Union’s No Confidence Votes In Special Ed Premature, Says Supt.

Teachers union President Dubois says issues have been wide-ranging and members wanted the public to be aware.

Credit: NK Patch
Credit: NK Patch

The teachers union’s votes of no confidence in both the director of pupil personnel services and her assistant last week was portrayed by Supt. Phil Auger as an overreaction to special education issues that are now under control. For union President Kevin Dubois, alternatively, not enough action had been taken and the public needed to know the program had problems.

Dubois issued this statement on behalf of the union executive committee Jan. 20:

Over the last three months, there have been ongoing unresolved issues about the Special Education Programs in the North Kingstown School Department and the implementation of student’s Individual Education Plans. Due to these issues, three different schools, North Kingstown High School, Hamilton Elementary School and Stony Lane Elementary School, have voted no confidence in Patricia Pezzullo, Director of Pupil Personnel Services and Kathy Perry, Assistant Director of Pupil Personnel Services.  There has been an attempt to resolve these issues internally to this date, but with recent school committee actions approving administrator contract extensions with raises, this issue needs to be shared with the public.

“I feel it's unfair to Dr. Pezzullo and Mrs. Perry,” Auger said in an interview Friday. “I just think they went from A to Z in a hurry,” he said, referring to the union.

Changes in special education in the district were prompted by the state Dept. of Education during a visit last year as well as changes in the program for students with behavior issues.

According to Auger, RIDE told the school department that middle and high school special ed students needed to be taught by teachers qualified in the different subject areas, such as math or science, rather than by a special education teacher. That meant integrating special ed students into the regular ed classes while providing supports, prompting a lot of schedule changes that were enacted last September.

“The complaint from some of the teachers at the high school was that these changes have happened too quickly and parent notification should have been made,” Auger said. “Maybe communication wasn't always perfect between schools and Dr. Pezzullo,” he acknowledged. “I take full responsibility for this myself, better communication with the staff at the high school would have helped – what needed to happen and why.”

Still, he said, communication with the high school has improved.

Dubois agreed, to a point. But said he wasn’t sure the superintendent would have taken action if a vote of no-confidence hadn’t been taken by high school teachers in September.

“All of the issues with special ed in North Kingstown go all the way back to last spring. Ever since last spring, when these issues came up, we’ve tried to solve it internally with the director, with the superintendent. That’s always has it was done,” Dubois said.

“We’d tried in the summer to resolve issues and were put off again and again,” he said. “The implementation of it was a total nightmare. It was a large-scale issue…. To write one or two grievances didn’t handle the length and breath of all the issues.”

At Stony Lane, the issue involved a request for additional staffing after the late August registration of two special education students.

“It’s hard to make staffing changes at that point,” said Auger. “Through the fall, it was becoming clear, they were having problems and needed extra staff to help out.”

Still, he said, requests for extra staffing aren’t uncommon. “I have a responsibility to take care of those issues, but I need to look at them,” Auger said. “While that was going on, people were getting impatient with me and Dr. Pezzullo.”

He said the first complaints were made in September and early October. Extra staff was added in January.

“In all of those situations, I do have responsibility to communicate with people better and the same is true for Dr. Pezzullo,” he said. “But I also think the same is true for the teachers and Mr. Dubois.”

In particular, Auger said he had heard no complaints since September from teachers at Hamilton Elementary and didn’t realize there was a problem there until Dubois’s press release last week.

Dubois disputed that account, saying he had notified Auger and School Committee Chairwoman Kim Page of problems at Hamilton.

He said the executive board decided to go public only after the Jan. 14 meeting where Pezzullo was praised for her job performance when her contract and that of two other administrators were voted upon.

The School Committee approved three-year contract renewals and raises for Pezzullo , Mary King and Michele Humbyrd at that meeting. Pezzullo got a raise of $2,244, to $114,444. King got a raise of $7,800, to $120,000 and Humbyrd got a $5,000 raise, to $125,000.

“She deserves the raise that she got,” Auger said of Pezzullo. “Our administrators get paid year-by-year and a lot of that is based on their performance. She’s done a remarkable job. She’s brought this district into compliance.”

“At different times, we have spoken to teachers about pay based on performance,” he said. “And that's just a place where teachers union doesn't want to go, but that's the world our administrators live in.”

Dubois said the comments made Jan. 14, “ just flew in the face of everything we’ve been saying… I felt at this point that the public needed to know. Handling it internally doesn’t seem to be having much of an effect."

Mark Williams January 27, 2014 at 11:12 AM
Sounds like more problems with the administration of special education at NKSD. I will be running for school committee in hopes of providing better leadership at the top. I would like to use my twenty-plus years of experience as a special educator as service to the town.
Dark star January 27, 2014 at 11:52 AM
Oh boy, just what that school committee needs is another know-it-all.
Mark January 27, 2014 at 04:48 PM
Dark Star...What have you brought to the table, other than a wise guy comment?
Dark star January 27, 2014 at 05:56 PM
Mark Williams is a know-it-all. He thinks because he was a special Ed teacher in NK that makes him qualified to be on the SC. Little does he know, the SC has very little to do with the day-to-day operations of the district and the special Ed department. His "leadership at the top" statement is a typical catch-all phrase that has good optics and sounds nice, but has zero substance. If Mark Williams wanted to make changes, he should have stayed in the NK district. Why did you leave the district mark Williams?
Mark Williams January 27, 2014 at 06:33 PM
Because of the leadership in admin
Dark star January 27, 2014 at 07:05 PM
You really need to be more specific, because it appears you have an axe to grind. What exactly did the "leadership in admin" do?
Mark Williams January 27, 2014 at 07:13 PM
Thanks for helping drawing attention to my campaign for school committee.
Dark star January 27, 2014 at 07:24 PM
It's not the attention you necessarily want, Mark Williams. You should get out in front of the real reason you left, before it gets out on its own.
Dark star January 27, 2014 at 07:41 PM
You really have no specific example of what the "leadership in the admin" did or did not do, do you Mark Williams. The only way for you to affect change would have been to stay in the district. You com e off as just another disgruntled former NK school department employee.
Mark Williams January 27, 2014 at 07:55 PM
I have nothing to hide so don't worry
Dark star January 27, 2014 at 08:02 PM
Oh no? We will see if you feel the same way when the real reason becomes public. Happy Trails.
Support NK January 28, 2014 at 01:21 AM
Well, that accomplished so much. Thanks for that.
Mark January 28, 2014 at 01:12 PM
Dark Star has a familiar 'accent' here on the Patch, not very productive.
Dark star January 28, 2014 at 05:57 PM
"Accent" Mark? Please elucidate. Reviewing your comments doesn't add much to the discussion.
Bowiefan January 29, 2014 at 10:26 AM
Dr. Pezzullo deserves better than the union "party line" being bandied about. I've had many interactions and meetings with her this past 6 months re: the needs of a high school student I'm assisting. She has been more than kind, available, interested, knowledgeable and professional with our situation. I value her input and her concern for the needs of this student. I would note I am a former secondary teacher in a different school system, so i think I recognize administrative and educational excellence when I see it. People may not be aware that RIDE (state) is involved here and forcing changes upon our school system that we are compelled to implement. Also many of the NK teachers voting no confidence, also are the same who resisted the previous policies. This is a bit of a witch hunt.
Trish January 29, 2014 at 11:03 PM
I have a child with a 504 Plan and Dr. Pezzullo has been his advocate. I must say, that somewhere down the line prior to Dr. Pezzullo taking the reigns of Special Needs, some bureaucrat put the kibosh on issuing 504Plans and IEP's. I've attended not only my child's team meetings, but now, two other children's meetings as a friend of the parent. In my opinion, the teachers need to go back and take special needs training again. They just don't "get it" most of the time. It is wholly frustrating as a parent to fight for accommodations only to have the teachers completely ignore them....until you beat them over the head with them.
Dark star January 31, 2014 at 09:38 PM
stay on point faith-79. this is about the fraudulent vote of no confidence for Mrs. Pezullo.
Dark star February 01, 2014 at 08:34 PM
Good idea Faith-79, I probably should since I know quite a bit more about the NK school system then you.
Politics Sheriff of NK February 11, 2014 at 10:41 AM
I've read all these comments and Mark williams SHOULD elaborate rather than toss vague accusations with zero details. We have many great teachers and a fairly newly upgraded admin, way better than it was. Is everyone perfect? That cant happen, but the last thing we need is union teachers on the school committee because, as good as their work is, they TEACH, and dont necessarily know anything about how to MANAGE. And by the way, the SC does NOT MANAGE, they set policy ONLY and hire qualified managers such as the superintendent and the admins. A teacher may not see the big picture. Does that mean teachers should stay out? NO! They need to be in the process and be heard. But not divisively with "no confidence votes" as a first public step, but rather, constructively. Did the teachers go public with a well worded newsletter or other vehicle to inform? Nope. Did they go to the Patch or Independent with a constructive criticism letter asking to be more heard? Nope. It went from "internal" to the most divisive, confidence-breaking mechanism possible far in excess of what their next step should have been. We had plenty of divisiveness under a certain despicable past administration and these folks are far better, more interested in working together and constructively than before. I say go with that. Definitely be heard, "go public" (as we are the ultimate bosses, and customers), but do so with CONSTRUCTIVE criticism first. RIDE has mandated that special-ed kids in jr and sr high get moved and taught by different staff. It's not like there is a choice, so this school environment change needs all hands ON BOARD to get the best outcomes, not a mutiny as a first step.


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