Letter to the Editor

April 23, 2021
To Whom It May Concern:
This letter was originally shared with the administration and Board of Education at Fairbury
Public Schools. Now we would like to share it with the greater Fairbury community.
We are writing to voice our response to the recent statements the community has shared in regard to the Fairbury school district, particularly with special education services. As special education staff, we have felt blind-sided, targeted, and falsely represented. Our department, under the supervision of Dr. Jill Timmons, works tremendously hard to provide the best possible services to our students. Dr. Timmons has supported, mentored, and guided us in many ways that best suit our needs, our students’ needs, and our programs’ needs. We, too, are advocates for your children, our students.
In her tenure, Dr. Timmons has provided various trainings to staff and community. This includes an in-district training from the Autism Network (to general education, special education staff, and paraprofessionals), individual student consultation from the Autism Network that included a certified BCBA, and has provided resource nights for special education families and the community. Our special education administrator encourages us to attend conferences, workshops, and to participate in professional development on a multitude of topics, especially those that are specific to students we work with. This year, nine (9) staff members participated in the virtual Nebraska Autism Spectrum Disorder Conference. With the virtual forum, all speakers and presentations are readily available for any and all staff members to view. Dr. Timmons provides monthly department meetings and building level meetings (even through school closure) to keep us informed, help us improve, create resources and tools for our classroom, and build our capacity. She has developed procedures that assist with paperwork and protocol, has implemented systems that assist with monthly progress monitoring, and has provided readily available supports for staff. She led us through an unprecedented time with consistent guidance to our ever-changing guidelines and protocols. Our special education administration reaches out to her colleagues and professional peers in order to provide us with the most accurate and up-to-date information if she is unsure of the answer. Dr. Timmons has invested time, energy, and resources into helping staff successfully implement inclusive practices while still honoring student needs. We feel that through this leadership, we have grown as a department and made tremendous progress in our ability to provide a variety of services to support students with disabilities.
As special education staff, we get continuous feedback from both community agencies and families. Recently, a representative from Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation reached out to express her discomfort with the community’s vision of special education services and stated that out of all the districts she works with, ours ranks among the top. A parent has reached out to say that she was contacted by another parent in the district questioning the special education services being provided to her child. The parent informed us that she was both grateful and thankful for the services her child is receiving. A representative from Region V recently commented on the significant progress of a student currently in our district and commended our staff, both special and general education, on their commitment and willingness to work with students. At a recent IEP meeting, the parent was sure to repeatedly inform the staff present at the meeting that he was very pleased with the services being provided to his child and stated “you have all done such a great job with him.” These are the voices that also need to be heard.
The negative image portrayed by the public about our special education department makes the special education staff feel uncomfortable, anxious, and undervalued. On a daily basis we come to work with the very best interest of our students in mind and want the best for each and every one of them in school and outside of school. This publicity makes us question our role within this district and several teachers have expressed an interest in submitting a resignation over this issue. This consideration is not because of the administration, who we trust and respect and feel have been misrepresented. We have never felt the need to be silenced for fear of retaliation from administration. In fact, we have always felt welcomed by the administration across the district to share any questions or concerns we have had regarding our professional practices. We feel comfortable collaborating with them in order to meet the needs of our students. We encourage any parent with questions or concerns about their child’s programming to please communicate with the school so that we can problem-solve together.
The events of the previous weeks do not feel welcoming to our staff, they are of no benefit to teacher retention or attraction, and do not demonstrate the small town community feel that several people mentioned during the school board meeting on Monday, April 12. In fact, we feel that this is doing just the opposite and creating a divide within the school and between the community and the school. There are many ways in which we can work together, but the negativity that is being publicly presented does not feel collaborative or inviting. We, as employees and community members, worry about the future of our school district if this continues. We worry about teacher retention and the ability to hire highly qualified teachers in positions in which they feel under attack and which are already difficult to fill. We hope you will seriously consider these things as we move forward. Our hope is our community, families, and the school district can work toward building a culture of collaboration and respect.
With concern,
Trina Pettit - Jefferson North
Megan Pachta- Jefferson North
Anne Chappell - High School
Cassidy Sadd - Jefferson Intermediate
Amy Schramm - Jefferson Intermediate
Sarah Furrow - Jefferson North
 

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