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Vital Community Special Education Center in Peril
February 25, 2009 at 7:31 PM

My name is Melissa, and I live in Encino, California.
Thirteen years ago I was blessed with my second son Cooper Daniel,
who at age 18 months was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Delay.
That diagnosis was eventually modified by the Los Angeles Unified School District as MR:Mental Retardation,
and even later by the Westside Regional Center as Autsim.

Coop is amazing and loved by all, and that is because of the love, effort, and dedication given him by his educators, behaviorists,
therapists, doctors and caregivers along the way.

Many of the individuals of whom I speak come from a GreatSchools listing;   West Valley Special Education Center, in good old Van Nuys, California.

After forty years of educational excellence, this thriving and desperately needed mainstay of the San Fernando Valley community is in the bull's eye of extinction--although it is being politely referred to as "consolidation", by the State Board of Education.  In order to cut costs, acting Superintendent Ramon Cortines is looking at some 20 campuses which seem almost totally comprised of specialized schools.
He will make his recommendation to the Board, (although no representatives from L.A.U.S.D., the SBE, or the Superintendent himself will say when) and then presumably they will follow that advice.... This is a terrifying prospect to thousands of people in our community-

If anyone is in the process of looking for a Special Ed school, I recommend contacting West Valley S.E. Center and requesting a tour. If you feel it would be appropriate for your child, contact your local Program Specialist within the district and let them know that you would like to enroll your child. There has allegedly been a systematic turning away of students to the campus in order to reduce enrollment, thereby making the argument that the campus is no longer viable. How can this be in a time when the numbers of children with neurological impairment is going UP, not down...?

Below is a letter I drafted for our elected officials:

Dear (fill in your state and local representatives),

As a legislative representative do you have any jurisdiction over the potential "consolidation" efforts by the Board of Education to close the award winning West Valley Special Education Center?

Monday night, February 23,  acting Superintendent Cortines came to the community meeting held in the gym at W.V. Center to hear the concerns of all involved, and to explain that although no decision has been made, he is looking seriously at West Valley as one of the potential sites to close.   WHY?    Do we cost too much?  Each child has an IEP that will follow them and the costs on that IEP will not disappear. Is it to save on a principle's salary?   Will they sell the land for profit?  The local non-public school that services the overflow of these children and provides excellent specialized instruction would be hard-pressed to handle the volume of the displaced children that are not able to find a free and appropriate educational setting at the local public school; not to mention the astronomical cost that would be passed on to the already underfunded school district when they will be required to pay for non-public instruction as required by the IDEA.

I was a long time parent at the school throughout the 90's. The compassion and professional excellence that exists there should be rewarded, not penalized.

HOW CAN WE SACRIFICE a well oiled and time tested model of excellence just to re-arrange some numbers on a spread sheet???

Please alert anyone who you think might be in a position to explain to the community how an elected board of officials can close a beloved and successful education center without any transparency of financial justification. 

What alternatives exist?

Would it help if the school became a charter school and rented back the property?

thank you sincerely,
(your name and contact info)

also sent to:

Senator  Fran Pavley
Senator Carol Liu
Assembly Member Julia Brownley
Assembly Member Bob Blumenfield

State Board Of Education:
Theodore R. Mitchell, President |  Ruth Bloom, Vice President
Kenneth Noonan | Alan Bersin | Yvonne Chan | Donald G. Fisher | Gregory W. Jones
Johnathan Williams | David Lopez | James D. Aschwanden

California State Board of Education (SBE) Staff:

  * Debora Merle, Executive Director
  * Debbie Rury, Deputy Executive Director
  * Donna Neville, Chief Counsel
  * Jennifer Johnson, Education Policy Consultant
  * Mary C. Rice, Education Programs Consultant
  * Regina Wilson, Associate Communications and Program Analyst
  * Kathy Dobson, Executive Assistant
  * Vacant, Legal Assistant
  * Kathy Sumida, Office Technician
  * Bob LaLiberte, Retired Annuitant
  * Aurora Carlson, Student Assistant

SBE FAX: 916-319-0175

Thank you for taking the time to read this,

Is this subject matter of interest to you or a loved one?
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  • Junebug926
    February 25, 2009 at 7:57 PM

    I HATE to hear of something like this happening! It would be a total disgrace to close such a place.

  • bluestem
    February 26, 2009 at 10:07 PM

    thank you junebug for your thoughts-

    spent the whole day writing letters to our representatives in local, state, and federal government...

    i'm bushed-

    hope you had a good day-


  • Junebug926
    February 27, 2009 at 9:18 AM

    No problem. I totally feel for you in your situation. It really angers me how it seems those in the special education community often are pushed aside/over looked. If these people don't have a place like this to go where will they go?! We spend tons of money giving prisoners free education and television yet we can't seem to find the money to help places like this?! It's disgusting!

    Quoting bluestem:

    thank you junebug for your thoughts-

    spent the whole day writing letters to our representatives in local, state, and federal government...

    i'm bushed-

    hope you had a good day-


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