DARIEN, Conn. – Darien’s Board of Education has agreed to hire an ombudsman to make sure its special education department follows federal and state laws.
John Verre, who was most recently the assistant superintendent of special education and student services for Boston Public Schools, was appointed Tuesday morning to start the position immediately. He will report directly to the Board of Education.
“I look forward to working in partnership with the parents of Darien,” Verre said. “Darien schools have a nationwide reputation for excellence, and the goal is to make sure that parents feel their children have had full access to the services they need.”
The newly created position will serve as an expert adviser on Special Education law to the elected school board, paid staff, parents and other community members. He will make recommendations to staff members and the board to keep them in compliance with the law, and will also “maintain a presence” within schools to work with parents.
Verre spent 20 years in similar work as director of COMPASS Consulting, a nonprofit group that advised schools, districts and municipalities on policy analysis, program evaluation and development, strategic planning, and legal issues in education. He holds graduate degrees from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and also served as Co-Director of the Harvard Institute on Critical Issues in Urban Special Education from 1993 to 2009.
“John Verre’s experience makes him uniquely qualified to work with the Darien Schools,” Board Chair Elizabeth Hagerty-Ross said in a press release. “His work as a liaison between families of students with disabilities and their teachers will help us enormously as we work collaboratively to chart a new course for special education in the district.”
Verre’s hiring is part of the district’s ongoing response to a Connecticut Department of Education investigation into Darien Public Schools’ special education programming. The state’s report, released earlier this month, found that the district violated state laws by changing education plans without parental consent, and that the district’s training materials had incorrect information on state laws.
The Board of Education has hired attorney Sue Gamm as an independent investigator into the program. Gamm’s investigation is still ongoing.
“Given these ongoing processes, we have not taken any personnel action to date,” Superintendent Stephen Falcone said last week. “However, when and where we determine that individual district employees have made mistakes or engaged in misconduct, we will take appropriate personnel action.”