Parents of local special needs students are satisfied "overall" with special education programs in the Chilliwack school district, but they are far from unanimous, according to a 36-page report by consultant David Carter.
Carter, who was hired in April to review the district's special education services after vocal complaints from some parents and one staff member at public school board meetings last year, will present his findings to the school board tonight (Tuesday).
Based on 82 20-minute interviews with 116 special-needs parents and a 291-parent survey, Carter's report concludes more parent are satisfied with School District No. 33 special education programs than not.
"Many parents went out of their way to come in to state their satisfaction with services and to single out staff, schools and programs by name," writes Carter. "Some other parents were not at all satisfied and were able to articulate their reasons."
After each interview, Carter asked parents to rate their overall satisfaction with district services on a scale of one to 10-"where one is a 'train wreck' and 10 is 'perfection.'"
More than 45 per cent rated their satisfaction as high, while about 20 per cent rated it as low; about a third were in the middle.
A small group of seven parents, how-ever, expressed dissatisfaction in the "strongest," "pejorative" terms, according to Carter.
Among their shared complaints was the idea that funding earmarked by the ministry for their children was being used elsewhere in the district.
"This notion is incorrect and always has been, but the belief persists in some," Carter states.
Parent input was just one facet of Carter's review, however.
He also reviewed district documents and compared Chilliwack data to data from similarly sized comparator districts.
He also surveyed education assistants, teachers, administrators and district service staff.
Among his 15 recommendations is the reinstatement of a Student Services Advisory Committee, which would include parent representation.
He also calls for a revised model for allocating EA time, increases in speech aides and school psychologist time, a regular parent-satisfaction poll, more care in transferring special education student files from school to school, special education in-services for school staff and the possible creation of a director of special education position.
One lengthy recommendation deals with the district's resource teachers, who often take split assignments.
Last year, former School District No. 33 speech-language pathologist Jaqui Rowe called some of the district's resource teachers "a lawsuit waiting to happen."
Carter addresses some of her concerns in his report, calling on the district to offer more in-service and autism-specialist support to resource teachers and to "critically consider the potentially negative impact" of split assignments, especially where school principals double as resource teachers.
To read Carter's full report, visit www. sd33.bc.ca and look for the Feb. 26 agenda under the Meetings & Agendas tab under the Board of Education heading.
? Tonight's (Tuesday's) meeting of the Chilliwack Board of Education starts at 7 p.m. at the district office (8430 Cessna Dr.).