Crisfield Responds to Concerns with New Parent Advisory Committee

Superintendent Dr. James Crisfield writes a letter to the editor in response to MSPEC's comments in the most recent board meeting.

After a strong reaction from the Millburn-Short Hills Special Education Committee (M-SPEC), at the Board of Education meeting on Jan. 14, to the formation of a new parent advisory committee for special education, Superintendent Dr. James Crisfield responds in the letter to the editor below:

January 17, 2013

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly clear up some misunderstandings and answer some questions, to the extent I can in public, concerning a recent call for volunteers for the new “Special Education Parent Advisory Group” in the Millburn public schools.

On January 11, 2013, we sent out a call for volunteers for this new group.  The purpose of the group is to “provide input to the district on issues concerning students with disabilities” as required by NJ special education code (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-1.2(h)).  The group will have representation from each school building and from each program (e.g., PreK, ABA, self-contained, etc.) as well.  The selection process will be finalized and published shortly—Livingston has an excellent process in place that we are studying to see if we can adapt for use here.

Prior to this time, the district has been meeting the requirement for parent input through the Millburn-Short Hills Special Education Committee (commonly known as “M-SPEC”).  This organization has been in existence for years and has provided (and continues to provide) many important services to the families of children with special needs.  However, recently, M-SPEC has changed to a fundraising entity, and in addition the balance between “advocating” and “advising” has shifted towards an emphasis on the former.  As a result, the need for a more independent “advisory” group, without any possible conflicts of interest, has arisen.

One very important point is M-SPEC is not being disbanded.  Rather, M-SPEC will continue to exist and provide advocacy and support services to parents and families.  We are simply setting up a parallel, independent group that will focus solely on providing helpful, collaborative and constructive (which can certainly be critical if need be) ideas and observations and concerns to us regarding the district’s special education program.  It is possible for a parent to be a member of this new group and of M-SPEC at the same time, as there is no intent to isolate one or the other group.

Lastly, I have received criticism recently when I decline to provide detailed reasons as to why we are converting our source of advice from M-SPEC to this new, independent group.  I understand the frustration of M-SPEC supporters who disagree with this decision and who don’t understand why I continue to stay silent with many of the details.  However, sometimes the right decision is not the easy or obvious one, and sometimes the reasons for a decision don’t lend themselves to public discourse.  This is one such time on both of those fronts.  It is my responsibility to protect privacy rights, and to protect the interests of the district, broadly defined.  I will continue to do both of those things to the best of my ability, even if it means absorbing public criticism without being able to respond.

James A. Crisfield, Ed.D.


Millburn Township Public Schools


Sophie January 19, 2013 at 10:10 AM
I think Dr. Crisfield is doing a wonderful job in communicating all of his positions to the community through Patch and The Item, but why didn't Dr. Crisfield also tell us about that recently lost special ed case that Mspec wrote about? That's something of importance to the community since we're the ones paying for it.
sms January 19, 2013 at 07:46 PM
I would also like the District to detail the efforts that have been made to rectify the deficiencies that were detailed with specificity in the lawsuit, so that we the community won't be subject to making payments for future misfeasance. I think we have a right to know how much of the special ed budget each year goes to legal fees and settlements. And if that number is significant, then what changes are we making to ensure that the district isn't subject to future lawsuits.
Marty Wilson January 23, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Just got an e-mail re: an Ed Foundation event with Crisfeld and Siegel - it is $100/person for a good topic - stress in school transitions (open to parents of kids in 5/8/12). why isn't this open to the public? why is it a ridiculous $100 (hoity toity food selection they say). do the people who go get special access to crisfeld and siegel once go to this event the same way special interest groups get special access to politicians? why can't m-spec run an event like this - or did they do something to 'upset' dr. c? maybe theirs can be $200. does anybody else see this as a slippery slope towards bribing, I mean contributing to our educators for access?
Marty Wilson January 23, 2013 at 03:43 PM
and what's with the one-day notice? did the event invite go out to vip's earlier and then to the rest of us with 24 hour notice? what gives?
Volunteer January 23, 2013 at 04:09 PM
They sent out a district wide invite a few weeks ago. Just trying to help our schools. Thanks for the support.


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