DARIEN, Conn. – Darien’s special education problems may date back to before the 2012-13 school year, according to the final report released by investigating attorney Sue Gamm this week.
Darien’s school board hired Gamm to investigate the allegations brought forward against the town’s special education program in the spring. She presented an executive summary of the report to the Board of Education in November, before the full report was complete. The full report is now available to the public.
Most of the substantive changes to the executive summary released in November came from letters and conversations with Deirdre Osypuk, Darien’s former director of special education.
In her communications with Gamm, Osypuk said that “many of the problems noted (or not noted) in this report began prior to her tenure in Darien, and that she had tried to remedy the areas the district perceived as problematic,” according to Gamm’s executive summary.
The problems noted in Osypuk’s letter included incomplete documentation for financial records, the lack of a standard operating procedure manual, and late or incomplete reporting of information on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for parents. The state Department of Education’s investigation highlighted the changing of IEPs after meetings with parents as one of the town’s main violations.
In her letter to investigators, Osypuk also said that many of the changes to IEPs were technical corrections that did not directly affect student services, and that the state does not have explicit protocol for those changes, according to the report. Still, Gamm called the decision to not report the changes to parents “inexcusable,” even technical ones.
“Technical versus substantial changes are not readily obvious, and there may be reasonable disagreement about the category that applies to a specific example,” Gamm says in the report.
The revised executive summary also includes a new recommendation for the Board of Education. Gamm suggests that the school board offer a public comment session that does not directly relate to an agenda item.
“This process would enable the public to share information with the BOE,” the summary says. “Typically, members of the BOE do not respond to public comment.”
Gamm’s full report is available on the Darien Public Schools website. The Board of Education plans to discuss the full report at meetings in January.
“We are now taking the time to read the 161 page full report to make sure that any additional information provided by Attorney Gamm will be fully considered as the action plan takes shape,” Board of Education Chairman Elizabeth Hagerty-Ross said in an email Wednesday.