Pasco School Board tees off on Response to Intervention changes
The daily activities of how to implement Response to Intervention strategies in classrooms rarely attracts the attention of the Pasco School Board, which focuses more on policies and finances.
But the unexpected transfer of the district's RTI supervisor, Amelia Van Name Larson, paired with vocal complaints from within the district prompted board members to ask for details about how the system will proceed in RTI. Van Name Larson resigned and quickly snapped up jobs consulting nationally on RTI issues.
Board member Steve Luikart raised the issue, saying he received many e-mails and wanted to see proof that the changes were needed. Superintendent Heather Fiorentino told the board that the state had recommended that Pasco decentralize its RTI implementation.
"I want a copy of the plan that the state says we need to decentralize, whatever that means," Luikart said, adding that he also wanted to see the district's training and compliance plans.
Directors of the district's special education, student services and staff development departments offered to answer more questions and give more details. Board member Allen Altman told them they have a long way to go to convince him of the need for change.
"In 5-1/2 years I have never had school based administrators as unanimous and concerned about something and questioning" as Van Name Larson's removal, Altman said. "Nobody I have heard from … thinks this is the right thing for our schools or our students."
Board chairwoman Joanne Hurley took the criticisms a step further, suggesting that the transfer was politically motivated and bad for the school district. She acknowledged that the board has no control over the superintendent's decisions to transfer staff to different jobs. However, she added, the board does have the power of the purse.
"If there are budget savings for decentralization I would like to know what they are. I am not in favor of budgeting for that position or implementation costs until I am comforatable this is a good decision," Hurley said. "This is an extremely unpopular and in my view unwarranted decision."
The staff planned to return to the board with additional information, including budget implications, at a future meeting.