“Burden?!”

Look out; clear a path.  Soap box coming through.  

I just learned this morning that at the last Norristown Area School District Board meeting, the CFO (now identified as Anne Marie Rohricht) called Special Education a “burden” on the school district’s budget.  To my knowledge, the District Superintendent, Dr. Janet Samuels, did not refute the statement.  It’s fairly common knowledge among families with special needs kids that Dr. Samuels agrees with that statement, insofar as the special education department at NASD has been hacked since she took over the school district.  The latest attack came two weeks ago with the unannounced firing of several special ed paraprofessionals in an effort to save money.

As far as I know, and I’d love to have someone clarify this for me, there isn’t a single school board member with a special needs child.  If there were just one, I could say the families of special needs children are being honestly (if not adequately) represented, but to my knowledge, there isn’t.  Safe to say you’ve heard the expression, “Taxation without representation”?  The board is looking at Special Education from the bottom line, and the bottom line only.  What they’re failing to see is the kids behind it.  Perfect or not, these children are our most precious resources, even if they’re considered by some to be a “burden”. 

Trust me, dudes, we didn’t choose this.  If I could go back in time and have a “normal” kid, even if it meant taking 10 years off my life, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  At least then I could trust that my son had a chance of growing up to be a productive, contributing member of society instead of a “burden” on it.  As of right now, because my 13 year old son has the intellectual capacity of a 6 year old, I’m not allowed to dieWho will care for him when I’m not here?  No matter what they say about Special Ed being a “burden” on the district, it’s nothing compared to the rest of my natural life.

Let’s also consider what it would cost if Special Ed weren’t available (and a federal law, if I’m not mistaken).  These children would be a lifetime “burden” on society.  At least with education, understanding, and guidance, they have a chance at a happy life.  Without it, we’ll be going back to the days of Willowbrook.  I lived on Staten Island and I saw it when it was still operational in the early 80’s.  I cry every time I think of the naked 8 year old child standing in an open doorway, watching as my bus passed by.  It’s an image I can’t burn from my brain (and I’ve tried).  If his mother could have seen the lonely, empty shell of a life her child was living, she’d have jumped off the nearest, tallest bridge. 

I’d like for the school board members to realize that regardless of anything else, when these children graduate (such as it is), they’ll no longer be a “burden” to the school district, but my son will be with me for the rest of my life.  As challenging as our lives may/will be, I have never once thought of him as a “burden”.  I’m insulted and disgusted to think that someone who, theoretically, should have my child’s best interests at heart considers him a “burden”.  Shame on you, Norristown Area School Board and Dr. Samuels.  Just you wait ’til the next election.  We will not forget.

My family made an effort to buy a house in Norristown solely for the purpose of keeping our children in the Norristown School District.  In 2002, we were delighted with the curriculum, the teachers, the methodology, and the people.  Now I’m just disgusted, and I’m sorry as hell we didn’t move out of the district and take our tax dollars with us.    We could’ve saved an enormous amount of money on property/school taxes, gotten a bigger house with a bigger yard, been much safer than where we are now (my car was broken into twice since we moved in a year ago) and been just as happy.   Seriously, Norristown Area School District was a great place before Dr. Samuels took over.  Years ago, I went on the Autism Society email loop, extolling the virtues of this place, how wonderful the autism support staff was (I posted a blog about this 2 years ago) and how thorough and child-dedicated the program was.  If someone asked, “Where should I go for the best services?” I waved them on over.  I may be responsible for at least half a dozen families moving here, just to go to the NASD schools. 

Now I’m just sick to my stomach.  Now it’s all about the goddamn bottom line.  “Burden”, my ass. 

I believe in karma.  I hope you do too.

Oh, and if you want a real kick in the teeth, here’s a picture of Dr. Samuels with my son Alex, taken last February after she praised him at the district science fair.  As Bob Dylan said, “They smile in your face, but behind your back, they hiss.”

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One thought on ““Burden?!”

  1. Yeouch, Carla. If that’s what she really said, that was a very harsh statement. I hope that person gets taken to task on her poor choice of words. Maybe a strategically placed phone call to The Times Herald might be in order!

    I started my teaching career as a sub in Methacton, Great Valley and NASD. I had good experiences at all of them, though I think more of my horror stories came from NASD than the others, (like the time a student stole the lesson plans, or when I was the home ec sub with the filmstrip converted into a video with the dings to turn the frame and everything still in it) but they each had their fair share.

    Special education takes its hits, but I’ve found that the professionals in those classrooms are very committed. They’re in the trenches every day, showing they care and doing what’s best for their students. And there, on the front lines is where most of the difference in a child’s life is made. Yes, they may be doing it with red tape tying one hand behind their backs, but it doesn’t change how much they care and are willing to do for their students.

    Cuts in funding and staff are definitely a problem. Hopefully the cuts won’t detrimentally effect the children receiving services.

    Bet you didn’t think you’d need to make room for my soap box too! 🙂 Keep fighting the good fight!

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