SMMUSD HDQTRS — Superintendent Tim Cuneo publicly apologized at the Board of Education meeting Thursday for a confidential memo leaked last week that labeled three people associated with special education as potential saboteurs.

In his statement, Cuneo stated that he had never meant to offend or demean the three people — Tricia Crane, Lee Jones and Claudia Landis — and continued to acknowledge the contributions that they had made to the special education program.

“I am sorry and hope that this error on my part will not hinder us in working together for all students in the district,” Cuneo said.

The memo went out to members of the school board nearly a month ago, but was leaked to the media in late February.

In it, Cuneo informed the board that Crane, Jones and Landis had all resigned from the Special Education Taskforce, a group formed to create a strategy to implement the changes to the special education program suggested in a report issued in 2008 by an independent analyst, Lou Barber & Associates.

The Lou Barber report identified 27 ways in which the district could improve its special education program, which had come under fire for being secretive and hostile to parents, forcing some to sign confidentiality agreements preventing them from talking about services provided to their child.

All three stated in their letters of resignation that they felt that the work of the committee didn’t go far enough to reform what they viewed as deficiencies in the educational part of the program, and that they didn’t want their names on the final report.

Chief amongst their complaints was that the report did not reflect a need for substantive programs aimed at addressing specific subject area needs of special education students, including reading and math programs.

“I have grave concerns about the conclusions in the Task Force Report because we never went through the required process of analytic comparison of different programs in core areas,” Landis wrote in an e-mail Friday. “So how can you draw conclusions and create an implementation plan if you haven’t even gone through that analysis?”

Before the meeting, Cuneo reached out to each of the women individually to make amends.

All three told the Daily Press Friday that their focus remained on improving the special education program.

“I have accepted his apology,” Jones said. “I will continue to work to see that struggling students with and without (Individualized Education Programs) will receive an education that will allow them to learn and be productive citizens,” she said.

Although she felt the memo was inappropriate, Crane also focused on the deficiencies in the special education program in her e-mail comments.

“Our lack of programs has been particularly devastating to children whose parents don’t have the financial resources to hire attorneys and fight for outside services,” she wrote.

ashley@smdp.com

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