Warwick Valley School Board discusses safety plans

Warwick. During public comment, resident sought the BOE’s buy-in on the establishment of a parent-run council that would work with the superintendent on issues concerning Special Education.

| 09 Aug 2023 | 10:08

    With the school year about to begin, the Warwick Valley School Board announced plans to enhance the safety of its students, teachers and staff at its regular meeting on Aug. 3.

    Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach said that the administration is “refining” its safety plans, as it “recognize(s) additional challenges facing schools.”

    During a recent safety meeting, the district realized a need for a safety coordinator who would be a point person between staff/administration and students and their parents, especially in case of safety drills, actual lockdowns, active shooters and other emergencies.

    The district has begun interviewing candidates for the position and is also determining what the district’s needs are that this individual would fulfill.

    “During (our) meeting, Warwick Police Chief John Rader joined us,” Leach said, and that he had “a good feeling” about the process. Leach added that the district will update the public about the process soon.

    Public comment

    Parent and two-time former school board candidate Luis Abramson addressed the board, seeking its buy-in on the establishment of a parent-run council that would work with the superintendent on Special Education issues.

    Abramson said that he hoped this council would “bring something different to school” with regard to kids with intellectual disabilities, particularly those on the Autism Spectrum and those with Down Syndrome.

    He added that similar councils have been established successfully in Rochester and in several New Jersey towns.

    During an interview after the school board meeting, Abramson expressed his overall lack of satisfaction with the way the district handles students with intellectual disabilities, particularly with the way that – in his view – some of these students are channeled by the district into entry-level, service-type jobs that may not enable some of them to meet their full potential.

    He was unhappy with having to send his child out-of-district (to Sullivan County) for services and had a dim view overall of the state of Special Education in Orange County more broadly, including long waiting lists for acceptance into programs as part of the problem.

    Superintendent responds

    Leach spoke with the newspaper by phone on Aug. 4 to offer the district’s position on the issue.

    The superintendent said that the district had a SEPTA (Special Education Parent-Teacher Association) until recently, when – due to what Leach indicated were some interpersonal difficulties within the group – it was disbanded. “There was some dysfunction” there, Leach said.

    He added that the advisory board that Abramson is interested in starting in the WV district has “a strong overlap” to the recently folded SEPTA.

    “I met with him and the Director of Special Education – he (Abramson) had many good suggestions, for example a consortium of different districts, bringing in speakers for support groups.”

    Leach hastened to add that “many students with intellectual disabilities are being educated in Sanfordville Elementary.”

    Also: There are “quite a few children across the spectrum that we’re educating at Sanfordville,” as well as at the middle school.

    Further, Leach continued, there are kids “with significant intellectual handicaps that stay with us (in the WV district) throughout” their schooling.

    On the other hand, “Some kids’ needs cannot be met” with the existing resources, and some of them end up at BOCES, among other places.

    “The CSE (Committee on Special Education) determines what’s best for each child,” so – depending on the nature of a given child’s disability – they are either educated at Sanfordville, at BOCES, or may be placed out-of-district.

    Whatever form the proposed parental advisory group takes, Leach added, “It would be critical for parents to be involved” for the organization to be successful.

    “I have no resistance to providing parents with a similar platform to SEPTA,” the superintendent said.

    Leach said that, based on his meeting with Abramson on this issue, “It might be better to look at other structures” to see what can work.

    “We have a rich and robust program,” Leach said. “Many parents we work with are well-educated and know their rights.

    “We go beyond the minimum of what’s required,” he said.


    Thursday, Aug. 17: Special meeting to establish the 2023-24 tax rate and sign the 2022 tax warrant, Dorothy C. Wilson Education Center, 7 p.m.