Huntley Special Ed Parents Meet with New Head of Special Ed

Last Thursday night the Huntley School District’s Parents Special Education Advisory Committee met.

It was under the shadow of Huntley’s Special Education Director’s Cheryl Kalkirtz’ recent unexplained parting of the ways with District 158.

Now, the district has its 3rd (albeit interim) Director in seven months, Karen Aylward.

Although Special Ed parents invest a lot of time communicating with special ed administrators, there was no explanation of Kalkritz’ absence from the man she reports to, Associate Superintendent Terry Awrey, who attended the meeting.

“Our resolve to inspire, challenge and empower has never been stronger,” he told those gathered.

The meeting was evidently something for the administrators to “get through,” as more than one mentioned goal of ending it by 7:30 so they could get home.

One parent specifically asked,

“What’s the rush to get out of here at 7:30?”

She then said,

“We’re here, you’re here.”

Karen Aylward at a summer District 158 Town Meeting on Special Education.

Parents started asking polite questions after Aylward introduced herself as the Special Ed Director pending board approval. She repeated it three times in two brief paragraphs as if the roomful of staff and parents were unaware. Aylward when asked, confirmed she did not have an endorsement for Special Education Director.

Aylward now makes $65,383.93 as Assistant Director of Special Education for working 215 days. I haven’t figured out how much her salary will increase in the new interim directorship position.

At the meeting, a parent asked about accounting for the (Federal Stimulus) ARRA funds.  Parents bristled when Aylward pronounced,

“All of that can be FOIA’d.”

Aylward said,

“My goal is to spend it the way it is supposed to.”

A parent in the audience then asked,

“Isn’t it your duty?

Parents started asking polite questions after Aylward introduced herself as the new Special Ed Director, pending board approval. She repeated it three times in two brief paragraphs as if the roomful of staff and parents were unaware.

After another question Associate Supt. Awrey gave Aylward a gesture to move on with the agenda. That’s when Aylward said she has to stick to the agenda and questions and answers are not on the agenda.

One parent sitting near Awrey asked Awrey why he signaled Aylward to not take questions.

Awrey denied he did this, but insisted they had to stick to the agenda.

Linda Betzold

Sara DiFucci

Parents Linda Betzold and Sara DiFucci made a joint presentation on autism. One person attending described is as “an incredible performance, rich in content, holding the audience’s interest and at times making the entire room laugh.”

A loud round of applause followed their talks.

After the rendition, parents began asking questions and making comments. Parents who were new to publicly speaking out asked questions and commented.

One of the first parents commenting said how there was a “huge lack of information and communication.”

Another asked if items and notices of meetings could be included in the newsletter.  One parent pointed out how the district uses the Honeywell Emergency Alert system to notify parents how their student’s lunch card money balance is low, so why not use it to notify parents with IEP’s about the PAC meeting?

A parent described how administrators don’t want to be responsive to sensible suggestions even when they are repeated again and again. She pointed out how administrators have special ed staff members on their web site who haven’t been employed in one instance for two years and one of more instances not employed for 18 months.

A parent said,

“With all due respect (Supt.) Dr.(John) Burkey never comes to our meetings.

“It’s become a joke among parents how he runs and hides after board meetings.

“Can you find out if he will be here for our next meeting?”

Another parent talked about the staff members’ workload – caseload and said,

“Lauren Smith was driving it, but this doesn’t mean she knows what she’s talking about.”

Lauren Smith presented recommendations on Special Ed staffing to the board from a committee of administrators and teachers. Parents found out the committee members did not meet before Smith presented the committee’s recommendation to the board.

Plenty of parents talked to Awrey after the meeting for quite some time. Some parents wonder what will be passed onto the Superintendent.

Meanwhile Kalkirtz is no longer employed, even though the board has taken no action on her departure.

I’m not an expert in personnel policy.

Maybe it is customary in school districts for contractual certified administrators to leave without board action.

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