Petition from Central High: State policies hurt disabled, violate the law, cause “chaos.”

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Sharnee Brown--Willing to sacrifice her career for the children. Are you?
Sharnee Brown–Willing to sacrifice her career for the children. Are you?

UPDATE: NEWARK’S CAMI ANDERSON–Acting like a beseiged colonial-era dictator, is trying to block employee access to a petition opposing her policies, already signed by more than 500 men and women, and has threatened to arrest an organizer of last week’s massive walkout of high school students. The hermit-like agent of Chris Christie–she has refused to attend public meetings for 17 months–blocked access of all Newark Public Schools computers to MoveOn.Org. The site published a letter and petition from Central High School principal Sharnee Brown detailing how Anderson violated the law protecting special education students. At the same time, Anderson’s “Executive Director of Safety,” Eric Ingold, delivered a letter to Roberto Cabanas of NJ Communities United–an ally of the Newark Students Union–banning Cabanas from setting foot on school property, including the site of tonight’s school board meeting.

blogcomputerblockAn extraordinarily brave Newark principal, backed by equally courageous staff members,  has written a letter  that provides compelling evidence of one of the worst, most damaging, flaws of the state-imposed enrollment operation at Newark’s public schools–the assignment of special education students to schools that cannot accommodate them. The letter, written by Central High School’s Sharnee Brown, is contained in a petition she posted on MoveOn.Org and is available at http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/one-nj-principal-takes?source=c.em&r_by=13123433

Organizer of student walkout faces arrest on orders of Cami Anderson
Organizer of student walkout faces arrest on orders of Cami Anderson

In the stunning letter to her superiors and others, Brown explains why the so-called “One Newark” enrollment plan creates chaos by hurting students, violating the law, and demoralizing  the staff.

The letter demands a return to neighborhood schools.

Earlier, I reported that my efforts to contact Sharnee Brown today were unsuccessful so I could not independently verify that she was the author of the petition–although the existence of the petition itself could not be denied. I have since received verification that Brown did, in fact, write the letter and took responsibility for the petition.

Her courage is nothing less than breathtaking.  Brown faces the wrath of an NPS administration that treats dissent with vindictiveness–principals are regularly suspended and even fired for speaking out against the state administration.

The petition was posted Sunday, May 24. As of 1 pm. this afternoon (Monday), more than 100 men and women had signed the petition, many of them recognizable names in the school community.

Civic, civil rights, political and union leaders have long complained about the failure of Anderson’s administration to care properly for special education students. Researchers–like Mark Weber (Jersey Jazzman) and Rutgers professor Bruce Baker–have provided evidence that placement of special education students is manipulated to ensure that faored charter and other schools do not receive a share of needy students.

Newark's Central High School: Facing chaos?
Newark’s Central High School: Facing chaos?

Some of these groups have asked repeatedly for federal and state investigations–but officials of  the US Department of Education, headed by pro-Cami Anderson education secretary Arne Duncan–have dragged their feet and failed to bring investigations to a close.

Here is the text of the MoveOn.org petition, followed by Brown’s letter to Cami Anderson, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie to  run the Newark schools, and Brad Haggerty, the deputy superintendent in charge of Central High School:

One NJ Principal Takes a Bold Stand Against the Systematic Neglect of Special Education Students in Her Newark City Public School

To be delivered to Education Law Center, Chris Christie, Cami Anderson, Brad Haggerty, The New Jersey State House and 5 other targets (click here to see more)

Petition Statement

Like many public schools across the country, New Jersey’s Newark Public Schools are under attack by their own leadership. Many Newark students, residents, and district employees agree on state-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson’s gross mismanagement of the city’s schools. Her policies have adversely affected its most vulnerable populations, particularly students with special needs. This year, the projected number of incoming Special Education (SPED) freshmen for Central High School, a comprehensive public high school, increased yet again. This is a direct result of the adoption of Anderson’s One Newark Plan, an enrollment system that uses a biased algorithm to carelessly spread students across the district. Current projections indicate there will be 80 new Freshman SPED students, representing 29% of the total incoming Freshmen class, which the school cannot accommodate in compliance with law. The district percentage of special needs is 15%. That makes Central’s Freshman SPED population 93% over the district’s average. Ignoring this phenomenon is a blatant attempt to create hardships in comprehensive schools in order for them to fail. Our principal, Sharnee Brown, has boldly taken action to fight this attack on Central High School’s students, staff, and community.

 

 

Superintendent Cami Anderson
Newark Public Schools
10th Floor
2 Cedar Street
Newark, New Jersey 07108

Dear Cami Anderson & Brad Haggerty,

As this exhausting school year comes to a close and while I look at my information via Salesforce with complete dismay, I am disappointed that even this year, the district will not address a deep concern that I have had for the last three years about the overwhelming influx of students with special needs being matched to Central High School.

On June 2, 2014, I sent a three page letter to Dr. Katzman, Brad Haggerty, Dr. Honnick and the Superintendent Cami Anderson detailing my disagreement and resistance to the plan to send 70 students with disabilities out of 216 freshmen to Central High School. Of the 70 special needs students, 70% of them were improperly placed at Central High School, which is illegal due to IDEA and federal guidelines. The reality there are no programs at Central to accommodate their needs. When students are inappropriately placed this makes us immediately out of state compliance and not able to implement their IEPs. Central currently has two programs: in class support (RCI) and Autism. When I conveyed my concern and gave sound reasoning to my supervisors and to the director of OSE, I was met with resistance and even punished with a poor evaluative comments on Competency 5 of my evaluation due to speaking up and addressing this issue. However, I cannot and will not sit idly by and witness the neglect of Central High School without trying desperately to get the district to hear my concerns about how we are being affected by these decisions.

Two school years prior (2013-2014) , we at Central High School have never recovered from the One Newark enrollment phenomenon. It took a toil on our teacher morale and energy. In 2013-2014, Central High School was adversely affected by the open student enrollment process. We submitted our projected budgets in February 2013 and six months later we received more students than anticipated. We went from accepting a freshman class of about 175 in 2012-2013 to accepting a class of 255 in 2013 – 2014. Of the 255 students, we received an unprecedented amount of special needs students to service, 58. Also to compound the issue, of the 58 SPED students, many of the classifications of the students, we could not serve due to Central’s lack of the Special Needs programs and services that are required to have to address their academic and emotional needs. For example, we received approximately 12 Emotionally Disturbed students, and we do not have a Behavioral Disabilities program to meet their therapeutic, socio-emotional and academic needs. Also, 14 Learning Disabilities-Severe freshmen were sent, yet we do not have a program to service their needs. Lastly we also are also out of compliance in the Autism program due to the lack of educational aides an on-going struggle in the district. This caused overcrowding, a large amount of teachers teaching six classes, the use of some ineffective EWOP teachers with our most disenfranchised students. In addition other grade levels currently have substitute teachers due to a lack of staff, and SPED classes are out of compliance due to lack of resources and staff. All of these compounded issues, impacted the culture, morale, and learning environment causing frustration to the teachers, students and administration. We are still trying to ameliorate many of the unresolved issues aforementioned.

As previously stated, Central School High only has two Special Education programs; we have an in class support program and a program for our autistic students. The autism program had its challenges because it was started with little to no support or direction from the district. However, we have managed to endure to the chagrin of two parents who either sought out of district placement or have formed legal cases to ensure compliance. Being out of compliance is a serious matter! When the district makes decisions to send the students to Central inappropriately, I AM THE ONE WHOSE NAME APPEARS ON THE SUBPOENA, as well as the child study team.

At best, we have the capacity to service about 25 to 35 SLD students each grade level. Prior to the extreme school closings and prior to the open enrollment, accepting students from our feeder patterns allowed us to maintain a serviceable number of special education students. On the other hand, the open student enrollment process forces Central High School to triple that number, forces us to not service students because we do not have the programs, causes us to be out of compliance, adversely affecting school climate, and creating a major disservice to the students who will be improperly placed. It is the district’s responsibility to place special needs students in their correct learning environments, especially since local school do not have the authority or input regarding student enrollment. Compliance is not just important; it is the law.

This school year (2014-2015) was even more frustrating. Despite my concern and my many attempts to stop the influx of 70 SPED students at the beginning of the year, we continued to get students with disabilities everyday throughout the One Newark Enrollment process. In a normal year, we would receive only 25 to 35 freshmen SPED students, but our special needs population tripled! From 2012-2013 to 2013 to 2014, the freshmen SPED enrollment increased by 120%. From 2013-2014 to 2014-2015, the freshmen special needs enrollment increased by 21%. For the 2014-2015 to 2015-2016, the freshmen SPED enrollment will increase by an additional 15% with no increase in staff due to district mandated budget cuts at Central High School. Overall, within three school years, Central’s SPED FRESHMEN POPULATION INCREASED BY A WHOPPING 220%. I have only included the increases of the freshmen class! All classes have increase exponentially. We did not have the resources, the correct number of special needs teachers nor did we have programs to meet the students immediate educational needs. Not only did my concern go unheeded but the Enrollment Center continued to push more special needs students when we were already out of compliance. The district has ignored our concerns and left this CHS administration and our teachers to fend for ourselves. Where is the district, when we are unable to meet a kid’s need when in crisis? Where is the district when due to being out of compliance, a student does not thrive academically? Where is the advocacy of the district, when a student enters with extreme challenges, late in the year, and is sent to a place where no one is trained or certified to meet his or her needs? Where is the district, when teachers leave school exhausted and frustrated because too many students with extreme needs are placed in one environment? Where is the district when teachers decide, I can no longer teach in a district that ignore the concerns of the professionals and experts that they hire?

This year, the projected number of incoming SPED freshmen increased yet AGAIN. The projected number is going to be 80 students. We are about to have a school where 29% of the Freshmen students will be students with special needs that we can not accommodate properly. The district percentage of special needs is 15%, while Central High School is 29%. That makes it 93% over the district’s percentage. Ignoring my concerns and not address this phenomenon is a blatant attempt to create hardships in comprehensive schools in order for them to fail. Central High School’s SPED numbers prior to the One Newark Enrollment debacle were manageable. Prior to the closing of schools, there was much more efficiency. No one talks about the inefficiency and chaos that rapid school closings cause. For example, when students are sent from schools that close unexpectantly, the transferring of students hard files to the new school are affected. When the district closes schools, the next school does not receive the necessary information on the new student due to missing folders. The district has to be made aware of the chaos poor decisions cause.

Central had a very progressive and effective inclusion program, where our Special Education students were thriving. THE DISTRICT HAS TO STOP IGNORING THE DAMAGE IT IS CAUSING! THE DISTRICT IS NOT FIXING THE PROBLEM BY CLOSING SCHOOLS AND RUINING THE SCHOOL’S LEFT OPEN! THE DISTRICT CAN NOT KEEP CLOSING SCHOOLS AND MATCHING THE SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS TO COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOLS IN ORDER TO CAUSE HARDSHIPS AND ENVIRONMENTS WHERE STUDENTS FAIL.

At Central High School, we have maintained a quality inclusion program until the district started One Newark Enrollment. We have to fix this problem immediately.

We demand that you end this One Newark Open Enrollment Debacle.
We are demanding that you come to the table and really hear our concerns around what is being done in this district with our special needs students.

We are demanding that the incoming number of SPED students for the 2015-2016 school year decrease to 39 special needs students.

We are demanding that when setting and running the algorithm, a cap for SPED capacity be set to the number of SPED students a school can accommodate and to the program that the school offered, especially based on state required classification and maximum capacity. NO SCHOOL CAN BE ALL THINGS TO ALL STUDENTS.

We are demanding that the district stop looking at out-of-district placement as a cop-out but as a solution to meet a students needs.

We are demanding that the district decreases the enrollment of SPED student to the district’s percentage of 15%.

We are demanding that Central be allowed to grow and flourish as a viable educational environment that meets the needs of all their students.

We are demanding that we go back to prior feeder school patterns and stop closing neighborhood
schools.

Sincerely,

Principal Sharnee Brown & The Frustrated Central High School Family

20 comments

  1. Jooje

    I applaud the courage of this writer.
    However, I doubt it is truly Sharnee Brown. First of all, there are a number of severe grammatical errors that impair meaning. Bob Braun, I’m sure you picked up on these. Second of all, Ms. Brown is sure to be skewered for the appearance of this petition with her name on it.
    I believe every word and nauseating statistic of this letter. I hope that the people of Newark continue to soldier on in their demand to be recognized as equal stakeholders.
    Please let us know whether Ms. Brown wrote this or not.

  2. Kate

    It sounds as if the district is using its churn and burn tactics on Central much as it did to West Side (four principals in three years, over enrollment of special needs, ever diminishing budget, …)
    It’s probably crucial to them to discredit the real academic gains Central made under the leadership of Ras Baraka, and later under Principal Brown, since it interferes with their narrative of failing schools in desperate need of their divine leadership.

  3. Perturbed

    Camden is well over the fifteen percent limit. Moreover, many students with IEPs receive no Special Education services. Students classified as BD are misplaced in LD classes. The plan for next year is to eliminate LD classes, place the students in mainstream classes and juggle the schedules of Special Ed teachers to provide in class support. Out of compliance does not begin to describe the Anderson administration Special Education policies. Since charter schools have no interest in expensive to education special needs students. they are warehoused in low performing district schools.

  4. Becca Fields

    corporate reformers have thrown out the term ‘custodial schools’ as a reference to the public schools that get the students that charters, magnets, etc won’t take. This is a repugnant example of such a case and it must be challenged in court.

  5. booklady

    1. NJ Dept of Ed has a Chief Intervention Officer covering the 4 state takeover districts. Is he addressing the issues?
    2. When state Commissioner of Education has a JD degree, citizens would expect him to ensure compliance w SpEd rules.

  6. Teach & Prach

    We can write all we want! We can talk all we want! Unless a citywide crippling strike is initiated the carpet baggers are going to continue to loot the district. A coordinated strike and a school walkout..Until then…Nothing is going to happen. I also think that the strike must coincide the moment the whale opens his mouth and formally declares his candidacy! That way all those hurt by this creep can kick him right in the face.

  7. Stressed

    Barringer Arts and Humanities was close to 40% SPED in 2013-14. This is what Cami did to fix it: Reduce the Special Ed Department and get a new principal from Philadelphia.

  8. Reginald Walker

    It is important that we stand united with Ms. Brown, the Baraka Aministration, Our Students and the Teachers Union!

  9. TeachMe 1st

    That was very brave of her indeed. I hope to see someone write about the Bilingual-ESL Education population as well. Things are not right there either, but it will be just a matter of time I guess when someone talks about that.

  10. TruParent

    Focus should be on Parents, students & teachers! We have enough to worry about in our city than paid organizers who get pay checks! Newark is the 1st priority.

  11. Mr. Outside

    The update us most troubling. Per usual, it raises many questions about the district’s competence.

    Did Mr. Ingold himself indeed deliver that letter to Mr. Cabanas? On what basis did Mr. Ingold or his agents determine that Mr. Cabanas was responsible for disturbing the district’s business or normal operations if all the protests occurred off district premises? Whether Mr. Cabanas organized a civil protest of which the district’s administration was the subject, is wholly unrelated to students, of their own accord, deciding to abstain from class and disengage in school altogether. I would imagine the district has exposed itself to a defamation suit. But, based on Cami’s stance on all the lawsuits against the district, I doubt she really cares. In that case, Mr. Cabanas could probably go dutch on a lawsuit with Mr. Martin who was banned following a dispute with educational quack, and frequent scandaleur, Tiffany Hardrick.

    Next, I scoff if the district fails to realize that blocking a site doesn’t keep employees from accessing the same site on their personal smartphones (which are are more sophisticated and powerful than many of the administrative computers that teachers, clerks, and many administrators use) or on the district provided BlackBerries?

    Cami “Andy Kaufman at the end of his career” Anderson. Picking fights with the most unlikely people, and still losing.

  12. TeacherInTheTrenches

    I worked with Ms. Brown at Malcolm X Shabbazz and at Central High School. Until every Admin puts takes a stand against the pillaging of public education by uncaring egotists and with students and parents we will continue to see abuses like this. Ignoring special needs is crimminal and immoral.

  13. Iqway

    Where is the petition link to move it forward and sign it!

    I am proud of this Principals ethics! We are stronger in numbers!
    I agree that this now must move to a huge city wide strike to gain national attention.

    We must do it for our voiceless children and families. To deny appropiate placement to children with special needs and ESL families it is just plain cruel!

    My question stands why are the parents and community not filing law suits on behalf of these children?

    Parents need and want more Principals like her; stand strong we support you!

  14. Pingback: Teachers: Chris Christie Wants to Punch You “In The Face” | Daniel Katz, Ph.D.

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