Concerns over cuts to special education services in Long Valley

LONG VALLEY, NJ — Concerns were raised at the recent meeting of the Washington Township Board of Education regarding the allocation of funds in the 2022-23 Enacted Budget.

Lauren Byrne, assistant behavior analyst for the Washington Township School District, spoke to council members about budget cuts affecting special education programs in Washington Township schools.

“At the last board meeting, Dr Turnamian said: ‘I want to assure the community that any reduction in our budget does not mean any reduction in services or quality, we are not in fact bringing new contractual services, it’s just a reallocation of the current contractual services in certain areas. It’s a bold statement,” Byrne said.

Byrne went on to say that the Department of Special Education has seen an increase in staff cuts that are not being filled.

“The cuts I know of, and I’m sure there are more, include a phenomenal speech therapist, a dedicated occupational therapist and a driven social worker. This is in addition to the resignations that take place every year, one of which is a revered learning disabilities teacher consultant, whose post, to my knowledge, will not be republished, Byrne said.

Washington Township’s approved budget is $43,279,538 for the 2022-23 school year.

Byrne asked board members how there wouldn’t be a reduction in quality with reductions in full-time staff in speech pathology, occupational therapy, social work, learning disabilities and counseling on the behavior.

“The remaining staff cannot make up for the level of expertise that will be lost during this time. And anyone who knows the downsizing knows that the people who remain are the ones who have to take over, workloads will increase, responsibilities will increase. will expand and thus the quality of services will be affected,” said Byrne.

Byrne said she and fellow board-certified behavior analyst Tami Stricchiola had worked for the Washington Township School District for 28 years, but were not included in the district’s restructuring plans for the school. next year.

“We weren’t included at all in the brainstorming sessions or the template for next year. I was removed completely and she’s being moved to a classroom position,” Byrne said.

Prior to the initial budget discussions, Byrne had offered his services to develop a “budget” proposal for next year’s services. “I had given a lot of thought to redesigning our ABA model and building our support staff, but received no response,” Byrne said.

“I sincerely hope that there will be a well-defined plan for next year, because if not, it is the children who will suffer at the end of the day,” said Byrne.

In response to Byre’s statement, Dr Turnamian said: “I want to say that we understand the difficult decisions we have made in our district at this time. We appreciate your public comments. They are heard.”

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