Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

June 19, 2014

Sped director announces retirement; In-house interim director named amid parents' concerns

In-house interim director named amid parent concerns

Special education director Joyce Laundre is retiring as of June 30, leaving behind a department roiled by controversy.

Nearly 900 parents and residents filled out a special education survey in March and April, in many cases saying that students were not being adequately taught or cared for, while others praised the program.

The survey itself was created by the Special Education Parent Advisory Council, or SEPAC, which went through a complete overhaul in March after every executive board member resigned, only to be replaced by new, more activist members.

The rift between Andover school administrators and special education parents appears to be continuing, as Superintendent Marinel McGrath did not tell the newly formed SEPAC leadership about Laundre’s retirement or her interim, one-year replacement — Amy Reese, who currently serves as the out-of-district special education coordinator.

McGrath could not be reached for comment, but said during a June 12 School Committee meeting that Laundre was leaving “based on personal reasons with her family.”

Laundre, who’s been in the position since 2011, made $126,378 last year. Reese is currently earning $86,700, but is on tap for a $32,000 raise.

At last week’s School Committee meeting, it was announced that Reese would make $118,000 next year. Her promotion was approved on a 4-0 vote. School Committee member David Birnbach was absent.

Neither Laundre nor Reese could be reached for comment Tuesday.

SEPAC members said this week they were concerned about the future direction of the district’s special education program.

“Based on the survey and comments from parents, overall there seem to be a lot of issues with special education,” Sheena Stack, vice chairwoman of SEPAC’s executive committee, said.

“There are systemic issues. If there are such systemic issues, why would you hire from within? Is she (Reese) the best person for the job just because she happens to be here?”

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