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Our Kids Deserve Better

Michelle Rabideau, Candidate
East Grand Rapids School Board

We know a little more about what EGR School Board candidate Michelle Rabideau thinks about the issues on this blog.

Ms. Rabideau’s comments at EGR School Board Candidates’ Forum didn’t give us many insights into her positions on the special education and district performance issues we cover on this blog, but a review of Michelle Rabideau’s School Board campaign site tells us a bit more.

Below is what we learned from the East Grand Rapids School Board Candidates’ Forum and from Ms. Rabideau’s site:

Board Candidates’ Forum

Michelle Rabideau

  • Incumbent
  • Executive Director, Saint Mary’s Foundation
  • Currently board treasurer
  • Heavy focus on the budget and fundraising. Makes sense this would be her strength, give her professional position.
  • Spoke about her involvement with the successful EGR Now! Campaign
  • Wants to do everything possible to ensure budget cuts don’t impact the classroom. Was glad the EGR Now! Campaign allowed them to avoid classroom cuts.
  • Specifically praised the administration at a couple different points
  • Was excited about new revenue opportunities, but the only one she shared was selling ads on the school website.
  • Wants people to rely on her experience as a board member as a reason to re-elect her

From Ms. Rabideau’s EGR School Board Campaign Site

Below is an excerpt from the Q&A section of Michelle Rabideau for EGR School Board website.

Q: I’m concerned about our special education program. What are the schools doing to make sure this remains a priority?

A: I am proud that as a public school system, we are required to offer such programs to support all students enrolled in the district. There are several federal and state mandates toward special education that guide what we offer and we fulfill all of their requirements. Last year, we received $2,054,009 for overall funding for the 184 students receiving special education services. Our district spent $2,497,154 which is greater than what we received from funding but demonstrates an additional investment from the schools. Having both kids go through our special education program during their elementary years for a speech impairment, I feel strongly about making sure we provide a great educational experience for all students.

Our Comments

The Sort of Board Member Response that Frustrates Constituents

In August, the State designated two EGR schools as Focus Schools, among the worst schools in the state for identifying and supporting their lowest achieving students, whether their overall performance is high or low. Three weeks ago, this blog published data from the State showing special education at EGRPS was cut 45% in five years, to the lowest level of any public K-12 district in the state. And now, just three weeks later, we have a board member saying the district fulfills all requirements?

Constituents expect board members to take seriously their concerns, especially when data from the State shows our district so far out of step with others. This is not the sort of leadership we expect from board members elected by the people to govern the administration.

The administration hasn’t addressed the huge decline in special ed. There hasn’t even been adequate time to study the information and find out why EGR reduced special education further and faster than any other district in the state. Yet, we have a board member already telling us the district fulfills all requirements.

Doesn’t this information deserve study and an adequate explanation, rather than a quick, dismissive defense of the administration?

Only Six Students Identified for Special Ed Last Year?

Ms. Rabideau cites 184 students that received special education services last year. There were 178 special ed students (K-12: 164 + Early Childhood: 14) on the fall 2011 count day. That means only 6 students were identified for special education during last year.

In 2011, the district had the lowest percentage of K-12 special ed students of any public K-12 district in the state. In 2012, it was identified as a Focus School. And yet, only 6 of the 3000 students in the district were identified for special education. 184 special ed kids is not a proof point of the great job the district is doing; it’s a cause for concern. This is not something to be “proud of,” it’s something to investigate.

Funding does not Equal Appropriate Services

We can’t look at funding to determine whether special ed services and identification is appropriate. The vast majority of the special education expenditures are for fixed costs (salaries). Just because the District is employing people doesn’t necessarily mean kids with special needs are receiving appropriate services or being appropriately identified and qualified for special education.

Links to What We Know about other EGR School Board Candidates

Mark Hessler, Candidate for East Grand Rapids School Board
Peter Ruppert, Candidate for East Grand Rapids School Board
Elizabeth Welch-Lykins, Candidate for East Grand Rapids School Board