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Rivera’s plan to hire special ed teachers would save money

Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera.
Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera.

NORWALK, Conn. – Bringing special education in-house will result in a savings of $1.5 million in next year’s Norwalk Public Schools budget, Chief Financial Officer Rich Rudl said.

Rudl made the comment at last week’s Board of Education Finance Committee meeting. NoN missed the meeting but obtained a recording. Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera unveiled a $171 million budget and said, as he has previously, that creating a special education facility in Norwalk would pay for itself.

The budget includes the addition of 22 applied behavioral analysis specialists and three board certified behavioral analysts. Rivera said that would actually save $700,000.

“This is a case where contracting costs more,” Rivera said. “Most of the time when you contract out you save money. … In this particular case, people have priced themselves out of the market.”

Rudl said the net savings of creating a center is $1.5 million. That factors in elements such as transportation costs.

Rivera said the students will actually get more intensive services for less money.  It will also save money in the long run as children get help earlier in life.

“If you provide the right kind of instruction and support that they need, from pre-k, first and second grade, with your staff, they shouldn’t be at that point where they’re being recommended for out of district behavioral disorder placement, ” Rivera said. “So the idea is to tackle it on the front end. In some cases if we think we can do it equally good or better, why not create our own center?”

Rivera’s proposed budget is 2.74 percent higher than the 2014-15 budget. That’s the lowest increase in a recommended budget in years, Rudl said. The budget is the result of two months work, Rivera said.

“It’s a budget that I believe is a sound budget,” Rivera said.

The budget will be gone over in more detail at Tuesday’s BoE meeting. Rivera said that he would bring some department heads to explain the changes specified in the budget.

Finance-Committee-FY-15-16-BUDGET-PROPOSAL

Comments

14 responses to “Rivera’s plan to hire special ed teachers would save money”

  1. Norewalk Lifer

    And this is why Norwalk will fail; the opening subject is about saving money. And the context is a special learning facility for special needs students.

    So where is the trade off? the transparency? what disadvantages are there to having special needs students only interacting with other students who are special needs? Are we to believe that the interaction with other students, who are not special needs does not bring it’s own benefit? Do we really believe that a group of trained professionals can substitute the best of those interactions? Students would “do better”? what does that mean?

    So this is all about budget, and self contributing sub sets of an educational system? I’ll be the first to say it, I am very glad Mr. Rivera is leaving Norwalk; this kind of “idea” has many darker and negative connotations attached to it, but it’s a “good idea”.

    I don’t think so, save your money Norwalk, it’s now clear; it’s not about the education, it’s about the budget.

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  2. Yankee Clipper

    Norwalk LIfer ….once again you can only critique and destroy … a plan to bring these services back in-house was discussed three years ago. Championed by Steve Colarossi, Pauline Smith and Susan Marks, the BOE did not have the funds at the time to proceed with the plan … now they do

  3. Bill

    This is a win win, sounds like Norwalk Lifer likes lowered expectstions

  4. Casey Smith

    Wow, Lifer, you automatically assume that having the special education teachers on staff will result in poorer quality and less transparency at the cost of the students. Why? Because it is more economically feasible? Other districts are also grappling with the out of district costs and the cost to provide private special services. There are those who think that Special Education is a blank check. It’s not, but bringing staff in house, which may reduce the District cost, is not automatically at the cost of of reduced quality.

  5. MarjorieM

    Will any Positions be cut?

  6. Steve Colarossi

    Thank you, Yankee Clipper, for remembering my efforts to bring special ed programs back to Norwalk.
    The cost savings would be significant- in large part due to eliminating expensive long-distance transportation costs. And, most importantly, it’s better for the kids who don’t lose precious time sitting on a bus AND who get to develop closer relations with students from their hometown. The challenge was always finding the administrative will to incur the initial costs and work with the parents (who, justifiably, wanted reassurances that the programs would not be scrapped subjecting their children to another round of transitions).

  7. Ditto Clipper and Steve C. This is an opportunity to BOTH improve quality AND reduce costs. Shipping large numbers of special education children out of the school system was a symptom of failure; bringing them back in-house where they belong is a success. That Lifer apparently is more comfortable with the former is hard to understand. And where does Lifer get the idea that these children will not interact with the other children in the school system? Almost all special education children are mainstreamed, and this won’t change that at all. It just means taking care of our own kids, like we’re supposed to.

  8. MarjorieM

    I may be the only one who needs a line item budget explanation so that I can understand the bottom line. First it is stated that there will be a $1.5 mil savings, then Rivera states $700,00 savings for hiring our own teachers, etc. is there a building cost? A principal or director involved? There seems to be a continuation of the site based curriculum directors. Are we assured of the funding for 2014-2015? There is an increase in expenses for IT. I am thinking that I will understand more when I see the line item descriptions of how money will be spent…..and what is being cut. I still don’t have an answer to what will be cut….positions? I guess I would like more details. Don’t flare at me for that!

  9. Norewalk Lifer

    To all above, I doubt it, seriously, those kids need the interaction with other kids of their ages, to see the struggles that adolescence brings, outside of the struggles to achieve as a special needs student.

    No administrator, no teacher, no “four Masters holding” team leader can “teach” that. Kids teach that to other kids.

    In my view, those kids do better when their peers are urging them to achieve, seen it myself first hand in our school systems.

    Sooo, let’s see, once again, we can “legislate” anything can’t we Norwalk? talk about a “Nanny state” you guys won’t even let the smartest ones in the room, “Help”, no, again it’s a matter of appointment, not engagement.

    Negative? hardly, the bar is set high, but again, I really appreciate the title of the piece, “we would save money”, money is the ONLY thing that matters, right?

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  10. Lifer, what in the daylights are you talking about? The kids are not going to be locked in a closet – they will continually be interacting with kids their own ages, both special education (SPED) and not. We’re not ‘letting the smartest in the room’? I don’t even know what that means. As for the title of the piece, that was chosen by NON, not by the schools, and it was a FINANCE committee meeting — of COURSE in that committee the focus was FINANCE. At January’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee meeting (1/13/15) the sole topic is SPED and all the efforts under way to both bring kids back home and to improve the quality of the education we’re providing to them. If doing so also manages to reduce costs, is that a crime?

  11. Barbara Meyer-Mitchell

    I’m grateful to see progress toward early intervention. Too late for my family, but wonderful for many to come.

  12. Lifelong Teacher

    Lifer’s comments make no sense. I am very grateful for the move the district is taking. Mainstream classroom teachers are not able to successfully deal with very challenging students without a lot of support. In my twenty five years with Norwalk, the number and degree of need has increased greatly.

    We are paying very expensive outside contractors to give these babies the help that they need to grow, learn, and shape their behavior. Meanwhile, we have almost no specialized classes anymore (for the very most challenging). Those that exist, like the classroom at Tracey School, are continually overcrowded, defeating the purpose of the program – which is to change behaviors and equip students to return to the mainstream.

    Some posters want to do nothing but criticize, without knowing any of the facts.

  13. Joanna Cooper

    Dr. Rivera’s plans for Special Education reform are right on target: in line with standard and best practices, what SPED children need, parents want and what numerous independent reports have been recommending and past administrations have ignored for decades. See link:

    http://www.thehour.com/news/norwalk/schools/board_of_education/report-norwalk-schools-fail-to-improve-special-education-over-years/article_85460d7a-5978-5226-ac1d-2ed4a0f542b1.html?TNNoMobile&_dc=418634661706.1645

    The only thing that is underestimated here is the cost savings to the district. I believe the ultimate cost savings is far greater than is reported. The district will not only save multi-millions of dollars in long term savings but it will help save lives and any more generations of kids from failing. That is priceless!!!

    Here is the best part: Dr. Rivera’s plan for Special education does not only help those with special needs but many other typical children. Federal law under IDEA the Individuals with Disabilities Act stipulates special education programs have to be integrated to at least fifty percent. So many more children will be able to attend preschool that may have not had the chance to. It will provide services to many of the children that would have been in the Head Start program that closed with NEON. The building that has been secured for the project allows for eight new Pre-K classrooms.

    The hiring of behaviorists helps address most teachers greatest challenge in the classroom: behavior issues. Behaviorists deal not only with maladaptive behaviors but positive behavioral supports that help motivate kids and keep them on task. The use of Behavioral supports is common practice with a whole range if kids not just those with Autism which is where a lot of money is spent on outplacement. Outplacement behavioral therapy is always done with the aim of remediating behaviors so students can return to the inclusive environment of school. Federal law is clear that when educating students with special needs the students are removed from general education as a last resort. Parents want out placement and get it when appropriate services aren’t in place.

    In conclusion not only do Dr. Rivera’s plans follow best practice models for educating students with Special Needs they clearly are set up to comply with Special education laws. In doing so costly lawsuits to both parents and the district will be avoided. This is a huge paradigm shift in Norwalk Public Schools Special Education and long over due. If it passes everybody wins.

  14. Karen

    This is a no brainer that should have been done long ago. Yes its about money but that is secondary, what is in the best interests of the students in need is the primary consideration. Some students now travel all the way to New Haven and Trumbull. Its a waste of resources and not in the best interests of the students to outplace/outsource to FORPROFITS. This is one area where privatization is much more costly and is detrimental to the students educational experience. As any sped parent can testify. Don’t we still have lawsuits pending? Lets get the show on the road already, this is going to take some effort, leadership and time to get this up and running, so lets get started already..

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