Easy Victories for Special Needs Kids

There are more than 1000 special needs kids in the San Mateo Foster City School District – almost 10 percent of our 12,000 students. Today, their performance is essentially average for special needs kids in California – 13% were performing at or above grade level in 2015-2016 for English and 12% for Math.

I told you this last month.

The fact that there are 24 Bay Area school districts that are performing at least twice as well as the San Mateo Foster City school district and 5 school districts performing 4 times as well is actually great news.

Much better is possible. Here.

Whether it is management, teachers, curricula, or money, we can do much, much better.

It is a new year, a mostly new board, it is time to get started.



  1. Fully integrate our special needs program into the LCAP.

It doesn’t matter that the LCAP is an imperfect vehicle for this, it is the primary management tool used by the schools, school district, the school board, and the state to monitor performance and financial accountability. There are two parts to this action: add an explicit “vertical category” for special education for all goals, just as we have for other groups; and integrate financial, performance, and operational goals for special needs as additional LCAP items.

  1. Create a district level “report card” for special needs as if it was a single, separate school.

Without visibility, no one can understand our district’s performance and hold our programs accountable. Today, special needs kids are spread across the district’s schools. Since different schools have different special needs programs, it makes more sense to look at the entire special needs program across the district.

  1. Add a “special needs implications” section to all district presentations and reports.

Not that every presentation or report will have a “special needs implication”… if not, answer “none”. The important thing is that the question is asked and answered.

  1. Find out what the better performing Bay Area schools are doing differently. Promptly.

Whatever it is, whatever it takes, let’s find out the answer. If the school district can’t find the resources to address this shortfall internally, don’t worry, we are here to help find those resources. If this is made a priority for the district, I’m sure that our highly qualified district staff can get an approximate answer within two months. Let’s do it.

Our superintendent could simply report that she is “making this happen” during Section 4.7 of the meeting, but a new agenda item for the next board meeting during Section 10 of this meeting would add emphasis and impact to show your commitment to our special needs children… a statement of support by every board member would be amazing.

This is not solely your responsibility or burden. We are working this as well.

On 15 February, we are hosting a Community Summit on Special Needs Kids programs with representatives from GGRC, the county, our school district (thank you, John Bartfield and Dr. Rosas), as well as the high school and someone to represent adult services. Chelsea Bonini and Jenny McPherson are on board to help as well.

A formal invitation for all of you will be coming soon… this is more of a “save the date” announcement.

This is just the first step from us and we hope the first step on yours.

Let’s work together to do better for our special needs kids.

(Public comment to San Mateo Foster City School District Board 11 January 2017)

(No action taken by board or superintendent – 11 January 2017)

What things can your school district do today to help your special needs kids?

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