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Trustees delay vote on special education cuts

Original post made on Nov 25, 2009

An agenda item to eliminate 11 full-time positions in the Mountain View Whisman School District's special education program was pulled before last week's board meeting so the union representing those workers could talk it over first, administrators said.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 24, 2009, 5:02 PM

Comments (16)

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Posted by Rick Swan
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Nov 25, 2009 at 4:21 am

Amazing coincidence that during the financial crises so many students most at need have been "evaluated" to need a reduction in services.

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Posted by John
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 25, 2009 at 6:37 am

I think the trustees should re evaluate the need for all the the six figure administrators walking around like royalty, - and start with the one who makes these unfortunate choices that have such a negative impact on kids and families, -the assistant superintendent herself!

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Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 25, 2009 at 7:18 am

Well said John. It's really not about the students any more. I'd like to see all these admin types take a 25% salary cut across the board. No more immunity to them.

Cutting programs has been the mainstay tactic of the district office. Make full-time employees part-time employess and cut their benefits. I challenge the Voice to research how much Totter's salary has increased in the last 5 years. They changed her title two years ago from director to asst. supe. which translates as, "you maxed out on the director salary scale, so we now need to create a new scale and title." Absurd. Fire all these maxed out dinosaurs and hire from the younger generation who knows what it's like to struggle (and yes, I'm an old fart, but I have been impressed with our younger generation and their innovative ways.)

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Posted by Old Theuerkauf Parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Nov 25, 2009 at 10:47 am


Do you realize that MVWSD spends about 3 million per year more on special ed than they get from the sources that are supposed to pay for it? Mr. Goldman does a very good job of explaining it, and did so recently in public.

Ms. Totter has worked hard in our district since she first became a principal at Theuerkauf many years ago.

For those who rail against School District Administrators, may I suggest the old song lyric about "walking a mile in their shoes". For teachers who suggest that administrators are overpaid, I would suggest the same thing, as well as the fact that adminstrators work year-round, while teachers (at least in MVWSD) still have the greatest benefit of all in teaching, namely "June, July, & August"

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Posted by Cuesta Park parent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 25, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Old Theuerkauf Parent, if the spending on special ed was so out of balance, why wasn't this addressed before the school year began, rather than in the middle of the school year? That way, aides facing reduced hours could have decided if they wanted to stay in their positions, or seek employment elsewhere. It does not seem right to impose these cuts on workers midway through the year, when seeking a new school job is much more difficult.

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Posted by yeah right
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Nov 25, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Yes, I'm sure Craig did a wonderful job of explaining how much the special ed students cost the district. They need more support and have a right to the same education as any other student.

To "Old Theuerkauf Parent", the greatest benefit for teachers is seeing the growth of the students and not "June, July, and August." And to clarify, it's the middle of June that the school year ends and the middle of August that teachers are asked to return.

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Posted by Moe
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 25, 2009 at 8:25 pm

I challenge Old Theuerkauf Parent to find out how Ms. Totter's salary always seems to go up, while everyone else goes down. I'm sure the answer he'll get back from Totter is "there's no precedent" to explain her rising salary or "nothing on the books" or it's "a personnel matter." They are cutting special ed staffing because they don't care about the students or the employees, only themselves. Don't believe me? Just look at all the other crooks in public education in California doing the same thing. You won't have to look far. Start at East Side Union HS and the SJ College district for same shameful examples. Oh yeah, that's right, it could never happen in MV, the happiest place on earth where superintendents bed down with principals there just so happy.

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Posted by joe
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 26, 2009 at 7:11 am

Special Ed runs in the red because of unfunded federal mandates, but cutting care services and staff is no solution. This is a short cited 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, 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 temp 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. She should go.

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Posted by Daniel Mart
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 26, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Daniel Mart is a registered user.

I grew up in the Palo Alto OH program, and this is an issue so close to my heart.

Something has to change!!!

Cutting special ed even further ... all while we have so many CEOs making over $1000 an hour? Hadsomely-paid higher-ups not doing their best job and seemingly putting personal interests above others? It's as simple as that; why do some people take it as a much tougher issue? Why do they continue to give into a broken status quo?

It is all about trickle effects. And these effects continue to chip away at California's once-thriving special education system. If the Bridge School weren't a non-profit, they'd be screwed.

When I went to the Briones OH, there were well over 70 students. Nowadays, that entire building sees maybe 10-13 at the most.

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Posted by Christine
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 27, 2009 at 3:51 pm

There is a lot of waste that could be cut without cutting those aids. They are vital for the one on one interaction that helps autistic kids thrive and learn social rules. The admin and TOSA's don't directly interact with those kids and are not nearly as vital!!!

Please, don't let those aids be removed. Or we'll have to resort to legal action.

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Posted by Carl
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 28, 2009 at 7:42 am

Cut special ed, cut the independent study program, cut bus funding for students going across town, but don't cut administrators' salaries!

BTW, how much was paid out in legal fees to arrive at the brilliant answer that Ghysels should step down when the Voice editor came up with that answer for free?

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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 28, 2009 at 9:42 am

The School District Salaries (and salary histories) are open to anyone who makes a Public Record Request. This should be done by administrative title- and not personnel name. You could ask for all Superintendents, Directors and Assistant and Associate Superintendents -2009 to 2003. PERHAPS The Voice could do this and write an informative article for us all.

The device of cutting a bunch of peoples time to preclude them getting a full benefit package is common at Wall-Mart and other large companies that want to cut costs. I do not consider it socially acceptable. This is an example of why I do not particularly trust the judgement of the CFO of the District - does this move reflect your community values? (

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Posted by alice
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 1, 2009 at 6:25 pm

My son recent "evaluations" done by Laura Snider tell that he doesn't qualify for Special Education anymore, even thought we present with our own private evaluation saying the opposite to Laura's.
And of course now he doesn't have a aide or OT or anything.
If my son is one of those of Special Education students with no longer required services mentioned by Totter I can tell you this is a complot between Her, Steve Gingras and Laura Snider to take away services that our kids need and deserve.
What are they planning to do with all that money they are going to have to spare?
We want Jenny Garver back!!!

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Posted by Concerned neighbor
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2009 at 11:32 am

I am shocked by the anger and hostility put forth by special ed parents who do not fully understand the weight these decisions have on administrators and teachers. Nobody enjoys budget crises or looks forward to proposing cuts. TOSAs are responsible for keeping aides and programs running. It is my understanding, based on observation, that MVWSD has a high quality special ed program. Perhaps parents do not fully underdtand the fact that SpEd is required to fund without reimbursement for the total cost- FAPE -public education- is responsible for providing the minimum to keep students progressing, learning, and working to wards meeting goals. There is no stipulation that says the programs must be "Cadillac" If you think your students have a bad Sped program look around you to neighboring cities and be thankful for the quality, level of commitment, and expertise that you have in MV. Those of us in other places would love to be in your shoes.

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Posted by Mary
a resident of Rex Manor
on Dec 4, 2009 at 6:42 pm

Concerned neighbor:

If there is a budget crisis, then why has Tottor's salary jumped over $10,000 in the last four year, not including bonuses and other perks?

And Ghysels got another 2% raise this year amidst the worst recession since the Great Depression. Explain that math to me, before you justify taking funds away from special needs students and the low pair people who support them for love of the work and not the money!

Those raises must have weighed pretty heavy on the minds of those administrators and trustees.

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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 20, 2010 at 10:50 am

Laura Snider is TERRIBLE!!! She knows nothing about treating children on the spectrum. She and Steve Gingras are all about cutting services for children that need it the most.


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