Natomas School Board Race: Special Education

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

SECOND IN A SERIES

THE NATOMAS BUZZ invited the five candidates running for the Natomas Unified school board to participate in a series of articles wherein they answer questions submitted by readers. Today’s question asked,

“What is your understanding of the Natomas Unified School District’s plan to become its own Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) in the next year, do you support this plan, why or why not?”

Here are the answers submitted by the deadline, in the order they were received:

CYNTHIA CONNELL
The district has not been forthcoming regarding its plans to become its own SELPA. As an example, at tonight’s Board meeting they rushed through the names of their CAC committee too quickly to make note of them, and failed to a) have a dialogue about it, or b) publish the committee names in the agenda. This lack of transparency has become systemic in NUSD. I share a concern voiced at the NCS Candidate Forum: how can we trust the district to use their new SELPA resources to develop a quality educational SPED program, when they haven’t done so while being accountable to a regional SELPA? I have no confidence that the money flowing into the district will be used to do something they haven’t done before. I also question if they constitute a ‘large district’, as required by the California Master Plan for SPED. I do not support their plan.

JAG BAINS
The Board hasn’t presented much publicly on the single-district SELPA plan, so we need to start with more transparency and parent input. The incumbents say this move will save money, but I have deep concerns about the ability of NUSD to reinvest any savings back to services that would properly meet the needs of our special education students. I’ve talked with parents who feel the district has failed to honor their child’s individualized education plan (IEP). These issues make you wonder if staff can stand up a whole SELPA within a year’s time. I’d only support a plan that provides the full continuum of quality special education services and ensures our students learn in the least restrictive environment. As a Board Member, I will fight to keep high-quality special education programs in place and will call for an audit of the new SELPA to ensure student needs are met.

TERI BURNS
Our action to become our own SELPA stems from the fact that we lose over $2 million a year by staying in the regional SELPA. Those dollars go to other districts’ kids. As we continue to grow, so do our needs for a wide range of services. By operating our own program, we control the dollars and can use those additional funds to make the best investments in the services we provide. We have selected a diverse committee of parents, students and staff to help advise us on our plan. The time is ripe since Twin Rivers is also leaving the regional SELPA which will require their restructuring anyway. Doing it at the same time will allow the county to restructure only once. I support this decision.