The TAC Report Lists Findings From the School’s Attorney
June 16, 2008
This document is a summary of a Memorandum distributed to the Board Members of the Tulsa Public Schools on June 2, 2008. The June 2 Memorandum involves Attorney-Client Privilege, Attorney Work Product and confidential information relating to an internal personnel investigation which may lead to the demotion, discipline or requested resignation of District personnel. Under Oklahoma’s Open Records Act, and with respect to the privacy of, and allegations about individuals identified in that report, the June 2 Memorandum cannot be released publicly.
On June 14, the Board approved preparation and release of a “summary” version of the Memorandum. The resolution approving release contained the following language:
The summary version of the Report shall be issued by the Board President on June 16, 2008. The summary shall (a) not directly or indirectly identify any current or former employee in connection with that employee’s job performance, (b) not constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy of any current or former employee and (c) not impair the protection of the District’s attorney/client privilege as to the ongoing and pending investigation of TAC if the disclosure of the attorney’s communications will impair the District’s ability to continue to conduct the investigation.
Accordingly, the following Summary Memorandum has been prepared consistent with the Board’s resolution.
On April 11, 2008, an ad hoc Board committee consisting of Board President Gary Percefull, Board Vice President Ruth Ann Fate, and Board Member Matt Livingood asked Doug Mann, of Rosenstein, Fist & Ringold, counsel to the District, to conduct an inquiry/ investigation of the Tulsa Academic Center (“TAC”). This investigation came about due to various concerns regarding the operations of TAC. Mr. Mann was specifically directed to conduct employee interviews to determine what problems had occurred at TAC this school year, how they occurred and why they occurred. That investigation was to be limited to employee conduct in connection with the planning and operation of TAC. Mr. Mann was not directed to evaluate TAC from an educational standpoint. A request for proposal seeking a contract with an evaluator to evaluate all of the District’s alternative programs, including TAC, has been issued and it is the Board’s intent that an educational evaluator of all alternative school programs will be chosen at some point.
In conducting the investigation, he and his colleagues, Andrea Kunkel and Eric Wade, interviewed 33 witnesses. One key individual did not respond to a request to be interviewed.
This report and this summary are divided into the following areas of interest:
The planning of TAC
The operations of TAC
Leadership and staff issues at TAC
Special Education issues at TAC
Summary / Conclusions
I. The Planning of TAC
Dr. Michael Zolkoski began his employment as Superintendent of schools with the Tulsa School District in July, 2006. In August, 2006, the Superintendent began discussing at public coffees and similar meetings changes in the District’s alternative schools. He indicated at these presentations that he felt that the District’s alternative schools were not working well and that the District was suspending too many students out of school.
The Superintendent had been involved in what he called “Academic Center” programs at four prior school districts. He believed that the Academic Center programs at the Brownsville School District and the Lafayette School District, which are school districts at which he was the superintendent, had the best Academic Center programs.
The Superintendent explained to the public that an Academic Center program would have two major components. The first component would be the Term Academic Program (“TAP”).
The second component would be the Performance Training Program (“PTP”). Both programs were designed as an alternative to out-of- school suspensions. The entire facility housing both the TAP and PTP components would be called the “Tulsa Academic Center” or “TAC.”
The TAP program was to be a 30 school day program where students would be assigned who had committed school offenses for which a suspension was appropriate but which were not of the most serious nature, such as drugs or violence. Once a student completed the 30- day TAP program, he was released to his home school. TAP, as it was ultimately designed, had a student cap of 166 students. Each of the 14 middle schools had eight TAP slots for a total of 112 students. Each of the nine high schools had six slots for a total of 54 students. Accordingly, the maximum student enrollment at TAP at any one time was to be 166 students.
The PTP program, which was initially called a “boot camp” program, was for more serious school offenses, such as drugs, weapons and violence. Students in the PTP program had to earn their way back to their home school by compiling a minimum of 9,000 points over a minimum of 45 school days. As designed and implemented, there was no cap on the number of students that could be sent to PTP. However, based on the staffing of PTP and the size of the building, it was anticipated that PTP’s enrollment would not exceed 135 students at any one time.
Based on his experience at Brownsville and Lafayette, the Superintendent believed that most students would be assigned to the TAP side of TAC rather than the PTP side. That is why he imposed the cap on TAP.
In the fall of 2006, general planning for TAC began. This planning included visits by District personnel to observe the Brownsville Academic Program (“BAC”), the Lafayette Academic Center (“LAC”), and the Thunderbird Academy in Pryor, Oklahoma.
The Brownsville program had a total of 180 students with 90 on the TAP side and 90 on the PTP side. Staffing consisted of teachers, counselors and drill instructors called “leadership instructors.” Of particular note is the fact that at BAC (and as will be discussed below, LAC), students had the option of going to BAC or LAC or being suspended out of school.
That is, students at BAC and LAC were told that they could choose to be suspended out-of-school or enroll in the relevant Academic Center program. This is a significant difference between the Brownsville and Lafayette Academic Centers and the Tulsa Academic Center that was ultimately put in place. Under the Tulsa School District’s TAC program, students had no choice of going to either TAP or PTP. If a principal determined to not suspend the student, the student was automatically assigned to TAP or PTP, depending upon the offense committed.
The Thunderbird Academy is voluntary and, like the Brownsville and Lafayette programs, had a maximum enrollment cap. The Thunderbird Program is a residential boot camp that lasts for only one semester.
The TAC concept was not reviewed to determine whether the TAC concept was an appropriate model or “fit” for Tulsa Public Schools.
In parallel to the planning for implementation of the TAC, the District’s Code of Student Conduct was examined and revised.
In the Spring of 2007, the Board approved establishment of the TAC program. A principal was selected for TAC in May, 2007, and detailed planning began.
In the late spring and summer of 2007, staff was assembled for TAC.
In early August, 2007, as a part of the preparation for opening TAC, all of the TAC staff attended the Boys and Girls Town training program which dealt with the social skills that were to be taught on both the PTP and TAP sides of TAC. In substance, this training was to teach the TAC personnel how TAC was to operate from an educational standpoint.
No high school or middle school principal, assistant principal, disciplinary dean, special education area coordinator or area superintendent (with one exception) attended this training. As a result, these persons were generally unaware of the methods and process of instruction that would occur at TAC and had very little information as to whether students from a middle school or a high school could educationally benefit from the TAC program as an alternative to an out-of-school suspension.
On the first day of school in August, 2007, there was an “open house” at TAC. This open house was for any persons in the public who were interested in learning about TAC.
However, the TAC model described for the public did not track either the Brownsville or Lafayette models. Steps were taken to implement and track the Brownsville and Lafayette models at TAC.
On the first day of school for the 2007-08 school year, TAC was not ready to begin receiving students on either the TAP or PTP side, despite assurances to the contrary. No formal handbooks or written procedures or other operational documents existed as of the first day of school. Key support personnel were not properly trained by the District to carry out their responsibilities as of the first day of school.
II. The Operations of TAC
TAC opened on the same day that all other Tulsa schools opened for the 2007-2008 school year. There were no students on the PTP side of TAC on the first day because PTP was limited to placement of students for misconduct committed during the 2007-2008 school year.
On the TAP side, however, students were present on the first day of school. During the first week of school, there were 35-40 students at TAC. Students who were placed at the TAP side on the first day of school were students who had been suspended out of school long term during the 2006-2007 school year and whose suspension would go beyond the first 15 school days of the 2007- 2008 school year. Those students whose “carry over” suspension from the previous school year was 15 days or less were granted “amnesty” and placed at their home school. Those students whose previous year’s suspension was greater than 15 days went to TAC for the remaining time of their suspension, not to exceed 30 days.
Approximately two weeks after the 2007-08 school year began, principals began calling the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Department to learn why PTP was not accepting students.
Various principals reported learning that PTP was not open because it was not ready to take students. Sometime during the first week of September, PTP began to accept students.
For the balance of the month of August, 2007, and most of September, TAC appears to have operated fairly normally. By the end of September, things began to go awry. The reason given for the commencement of problems is that a large influx of students began on the PTP side of TAC. Because of a cap on the number of students who could be placed on the TAP side, overall serious student increases did not occur. However, certain schools were exceeding their limited number of TAP slots. There was created a special District intranet website by which high school and middle school principals could access the number of slots available to their site, although each school’s registrar had that information.
By late October, 2007, and into early November, the number of students at PTP became excessive. Some teachers report that after October, 2007, they had over 60 students per class period assigned to their class, although only 40 students, on average, would attend any given class period.
With this large influx of students, on the PTP side there were insufficient textbooks, supplies and materials and that teachers were not able to teach students effectively. Creating schedules for students at PTP became extremely problematic due to the influx. Students newly assigned to TAC would often sit in the gymnasium doing nothing for several days while a student’s schedule was being created.
Because of the huge increase in students at PTP, middle school and high school students ultimately were assigned to the same classrooms.
Because of the severe overcrowding near the end of 2007, a pre- fab building with classrooms was to be placed at TAC so that more teachers could be assigned at PTP. However, the pre-fab was not delivered until the end of January, 2008, and it did not become operational until March, 2008. The pre-fab was never used as a classroom and is currently being used for alcohol/drug group counseling sessions.
Emotionally disturbed (ED) and intellectually disabled (ID) (formerly referred to as mentally retarded) special education students were being sent to PTP. Under the law and board policy, ED and ID students should not automatically be excluded from placement at PTP simply because of their disability, especially when the most likely alternative was an out-of-school suspension with homebound services only. However, steps were not taken to ensure that IEP teams at the home schools actually considered whether the unique needs of ED and ID students could be met at PTP.
In late September or early October, 2007, students at TAC were being suspended, but were not being dropped from TAC rolls. Further, during this same time period, TAC was using handwritten student schedules which were unorganized and incomprehensible. TAC staff had no idea which students were at TAC and what these students should be taught.
In the October/November, 2007 time period, as the influx of students continued to mount, area superintendents were directed to become “gatekeepers” as to students being assigned to PTP. In this regard, area superintendents were to review all assignments by any middle school or high school principal to PTP to see if it was appropriate for the student to go to PTP. Area superintendents were not provided any standards to be used in making their determinations.
Most area superintendents indicated that if the offense in question allowed for assignment to PTP, then the area superintendent approved the PTP assignment. There was almost no “second guessing” on principal assignments to PTP, and very few students were sent back to the home school or prevented from going to PTP by any area superintendent. Area superintendents did not believe that they had much discretion to prevent a student from going to PTP “if the paperwork was in order and if the code allowed it.”
Even after the area superintendents were assigned as “gatekeepers,” the huge influx of students to PTP did not slow.
Once students were suspended from TAC for actions at TAC, area superintendents and home school principals did not receive any data from TAC satff as to which students had been suspended from TAC.
During the October/November 2007 time period, middle school and high school principals were asked to send textbooks to PTP. The theory was that if the students were no longer at the middle school or high school, then those textbooks would no longer be needed at the middle school or high school site. Some textbooks apparently were sent, but not enough. In addition, at this same time, space for students became so critical that there was an insufficient number of desks on the PTP side for students. Some students were required to sit on countertops in the classroom. Teachers report that they were never provided any reading curriculum or material, which one teacher described as “ironic because part of the TAC program was specifically devoted to improving reading skills.” This same teacher indicated that to deal with reading, he usually read to the students or took them to the library. Several teachers report that at any one time they would have grade levels 6 through 12 in the same class, which would require as many as four to six subjects to be taught in that class. Teachers report that this made teaching literally impossible on a subject-by-subject basis.
It also became apparent in the October/November time period that students being sent to PTP were simply not showing up. The records at PTP as to enrollment and attendance were in a horrible state of affairs. It became impossible to determine from the TAC records which students were enrolled in PTP and which students were actually in attendance at PTP. Further, when the excessive influx of students began to occur in the October/ November time period, it became evident that there was no plan in place as to what would occur when students simply failed to show up.
At various times throughout the Fall of 2007, it became apparent that neither the Brownsville model nor the Lafayette model was being followed. Further, every student who attended TAC was to go through an orientation session, but often did not. Teachers report that students would show up in class without ever having gone through orientation regarding PTP and knew absolutely nothing about the program or the point system.
In the late October/early November time period, PTP became a “dumping ground” for high school and middle schools to “get rid” of problem students. One area superintendent indicated that this “dumping” could easily occur because there was no appeal hearing nor meaningful review of a site principal’s decision to place a student at PTP. Further, PTP “became the be-all and end-all discipline” and that out-of-school suspension “was no longer on the table because the superintendent’s stated intent was to reduce the total number of suspensions.”
In October, 2007, more staff was needed, more books were needed, classes were overcrowded, the dress code was not being enforced and the PTP model was not being followed.
There was no process in place for communications from TAC to the home school and vice versa as to who was enrolled and who was attending TAC.
In October, 2007, TAC staff complained that too many students were being sent to PTP and that there was a lack of security. At this time, no cap was placed on the number of students at PTP. TAC staff members’ morale plummeted when they all assumed that “no one cares about us.” Teachers were overwhelmed by the number of students at PTP.
Once the overcrowding occurred on the PTP side, some students were moved from the PTP side to the TAP side. In other words, students assigned to PTP were moved to the TAP side and earned their points on the TAP side.
In late October, 2007, many TAC students were suspended with no due process and contrary to board policy. Several report that on occasion, students were told to leave and “not come back,” and never went through a formal suspension process.
The overcrowding became so extensive towards the end of the calendar year 2007 that staff began calling the PTP side “the Jerry Springer show.” This had reference to frequent fights between students. The issues of security became paramount. There was only one security guard for the TAP side and one security guard for the PTP side. The security guard on the PTP side left one hour before the students did.
In the November/December time frame, administrators became aware that membership records and attendance records at TAC made little sense. Help was dispatched but the records, especially first semester grades, were a mess. Membership/attendance records at TAC were so poor that it was impossible to determine which students were truant. While many students were truant, especially during the second and third quarters, because the records were so poor, there was no evidence to present to the court for truancy charges.
Suspensions from TAC for 2007-08 were not recorded on the mainframe until April, 2008. Some original suspension documents indicate that parents received no suspension notifications. Further, some students are shown as committing multiple offenses during a period of time that they were also shown as being out of school due to a long-term suspension. One student was suspended for the balance of the school year from TAC, but then was allowed to enroll at Hale.
It is believed that 1,025 students were placed at TAC (acknowledging that relying on the accuracy of such records is problematic), but it is impossible to determine how many of those students in fact showed up at TAC. One statistic that is clear is that the suspension rate from TAC is far in excess of 33%. [Note: 1,025 students were placed at TAC. There were 346 suspensions from TAC. This would be a suspension rate of 33.7%. However, far fewer than 1,025 students ever actually attended TAC. This means that the suspension rate is in excess of 33%, but it is impossible to know how much greater than 33% it may be.]
In January, 2008, concerns regarding the need for better supervision and security at TAC were discussed. The dress code was to be enforced, gang colors prohibited, that discipline, order and respect were to be considered fundamental at TAC, students were to receive extensive orientation at TAC and supervision and security were to be improved.
In February, 2008, eighth grade students were to receive state testing. TAC staff did not know how many eighth grade students were enrolled and how many of those students were special education students.
In summary, the operations of TAC, especially on the PTP side, were unacceptable.
There was almost no accountability whether at TAC, at the ESC or at the sending schools. It is worth noting that several TAC staff members, as well as senior ESC administrators indicated that the PTP program would have worked if it had been staffed, operated and monitored like the Lafayette and Brownsville programs. Specifically, these individuals indicate that if there had been caps on the number of students in the PTP program with an administration and staff in the building that supported the program and implemented the strict discipline methodology, then PTP could have been a success.
III. Leadership and Staff Issues at TAC
There was a failure of several District leaders at various levels involving the planning, deployment and implementation of TAC. Certain TAC staff members should not have been placed in the positions they were.
IV. Special Education Issues at TAC
1. ESC administration did not include Special Services personnel in designing TAC. The interviews demonstrate that personnel with expertise in the area of special education were not included in planning the TAP and PTP programs.
Input from personnel with special education expertise would have been helpful in many ways, including establishing an initial TAP and PTP program design that would meet the needs of the District’s special education populations, in determining the number of special education teachers needed at the site, in designing the service delivery system, in determining the role of special education paraprofessionals at the site, and in determining the types of materials and equipment that would be needed.
The special education department’s involvement prior to the opening of TAC involved preparing procedures and materials that would govern the process of assigning students with disabilities to TAC and returning them to their home schools. These materials were developed and District staff was trained to follow the established procedures and use the materials.
However, this effort was intended to establish the process by which students with disabilities could be assigned to the TAC program and not to design the TAC program.
2. Too few special education teachers were assigned to TAC. TAC referrals for all students increased dramatically beginning in October, 2007. During the first two weeks of October, a third special education teacher allocation was needed at TAC. It took approximately seven weeks until December 4, 2007 – to allocate and place a third special education teacher at TAC. During this time period, the two special education teachers began spending virtually all of their time trying to keep up with special education paperwork for the newly arriving students.
When the third special education teacher arrived in December, she was assigned to teach regular education classes that both disabled and nondisabled students attended. Although the assignment of this third teacher was apparently intended to address teacher caseload issues and provide special education services to at least a few students with disabilities, it appears to have been of real benefit only on paper to address caseload issues.
3. ESC personnel provided insufficient oversight. TAC is located in District Area 5. Due to personnel reassignments, between December, 2007 and February, 2008, there was no Area 5 special education coordinator.
It is difficult to believe that District administrators could reasonably conclude that the mere addition of a third special education teacher would resolve all of these issues, particularly when students with disabilities continued to be assigned to TAC in large numbers. District personnel did not adequately monitor the special education situation at TAC from at least mid- December, 2007 until at least February, 2008.
4. Changes were proposed, but not implemented, to address serious special education issues at TAC. Several District Administrators made suggestions in an effort to address special education concerns. These suggestions included imposing a cap on the placement of additional students with disabilities at TAC, ensuring that a special education area coordinator was able to attend every IEP meeting at which the team was conducting a manifestation determination for a child with an emotional disturbance, and giving the special education area coordinators more authority to deal with home schools that failed to follow the District’s established procedures for assigning a student with a disability to TAC. These recommendations were apparently neither approved nor implemented.
5. Home school staff members didn’t follow the District’s established procedures. As stated above, written procedures and materials were established and training provided to explain the process by which students with disabilities could be assigned to TAC in compliance with the law. With some specific school exceptions, home schools initially did an adequate job of providing appropriate, complete special education paperwork to TAC no later than the student’s arrival there. Initially, home schools were required to take back students for whom the home school had failed to follow the District’s established procedures. In October, 2007, it was determined that students would no longer be returned to their home schools to correct these deficiencies. TAC personnel were required to collaborate with home school personnel and hold IEP team meetings at TAC to correct errors. Few, if any, such IEP team meetings were held at TAC and that some home schools began to make more errors and take longer to send the paperwork to TAC than before. TAC began to enroll all arriving students with disabilities without regard to whether paperwork complete and appropriate or not accompanied the student to TAC. This particular change in the District’s established procedures removed a safeguard that was intended to place paperwork responsibilities upon the home schools.
Frequently, IEP teams at the students’ home schools used a “sample” IEP Review form provided to the secondary special education department chairs during initial TAC training to explain the students’ assignment to TAC and the special education services they would be receiving there. IEP teams simply copied the IEP Review sample and used its wording in almost every IEP Review found in the folders reviewed.
The District’s established procedures for TAC provided that each IEP team was to consider whether a student’s unique educational needs could be appropriately addressed at TAC, even if the student’s misconduct was not a manifestation of the student’s disability. The purpose of this requirement was to ensure that students whose needs could not be met at TAC were not sent there. This part of the procedure was established primarily to address students who had an emotional disturbance or an intellectual disability.
Too often, home school IEP teams did not exercise their discretion appropriately for such students.
Important safeguards built into the District’s established procedures were either unilaterally modified or ignored. Senior District administrators did not hold home schools accountable for their failures.
6. TAC personnel suspended students with disabilities from TAC without required procedural safeguards. A review of student education records demonstrates that most students with disabilities who were suspended from TAC were not provided the procedural safeguards required by federal and state law as well as TPS policy and procedures.
On occasion, TAC personnel did provide these procedural safeguards for some students with disabilities who were suspended from TAC during the 2007-08 school year. In these instances, it was usually decided that the students would receive homebound instruction during the suspension term. However, on a number of occasions, the homebound services were not provided. Therefore, even these properly suspended students usually went without educational services during the term of their suspensions.
In summary, the delivery of special education services at TAC was not in accordance with board policy. Failures at all levels of the District contributed to this breakdown.
March 26, 2007 : Tulsa school board receives Superintendent Michael Zolkoski’s recommendation to close Pershing and Phoenix alternative schools and establish a new alternative school, the Tulsa Academic Center, or TAC.
April 9, 2007: School board votes unanimously without comment or public opposition to establish TAC at 2740 E. 41st St. North.
April 24, 2007: Zolkoski outlines his plans for TAC’s Term Academic Program and Performance Training Program.
June 5, 2007: Raushan Ashanti-Alexander, who had been principal at Pershing, is named principal at TAC.
Aug. 20, 2007: TAC opens for the 2007-08 academic year.
Nov. 2007: Teachers and their union representatives reportedly tell Zolkoski and other administrators at a faculty meeting that TAC is dangerous and classes are becoming too large.
Feb. 28, 2008: Zolkoski touts TAC as a success at a parent and community reception, claiming that none of the 76 PTP students who had earned their way out of the program had returned.
March 17: School board agrees to settle a lawsuit filed by TAC Principal Ashanti-Alexander. Alexander resigns.
March 18: The Tulsa World begins a series of stories detailing student, parent and employee accounts of overcrowding, frequent violence, a shortage of textbooks and other classroom materials and a lack of Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs, for special education students.
April 5: Zolkoski recommends that the school board hire an independent evaluator to study the troubled TAC.
April 21: Board President Gary Percefull announces that the school board attorney will investigate “apparent failings” at TAC.
May 5: A school board committee says it cannot recommend the hiring of an independent evaluator because the district received only one response to a request for proposals and says a second request will need to be issued.
June 2: School board receives investigative report from attorney Doug Mann, along with an admonition by Percefull to keep the information confidential.
June 14: School board discusses investigative report in a four- hour executive session, which is closed to the public.
June 16: School board releases a summary of the investigative report, which found “a completely inadequate response” to serious and repeated problems at TAC. Board also votes to hire the firm Management of America to evaluate all of the district’s alternative education programs, including TAC. The evaluator’s report is due by Sept. 12.
School board members respond on TAC future:
Do you think the district’s administration can successfully implement the Tulsa Academic Center program in 2008-09, and if so, what changes will be necessarry to ensure its sucess? Brian Hunt, District 5 board member
“When I receive a copy of the TAC plan of action from the administration for 2008-09, I will review it in detail. If TAC is to continue, the plan needs to address student assessment and tracking, staffing, adequate resources and community collaboration.”
Matt Livingood, District 7 board member
“While there remains much work to be done, I am encouraged by new safeguards and processes that are being developed to prevent recurrence of problems . . . These include, among others, a cap enforced by a clearinghouse team whose responsibilities will include monitoring students’ status and progress; separation of middle and high school students; improved counseling services; and parental involvement in the decision to attend TAC.”
Summary/conclusions of all TAC issues
Based on the report submitted to the Board, we make the following observations and conclusions;
– Several persons assigned to the TAC program were poorly selected.
– Some staff members at TAC did not have the background or training for the jobs they were assigned.
– Persons who should have been involved with the planning for TAC were not.
– Area superintendents and high school and middle school principals received no training or information as to how TAC was to operate. As a result, persons responsible for making decisions to transfer students to TAC had no information as to whether TAC would benefit a particular student or not.
– PTP became a “default placement” for students whose conduct justified placement at PTP regardless of whether those students could benefit from PTP and regardless of how disruptive the student might be to the TAC program.
– Far too many students were allowed to be placed at PTP. In that regard, a cap should have been placed on the number of students being sent to PTP in an amount that was commensurate with the staHng on the PTP side of TAC and steps taken to monitor and ensure it was not exceeded.
– The Brownsville and Lafayette Academic Center models were not followed.
– The area superintendents, principals, assistant principals, discipline deans and home site special education coordinators should have been trained in the Boys and Girls Town program.
– The home schools that sent students to TAC repeatedly failed to send paperwork with students and failed in communications with staff at TAC.
– The home schools that sent special education students to TAC repeatedly failed to comply with requirements regarding the change of placement of special education students.
– Staffing at PTP was far too low. There were not enough teachers, counselors, leadership instructors or paraprofessionals to deal with the number of students placed at PTP.
– As serious and repeated problems arose at PTP, with some exceptions, there was a completely inadequate response from responsible personnel throughout the District to resolve the issues.
– Middle school and high school students were placed in the same classroom due to overcrowding.
– Recommendations as to steps that should be taken to resolve PTP problems were frequently ignored or not implemented.
– Special Education Area Coordinators were not assigned to attend manifestation determination meetings for special education students referred to TAC.
– Staff at TAC repeatedly failed to implement Individualized Education Programs for students with disabilities.
– Appropriate IEPs for TAC students with disabilities were, for the most part, nonexistent.
– Students at TAC were frequently suspended from TAC without due process.
– Student class schedules were done by hand, resulting in delays for several days during which students simply sat at TAC receiving little or no education.
– There was no open line of communication from home schools to TAC and vice versa in order to track particular students.
– The PTP program was not optional for students who wished to avoid a long-term out-of-school suspension, but rather was mandated. This resulted in a large number of students at PTP who had no intention of succeeding.
– Although determining staHng levels at an alternative school is diHcult at the beginning of the school year because of the inability to know how many students will be assigned to the alternative school, there was no true monitoring process by which to determine if staHng needed to be altered. Further, once staHng changes were determined to be necessary, it took an inordinate amount of time to allocate and fill the position.
Notwithstanding the widespread and deep problems which existed at TAC, especially in the PTP program, there is some good news. There were 216 students who successfully completed the PTP program (that is, received 9,000 points and successfully transitioned back to their home school). Of that number, only five returned to PTP during the school year. That is a recidivism rate of 2.31%. This success bears out what many, including senior ESC administrators, have stated: If PTP is properly staffed, operated in accordance with the model, monitored, with serious problems promptly remediated and a cap placed on the number of students at PTP, PTP can be a success and make a positive di=erence in the lives of students.
Originally published by Staff Reports.
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