[UPDATED] Letter: Kress’ Comments on Special Education are “Offensive”
To the Editor:
I would like to address comments made by Walter Kress at the April 3 Board of Finance meeting. As a parent of three Wilton school children, one of whom receives special education services, I am upset by Mr. Kress’s generalizations, assumptions and frankly, his offensive personal comments.
First, his comments alleging lack of preparedness by parents and staff prior to PPT’s are troublesome. Mr. Kress should not have access to the kind of information necessary to support this type of statement. This means, therefore, that Mr. Kress is either uttering unfounded personal opinions publicly in his capacity as a Board of Finance member, or he is privy to confidential information regarding specific PPT meetings, which he should not have access to unless he was a participant. Either way, Mr. Kress made a broad, sweeping generalization that was not in keeping with his role on the BOF.
Second, and far more troubling, was Mr. Kress’s comment stating there are numerous children on the “periphery” who are taking advantage of the system. This is mere conjecture on Mr. Kress’s part as he neither has authority, nor access to specific information, to judge which, and how many children should receive special services, and what specific services are appropriate for each specific child. As the parent of a child Mr. Kress would consider “on the periphery” I am irked by Mr. Kress’s accusation that my child may be “gaming the system” and is not entitled to the services he receives. He has no idea the struggles my son faces on a daily basis, or those of the other nameless children on the “periphery.” As such, he has no basis for his observation, and therefore, should not make these sweeping, unfounded judgements about parents and children in town, especially in the context of a budget vote.
Mr. Kress mentioned he is the only BOF member with a child in the schools. I do not think personal observations, however, should be the metric Mr. Kress uses to support his vote on a budget. In the future, the town will be better served if Mr. Kress keeps his personal, baseless opinions to himself.
Response from Walter Kress
In response to the Letter to the Editor from Lisa Smith, I would like to take this opportunity to personally apologize for any misunderstanding of my position related to comments I made at Tuesday evening’s Board of Finance Mill Rate Meeting. It was certainly not my intent to offend nor demean. Families with children of special needs face incredible challenges, and I’ve always been supportive of their work to secure the support they deserve.
Ms. Smith referenced my “personal and baseless opinions.” The statements I made were based on research and publicly available facts, not on personal opinions. Furthermore, I have never had access to any confidential information regarding special needs and insinuating such is simply false.
I reiterate my position as stated at every one of the public sessions where I have referenced my concerns related to the Special Needs programs in the Wilton Public Schools.
“I support the efficient delivery of the appropriate services for those truly in need.”
My statement regarding the lack of preparedness of certain parents and staff prior to PPT meetings was based on comments made by the Assistant Superintendent Andrea Leonardi at two public meetings, one BOE meeting last fall and at a public meeting hosted by the Wilton Public Schools in February. I very much believe that Andrea Leonardi is concerned about the best use of resources and helping advance the amount of time the specialists are spending with the special education students.
One of her suggestions was to find ways to reduce the number of rescheduled meetings, saving staff time and cost, an initiative I wholeheartedly support. This not only should save precious resources for the schools, but more importantly, helping ensure that those services are available for those who have invested heavily as any concerned parent should, in advocating for their child. I strongly believe that anything which impedes the efficient delivery of the appropriate services for those truly in need should be admonished and eliminated.
The idea that there were and are some parents in Wilton trying to “game the system” by trying (and mostly failing) to get Special Ed status for their child in the high school years is both widely known and demonstrated by the data laid out in the DMC report which is also public information.
Again, please accept apologies for any misunderstanding of my position as I thought I was clear that it is the actions of some, certainly not all, that are causing excess expense and diversion of resources from those who are spending their time and energy wisely on behalf of their children.