Parents of children at Meadowbrook Farms heard from Supt. Victor Mercurio Friday that most of the changes to the special education program announced two weeks ago would not take place after all.
In particular, special education teacher Lore Gray will remain at Meadowbrook. One special education teacher would move over to Eldredge to teach a “self-contained” class.
The notice from Mercurio read:
After a further review and analysis of the data and work of the faculty and support staff at Meadowbrook Farms, we have made the decision to keep the existing resource staff and paraprofessionals in place for the upcoming academic year. With the notable exception of the current self-contained classroom teacher to Eldredge Elementary School to support growing student needs there, there will be no further changes in resource teacher and/or paraprofessional staffing at Meadowbrook Farms. We deeply appreciate the thoughtful feedback given to us through a variety of vehicles to conduct further analysis and to inform this decision. We wish the faculty, staff, and community a most pleasant summer and best wishes for a successful 2014-2015 school year.
Mercurio credited parents, faculty and staff with providing administration with “a deeper understanding” of how Meadowbrook operates on a daily basis.
“There’s more interconnectivity which has led to more inclusive opportunities for kids and that’s always an overarching goal,” he said in an interview Friday. In other words, students are benefiting from teachers and staff beyond their own classroom.
“The takeaway was to be able to see the relationship between what’s on paper and what the reality is,” said Mercurio.
“We are, of course, thrilled that the administration did a thoughtful review of the students’ needs and ultimately came to the correct decision for everyone involved,” said parent Staci Kolb.
“Kudos to parents and community members who spoke up in opposition to the proposed change, and educated many of us about the importance of this program. And thank you to the school administration for hearing them, and reconsidering the decision,” parent Rebecca Bliss wrote on the Facebook page “East Greenwich Parents for Excellence.”
The decision to move teachers and some students had been made by Mercurio, student services director Brad Wilson and administration director Mary Ann Crawford the end of May and it took parents and staff alike by surprise. Parent condemnation was swift, with online posts and angry emails and phone calls to Mercurio and Wilson.
The administrators admitted they knew nothing about the history of the special education program at Meadowbrook, which was developed more than a decade ago to meet the needs of children with autism.
“It has been helpful to me to understand the history behind the program,” Mercurio said Friday.
The decision to leave Meadowbrook’s program largely intact does not address the underlying reason the changes were proposed in the first place: an increase in the number of students needing intensive special education services at Cole Middle School next year.
Mercurio said they had not yet determined what they were going to do to meet those needs. He did not rule out adding a teacher at Cole.
“I want to do the same kind of deep dive [at Cole] we did at Meadowbrook,” he said.