May 22, 2012

Another DCPS RIF and More Excesses Up Ahead !

Written by Candi Peterson

With another school year coming to a close, more excess letters will be handed out by DC Public Schools to another group of Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) members as well as Council of School Officers (CSO) union members. Among those impacted will be DCPS School Psychologists. Historically, school psychologists' have been itinerant workers who were centrally funded and supervised directly by the Office of Special Education. School psychologists were generally responsible for several schools in most cases (sometimes more). Last school year, itinerant school social workers whose positions had previously been centrally funded by the Office of Special Education (OSE) were excessed and are now paid from the local school budget. 

"WTU school psychologists will be officially excessed from their central office positions on June 1, 2012. The effective date of the excess will be the last day of school June 14, 2012", according to a revised May 2012 "SEC and School Psychologist FAQs" that was sent to relevant staff on May 18, 2012 by Jason Kamras, Chief of Human Capital. By definition an "excess is an elimination of a Teacher’s position at a particular school due to a decline in student enrollment, a reduction in the local school budget, a closing or consolidation, a restructuring, or a change in the local school program, when such an elimination is not a ‘reduction in force’ (RIF) or ‘abolishment." Not unlike 333 DCPS teachers who were excessed on May 4, 2012, DC school psychologists will no longer hold their current positions at the end of the school year.

The SEC and school Psychologist FAQs packets posed the following question, "What will happen to the centrally-funded Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) school psychologists who currently report to the Office of Special Education (OSE) ?

DCPS Answer: WTU (school) psychologists "will have until August 15, 2012 to find a budgeted position at a school. If they cannot find a position by then, and if they meet certain qualifications, they will have access to the three excessing options in the WTU contract: 1) a $25,000 buyout; 2) early retirement, assuming 20 years of creditable service; or 3) a one year placement at a school during which they will continue to search for a budgeted position. To qualify for the three excessing options, WTU members must meet three criteria: 1) earn an Effective or Highly Effective IMPACT rating for 2011-12 school year; 2) attain permanent status (which one earns after two years of service in DCPS) by the effective date of excessing; and 3) have not opted into the IMPACT plus system."

Since Council of School Officers School Psychologists who are twelve month employees have a different collective bargaining agreement , they will be subject to a different set of rules than WTU members.

DCPS question: What will happen to centrally funded Council of School Officers (CSO) (school) psychologists who currently report to Office of Special Education (OSE)?

DCPS answer: "They will receive reassignment letters on June 1, 2012 explaining that they will be working at a school site, not for OSE, next school year. They will have until June 11, 2012 to identify a principal willing to hire them. After that point, the DCPS Office of Human Capital will begin to place them into remaining vacancies. This process will be completed by June 15, 2012."

Another reorganization is also underway for school year 2012-13 in DC Public Schools which includes a Reduction In Force (RIF) for many Special Education Coordinators (SECs). Earlier during the DC Public Schools budgeting process for SY' 2012-13, funding was no longer provided to local schools for Special Education Coordinator (SECs) positions. Many DC Public school principals complained about not being funded to keep their SECs. After an uproar by administrators, funding was made available to local schools for a small number of Special Education Coordinators (SECs) -approximately 40-50 according to my source. It is my understanding, that monies alloted for school social workers funding, which initially was part of the required school budget for 2012-13 was changed to flexible spending - thereby allowing principals to decide whether they wanted a school social worker or not. Last school year, all schools were required to have a .5 (half-time) school social worker at a minimum depending on the student population. Having the option to decide whether to hire a social worker or not, some schools used the monies for other positions such as the SECs position. It is sad to say that the majority of SECs will be losing their positions at the end of the school year.

DCPS question: "When will SECs who are losing their positions be officially notified?"

DCPS answer: "Affected SECs will receive official notification that they are part of a Reduction in Force (RIF) from DC Public Schools on the last day of school, June 14, 2012. The reductions will go into effect on July 15, 2012, according to the revised May 2012 SECs and School Psychologists.

You might be wondering by now, why is DC Public Schools jumping on yet another educational bandwagon? The short and dirty answer is that DCPS claims that they are shifting to another model which no longer includes Special Education Coordinators (SECs). According to an April 26, 2012 press release by Chancellor Kaya Henderson titled: Increase in School Psychologists to Help DCPS Better Serve Students, she states: "...DCPS will shift to a new staffing model for 2012-13 school year that better utilizes the expertise of school psychologists. The change will allow schools to improve student achievement by leveraging the skills of school psychologists to build a student network that collects data, identifies students at risk for poor academic or behavioral outcomes, provides evidenced based interventions and monitors student progress."

So here's when being a critical thinker really comes in handy. Not for a minute do I buy the hype that this change in staffing is what is in the best interest of DC's children. We must ask what's really behind these changes? I for one believe that the Henderson administration and company wants to make us think that the central office is saving a boatload of money yearly when in fact they are just playing a game of musical chairs with staff. They are just shifting the funding from the central office to the local schools budget. Don't be fooled into thinking that the reduction the central office will show in personnel costs is a cost savings measure. Not!

RIFing special education coordinators while a temporary cost saving measure to the District is a mistake and when the word gets out about the layoffs of special education coordinators (SECs), special education advocates and attorneys will be lining up to sue DCPS, litigation costs will sky rocket once again like they did pre-special education coordinator days. From where I sit, special education coordinators have been a God-send to the District of Columbia Public Schools, our students and staff.

It has been a long arduous battle for both school psychologists and special education coordinators (SECs) and their unions who have voiced concerns adamantly about the dismantling of SECs positions whose duties will probably be absorbed by local school staff and the excessing of school psychologists from the central office to local school psychologist/special education coordinator ordinairre. Here we go again- jumping from one educational bandwagon to another.

Someone has to set the record straight about what's really happening in our schools. I'd love to hear from DC Public Schools special education coordinators and school psychologists and others about what they think the real motivation is behind the move. Feel free to email me c/o or Confidentiality assured.

© Candi Peterson 2013


BC said...

"In education today that's called "Educational Reform." Sad because it benifits no-one."

Aona H. Jefferson said...

As usual you hit the nail on the head. The CSO has said exactly the same to DCPS. We told them that they're masking the reduction of the numbers in central office, will have increased law suits, and that they're making a big mistake getting rid of the SEC's. We even had terce meetings with Jason and Dr. Beers who obviously don't have a clue as to the duties of the SECs'. They are definitely an asset to the school, children and parents. I've even testified at the DC Council saying the same to no avail. The problem is there's absolutely NO oversight of DCPS!

Aona H. Jefferson
Council of School Officers
2120 Bladensburg Road, NE, Suite 205
Washington, DC 20018
202-526-4700 (office) 202-526-8088 (fax)

Anonymous said...

What do SEC's do and do we have evidence of their value? Just articulating their value is of little value to those on the outside looking at the changing landscape of DC Schools. At this point I am indifferent to either side and would really find empirical evidence in support of not RIFing SECs as supportive of your argument.


Manor Park, Ward 4, DC

Anonymous said...

I personally think some of this has to do with the amount of money that is to be paid to "Highly Effective" teachers through the "bonus system". The private donors have decreased their investment by at least 70%. This looks like "robbing peter to pay paul".

Candi Peterson said...

SEC's do a lot within our local schools. Much too much to go into detail on this blog. For starters they ensure/monitor compliance with timelines for their local schools special education population, chair eligibility/IEP/MDT meetings for special education, schedule all student meetings, schedule and assign testing of students suspected of disabilities, handle and maintain the special education data warehouse which is extensive, provide staff development, act as the principal designee/local education representative, interface with advocates, attorney's, parents. There's even more than I can write in this comment section.

I encourage you to look at charter schools and other districts who see this position as an invaluable role. I remember when teachers tried to handle this job and we were always out of compliance with special education timelines. It is not a 40 hour a week job. But don't take my word as someone with 20 years in special education. When this experiment fails, just remember I told you so. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I suspect the real motivation is to save money. I suspect that whoever is making these decisions is making them because they want to change the character and appearance of the work force to a younger work force that will be paid significantly less than the experts that are in place.

We should have seen this coming and acted on it appropriately at that time. I tried to highlight the makings of the concept when program managers were appointed and the union unfortunately did nothing about it. That was, I think, a significant part of the beginning of what continues to be unfair practices related to the treatment of school psychologists. Then there was my termination, and the union it seems, essentially "Threw me under the bus" with the attitude that "At least we only lost one psychologist this year". When one unfair incident occurs that the union ignores, or doesn't appropriately or effectively address, it leaves the door open for the same kind of behavior from the Rhee administration folks to continue what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

Now there will be a diversion back to the days when children with needs were left undiagnosed and in the gaps.

Its always the most needy that hurt.

Redeemedspirit said...

Anonymous 5/25 @2:54am,

I agree completely. School psychologists like myself were treated unfairly and punitively under the leadership of the program managers for years. As hardworking, caring psychologists, we had to endure the constant changing of the "report format" (which made up a significant part of our impact score) so that most of us could be rated down on writing bad reports. Mind you, APA nor NASP ever endorsed this format or required the level of work that the program managers expected. It was like being on a bad reality show. It was inevitable that some psychologists couldn't "survive" the unfair pressure.

The union knows about this but chooses to do nothing. Now, this misguided decision with SEC's will have us feeling like its the Blackmon jones years again!!

This plan will fail. A younger staff may look cuter and require less of a salary but James Brown & Associates will devour!

I predict that by February 2013 DCPS will be begging SEC's to come back and hiring psychologists to clear the new backlog!