Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


March 27, 2014

Rift divides special ed. parents

7 on 10-member advisory board resign in protest

Deepening factions on the Special Education Parent Advisory Council have led to the resignation of seven of its 10 members.

Six members — including the president and vice president — stepped down last week, citing an inability to work with a new group of parents that is trying to get involved in the organization.

Their departure — which followed last month’s resignation of the board’s other co-president — came as the advisory council was preparing to distribute its first-ever parent survey seeking feedback on special education services in town.

In a group letter to school officials last Friday, the six resigning members pointed to a “fundamental disagreement about the function and future direction” of the council.

They said a “small but vocal group of parents has expressed dissatisfaction with the way SEPAC has been run and the work that the group has done on behalf of parents of children with special needs.” They added that the newly involved parents “expressed disregard” for SEPAC’s policies and procedures and had “communicated distrust” with the current leadership.

“It has become increasingly apparent that the disparity between the established PAC and this group is insurmountable. Despite our best efforts, we cannot effectively lead this group and remain true to the goals of the organization,” the six said, adding they were resigning “with profound disappointment.”

The letter was signed by president Jackie Pitts, vice president Pam DeMichaelis and members Lauren Vallarelli, Regina Kelly, Kathy Sherman and Sharon Mason. It was sent to Annie Gilbert, who serves as the School Committee’s liaison to the council, with copies to Superintendent Marinel McGrath and Student Services Director Joyce Laundre. The resignations were effective Friday at 5 p.m.

The former co-president of the group, Cindy Webber, resigned about a month earlier, citing personal reasons.

Six of the seven resigning members did not return phone calls last week. One of the members reached, treasurer Vallarelli, would only say that the resignations “were not directly related to the survey.” She declined further comment.

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