisting upon a notation in the record that he did not participate in its drafting.
He was the only member who did not vote in favor of its approval, saying that he was tempted to call it a "fraud."
Dr. Noel presented a list of his problems with the draft of the letter, which included that it did not directly inform the parents of their rights or that their child would be officially enrolling in a "continuation school" with lowered expectations and lower-achieving children.
His list was discussed but not heeded, as councilwoman Annette Cordero insisted that the Bridge Program would not have lower expectations for its enrollees than an accredited high school.
"The district is being all but deceitful in how they're managing information on this program," said Dr. Noel, who insisted that with all the information available to the district about education, he could not support sending children from an environment with one set of standards to an environment with a lower set of standards.
Another area of concern for Mrs. Esposito at Tuesday night's meeting was an unnamed principal in the district, who she feels needs to be investigated.
She explained that this principal unethically took sides in the divorce proceedings of one of her students' parents. She also accused the principal of delaying urgent assessments of children's special needs and of wrongfully expelling a boy for bringing a "small amount of marijuana" to school after having cancer for three years with no prognosis.
"This Board does not even know what's going on in this district," said Mrs. Esposito.
She went on to question Superintendent J. Brian Sarvis's conduct, calling him a "nice, charming man," but insisting that he does not "follow through."
Other decisions made by the board Tuesday night included the official name change of Santa Barbara High School to Santa Barbara Secondary School and the approval of Harding Elementary School's application for an Early Childhood Initiative Expansion Proposal from the J.S. Bower Foundation.
Additional decisions included the approval of a new sex education curriculum video for fifth and sixth graders in the district and the approval of Alta Vista Alternative High School as the name for the district's new alternative high school.