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October 4, 2012

staff turnover raises concerns

School officials seek to address special ed program

NEWBURYPORT — A month after legal and personal troubles forced the resignation of the district’s special education director, parents of students served by the program are raising concerns.

Following the exit of director Karen Brann coupled with a spate of recent staff and administrative departures at the Molin and Nock Middle schools, including the loss of team facilitator Marcy Amolski, Roseanne Nercessian this week called on the School Committee to take a more active role in shoring up the program. If it doesn’t, she said, it risks the academic failure of the district’s most vulnerable students.

“Now, I’m not like some other people in our society,” Nercessian told the committee Monday night. “I’m not looking for the school to feed my kid and I definitely am not looking for the school to provide a moral compass for my kid. What I am looking for is a safe environment where my kids will learn to read, write and understand history, science and mathematics. That is not happening today, at least not for my child.”

Nercessian called into question positions that have languished unfilled within the department since the beginning of summer, individualized education program (IEP) meetings that were cancelled in September due to Brann’s departure and staffing shortfalls and the district’s hiring of an interim director who works only four days a week.

“The parents of these students cannot be heard unless they reach out several times and micromanage the process, and those tax-paying parents help fund this district,” Nercessian said. “We should have a shared goal yet it seems to me to be an extremely adversarial process and it starts because you don’t have the personnel in place.”

Superintendent Marc Kerble took exception to Nercessian’s characterization of the Special Education Department, which he’s been told by the new interim director is “well staffed.” But he promised to follow up on Nercessian’s concerns.

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