Town Square

Post a New Topic

Parents say they would sue over special ed cuts

Original post made on Dec 14, 2009

An item to reduce aide hours in the Mountain View Whisman School District's autism program was again pulled from the agenda during the board of trustee's regular meeting last week, a move which surprised the several dozen parents who had come to lobby against the cuts.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, December 14, 2009, 12:11 PM

Comments (21)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by MV Parent
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 14, 2009 at 2:42 pm

I can understand the parents' concern about the cuts, and it's difficult having special needs children. At the same time, parents of non-special ed children have also face drastic cuts. As a parent, I'm not happy that my child no longer has PE, music, art, etc as funded by the district. All these programs are funded for by educational foundation or specific fund raisers. Maybe this could be part of the solution for special ed? Suing the district just takes away money that all children of Mountain View could use for educational purposes.

What I find frustrating is that there is money for special ed programs, but not for GATE programs. How is that investing in our future? In this situation, not every child is getting the service he/she deserves from the district. Should I sue the district for not providing funding for the GATE program?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Daniel Mart
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 14, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Daniel Mart is a registered user.

If the parents sue, they'd win. Check this:

Web Link

Overly-greedy, blind politicians got us into this mess; we should not have ever have any sympathy for anybody here.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Monica
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Well said MV Parent! Why should special ed/autism be given "special" consideration and not the "typical" children of Mountain View. If these children are ever to mainstreamed, their parents should be willing to foot part of the bill. Instead of taking money away from other students, it seems fair that parents of these children should help cover the cost of their child's education, just as parents of "typical" children must pay for after school sports, music, art and tutoring. It's easy to throw down the "I'm going to sue the district card" but why not be accountable for your child's education, as the rest of us are.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Reader
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 14, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Oh, believe me. These parents of special ed/autism kids fund more then enough of the costs for their kids education!

Also, if you have researched you will see that these parents are willing to help out and fund, even start a SEPTA to help with grants and fundraising. The concern is firing the AIs or lowering their hours so they are not available for the children.

Also, you assume that these kids are not gifted. Some of these kids are VERY gifted and if shown the right skills could be generous contributors to society. We live in Silicon Valley, remember? There are a lot of gifted engineers out there ;-).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jl
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 14, 2009 at 6:53 pm

If there are no other choices, bringing them to court might not be a bad idea. Why should principals and other useless admin take home over 100K per year while classroom aides are getting less than 12 dollars/hr. Why should district office spend thousand of dollars on luncheon, traveling, and other useless expenses while our teachers and students are left fighting for dollar and dime? It's about time parents and the community get involved. It's about time they pay back what they owe our kids.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Christine Case-Lo
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 14, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Suing would definitely be a last resort. But we want our concerns heard, and the squeaky wheel gets oiled. I have no desire to take money away from other kids. I would be happy to work toward fundraising or paying some of the costs on my own, but laws prevent us from doing that directly. We need a special education PTA (SEPTA) in order to do this, but we can not find a sponsor in this administration. Our kids can be mainstreamed and be contributing, even gifted members of society if they are giving this help when young. Please understand we want better education and services for all kids!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Betty Mom
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 14, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Quite frankly, I am shocked to hear the comparison between GATE kids and special ed. kids programs. They just do not compare, so throw that one away. Nonetheless, special ed. Moms and Dads DO pay for a boat load of services outside of the school setting, sometimes travelling up and down the peninsula trying to find the right program/fit for our kids. We also fight like the dickens with insurance companies, health officials, and various other beauracrats regarding our kids. Many of our kids are really talented, but they need some special help in harnessing these talents. Once our kids get it, they really get it. Many of the special ed. Moms and Dads work their butts off to help the district in other ways, and believe me, we are often taken for granted. It is not unusual to see a Mom shadowing her own kid in class, simply because they have not found an appropriate aid for him or her. Many of us don't work outside the home because we could never find a job that would allow enough flexibility (I get phone calls alot from school). The cost of the additional services that we pay for outside of the school costs is enough to break anyone's budget. For example, a social skills group is typically $110 - $130/hour and is recommended twice per week. That's $220/week or $880/month, none of it covered by insurance.

My main concern is once you let the administration reduce the budget, cut hours and cut services, you will never ever get it back. Not to mention, in the long run, our kids will not have the skills they need to be successful in life, costing more money to society in the long run. It is not unusual to have special ed. kids wind up in the criminal justice system through misunderstanding and lack of compassion.

One other thing that needs to be looked at here, is the actual reduction of hours. The claim is that these skills are being consolidated into the classroom setting, or the kids are being pulled out of classroom for individual therapy. In my last IEP, I was offered 15 minuter per week of one on one therapy. Geez, what can you do in 15 minutes? By the time you get the kid to change gears and calm down enough to learn, the big 15 minutes are over. So what is happening is less and less services per child, more and more people losing their jobs even though they are sorely needed.

In addition, these therapists have been with the district for many years, a majority of them were there when the program first started. They really know what they are doing, and this is very hard to find. If they are sitting idly, then lets put them to work! Lets give these folks the challenge that they would love to take on. Social skills for middle schoolers would really give the kids the skills they need to ready themselves for high school and then the world ahead of them. You can never overdo on social skills, and middle school is such a critical time for them. This would keep our therapists fully employed (so they won't have to leave), help our middle schoolers, and keep our maintenace of effort in tact. No additional monies would have to shelled out, but the therapists would have to take on the middle school kids. These skills could then be generalized within the classroom setting, thus more learning, better grades, more academic achievement. It would also keep in line with our Continuous Improvement effort and our so called buzz words "education for the world ahead". In the end, it would be a cost saving to the district and to society. Lets not be short sighted folks, give a little now for alot of gain later.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Dec 15, 2009 at 11:18 am

ALL budget cuts should begin at the top, not the bottom. Government salaries and benefits are completely out of hand. No government official should be making a six-figure salary in these times. Demand accountability is government, at the federal, state, county, and local level. The Founding Fathers took up arms against precisely the sort of tax parasites we are confronted with now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shoreline Mom
a resident of Shoreline West
on Dec 15, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Mountain View District is NOT interested in helping gifted children with Special Needs. My own child has Autism and he does not receive services because he is "too high functioning. However, from last year to this year there has been an unbelievable change (for worse) in his academics. He has the potential for doing great, he is 7 with a cognitive level compared to a 12 year old. Maybe what I'm not doing for my son...yet, someone else can do it for theirs.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JS
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 16, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Waaah ... How can people say Special Ed is optional and be mentioned in the same level as music, art, PE?! Do you even know what Special Education is? Cutting Special Ed is like a 6th grader parent saying to cut Kindergarten and 1st grade so there's money for 6th grade music, art and PE. At least there are education foundations to help fund raise for those but Special Ed does not have these channels available because of the laws in place.

Special Education for children with special needs is not an option but a requirement. It is also a right granted by law. Typical children can still succeed without attending preschool even though there may be a slow start, but that's not the case for special needs children. The most important window for time is their early years - the earlier the intervention the bigger the difference so Special Education is absolutely critical. Typical children without music, art, or PE in class can still easily get that at home but special needs children require intensive professional one-on-one therapies, speech therapies, occupational therapies, social trainings, etc.

Having autism for my son who has sensory issues is like turning yourself 10x, the light in the room is flickering constantly, someone is shaking a maraca next to your ear, your body has the urge to run or crash, and also a strong need to chew something, anything. If this is how you feel all day how do you calm your body to focus and learn new things or behave socially appropriate even though your intelligence is perfectly intact? That's what Special Education do for these children - to help them calm their tendencies, to learn social cues, to understand classroom dynamics, and to draw out the person from within their world. My son can learn but he needs a special way to learn. It may take him a little longer than other children but he'll get there if given a chance. Should he be denied a life that is as normal as we know it?

Now to the article... First, I don't like the title. It made it sound like the Special Ed parents are just going around to sue people giving negative image of these parents who already have so much challenge in their lives. To me this is not objective news reporting since the article failed to mention that the letter submitted had 4 pages of proposals including parents asking to help fund raise but it focused only on the possible sue which would be a last resort option. I know the paper just wants to get attention for their article but please, not at our expense. True, we are upset and you would be upset too if your rights are diminishing. Our goal is not to sue anyone but to keep the 11 Instructional Aids, who are unsung heros, so our children can succeed in school just like the typical children. Is that too much to ask?

I'm glad Terri got up to the school board to tell her story. She told us before the meeting that she wasn't going to say anything because she'll get emotional but I admire her courage to stand up because of the false statement by the school. "Totter has repeatedly said that reducing the aide hours would not impact student services but parents speaking at Thursday's meeting disagreed." I disagree too since my son is also only getting 1/2 to 1/3 of services offered so the decision IS impacting students - and the limited service seems to be the case for new families so I'm sure future services will also be reduced.

These 11 district instructional aids have good experience and success with our district children so it would be a tragedy to lose them. Reducing a quarter of their salary and benefits might drive them to another district or private schools. Kids with autism are 1 in 100 now, and 1 in 60 or 1 in 30 are boys. No one knows the cause right now but kids with autism are discovered at alarming rate so with more autistic kids coming we need these aids more than ever since they are the ones who work directly with the children every day. Imagine in 20 years if half the children are autistic... Leave them be and let them grow to be a burden to society? That to me is very short sighted.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Special Ed*
a resident of Shoreline West
on Dec 17, 2009 at 10:37 am

I just want to thank everyone who is writing their comments and sharing their opinions on this issue. As an instructional assistant in this field, I am pleased to hear that parents value us. Working with these kids is a wonderful thing.I hope that your voices help spread the word on just how important it is that people with autism recieve the quality care they so deserve and depend on. Thanks for standing up for the workers!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ss
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 17, 2009 at 11:10 am

It's so strange that the district said the Instructional Assistants don't have enough to do, and that's why they are reducing their pay and benefits, while at the same time the parents are upset over limited/reduced services. So why not fill in the gap by expanding services to students and giving more work to IAs? If cost is a concern then why won't the district let Special Ed schools have their own PTA to fund raise like all the other schools? Something doesn't add up.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by mom
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 18, 2009 at 12:08 pm

There is a video in Yahoo's health section that talks about one mother's journey to "cure" her son's autisim. She quit her job and worked with him 10 hours a day for three years! Yes, early detection was the key in this case. The transforming difference in this case was the mother's aggressiveness in taking charge of her son's treatment plan into her own hands doing all the work herself. After eight months, he was no longer classified as "autistic."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2009 at 8:40 am

Who is this Totter and why does she never seem to know what's going on? This, along with the Ghysels problem, is what happens when you promote teachers into management and leadership positions. They run their offices like elementary classrooms.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sell
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 11, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Did you know they have IEPs set up now to where the kid gets services until they are like 23 years old. This "afterschool" care they are talking about falls upon the parent and their dime.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by wilen
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 11, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Hey "jl" those aides could go and get a college degree. Or does that logic not jive with your apparent socialism spiel. Spec Ed gets twice as much money than regular ed--- you know the kids that we need to become doctors and engineers one day.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lucy Martinez
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 20, 2010 at 8:36 pm

I have seen the on-going saga ofthe Mountain View Whisman School District vs. Slater School Aids.
I am very concerned about the practices the District is using to remove those employees. They are not being honest with the School Board,CSEA, and the news paper reporter who is covering the story.
I have been in contact with union members. I would like to share some of those facts they have discussed with me that differ from the statements of Stephanie Totter.
The parents want to know what happened to Steve Gingras, the director od Special Ed.

Stephanie Totter has stated that Maurice Ghysels, Supertendent, asked her to step into special ed department two years ago .


Stephanie started by bullying Jenny Garver , former cordinator of the Autism Services to resign.She hired a new cordinator and three TOSAS who have changed the program and the services they provide to students.A

The layoff is on the agenda for tomorrows Board meeting January 21,2010.

My second concern is the appoinment of Craig Goldman as a new superintendent. Craig is a part of this plan against Slater aids and the students. He will continye the process already in place to change the Autistic program at Slater School.

Craig Goldman should not become the next superintendent. That will continue ti give Stephanie Totter a lot of power.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lucy Martinez
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 20, 2010 at 8:36 pm

I have seen the on-going saga ofthe Mountain View Whisman School District vs. Slater School Aids.
I am very concerned about the practices the District is using to remove those employees. They are not being honest with the School Board,CSEA, and the news paper reporter who is covering the story.
I have been in contact with union members. I would like to share some of those facts they have discussed with me that differ from the statements of Stephanie Totter.
The parents want to know what happened to Steve Gingras, the director od Special Ed.

Stephanie Totter has stated that Maurice Ghysels, Supertendent, asked her to step into special ed department two years ago .


Stephanie started by bullying Jenny Garver , former cordinator of the Autism Services to resign.She hired a new cordinator and three TOSAS who have changed the program and the services they provide to students.A

The layoff is on the agenda for tomorrows Board meeting January 21,2010.

My second concern is the appoinment of Craig Goldman as a new superintendent. Craig is a part of this plan against Slater aids and the students. He will continye the process already in place to change the Autistic program at Slater School.

Craig Goldman should not become the next superintendent. That will continue ti give Stephanie Totter a lot of power.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lucy Martinez
a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 20, 2010 at 8:36 pm

I have seen the on-going saga ofthe Mountain View Whisman School District vs. Slater School Aids.
I am very concerned about the practices the District is using to remove those employees. They are not being honest with the School Board,CSEA, and the news paper reporter who is covering the story.
I have been in contact with union members. I would like to share some of those facts they have discussed with me that differ from the statements of Stephanie Totter.
The parents want to know what happened to Steve Gingras, the director od Special Ed.

Stephanie Totter has stated that Maurice Ghysels, Supertendent, asked her to step into special ed department two years ago .


Stephanie started by bullying Jenny Garver , former cordinator of the Autism Services to resign.She hired a new cordinator and three TOSAS who have changed the program and the services they provide to students.A

The layoff is on the agenda for tomorrows Board meeting January 21,2010.

My second concern is the appoinment of Craig Goldman as a new superintendent. Craig is a part of this plan against Slater aids and the students. He will continye the process already in place to change the Autistic program at Slater School.

Craig Goldman should not become the next superintendent. That will continue ti give Stephanie Totter a lot of power.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 22, 2010 at 3:21 pm

This is a sighted solution typical of our school administrators. They have top loaded management in Special Ed with 3 Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) who do not teach anything, they just make teachers, parents, and staff miserable by following Mrs. Totter's agenda of providing the least services possible, -to the point that they are out of compliance with the law.

It is only a matter of time until parents mount successful legal challenges. How much do you suppose that will cost?

It is time for change at MVWSD and Mrs. Totter would be a good place to start. -Poor legal advice, out of compliance temporary teachers, arbitrary layoffs, pension questions, low staff morale and keeping the Board in the dark is not my idea of a good job.


-and where is the Director of Special Ed in this?

-has Mrs. Totter acquired another title?

The lady has too much control and has demonstrated time and time again a lack of vision and understanding of staff and the community. Stephanie Totter should go! The board needs to do something or the community certainly will.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Teacher
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jan 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I second the opinion of Joe. Totter is just trying to raise her final salary so she can retire at a high rate on the taxpayers dime. Teachers, aides, and everyone else can keep on putting up with the scraps left behind.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Grab a Bowl of Heaven soon in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 2,548 views

Quick Check List for UC Applications
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 1,777 views

Don't fund the rape culture at my alma mater
By Jessica T | 19 comments | 1,373 views

Palo Alto and Bay Area Election Facts and Thoughts on the Implications
By Steve Levy | 14 comments | 1,281 views

Fancy Fast and Fun!
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 1,086 views