Devereux School Days Numbered

by Ethan Stewart

The Devereux School in Goleta was rocked last week by news that school officials intend to shut down two of the school’s more popular residential programs, as well as its day school — effectively cutting loose 87 developmentally disabled children and terminating more than 200 jobs in the process. According to Devereux administrators, recent county and state policy changes hampered their ability to fund campus-based facilities; the impending June 30 shutdown, school officials said, comes as the direct result of these funding issues and long-term staffing difficulties. The parents of several past and present Devereux residents, however, believe the closures have more to do with the nearly two years of ongoing controversy swirling around the school.

Devereux came under fire last year for what parents called questionable bookkeeping practices after several unexpected dorm closures; a state-sanctioned audit of the school’s books will be released later this year. And while a former Devereux night supervisor faces trial for raping and impregnating a developmentally disabled resident, the school was recently cited by Santa Barbara County for various student safety violations.

Judy Corliss, whose daughter was bumped out of Devereux last year in the dorm closures, commented via email: “Other vendors are able to make their programs work with the governmental subsidy issues, so why can’t Devereux?” Corliss added, “[Devereux] received additional money from parents — lots of money — and an additional million-dollar grant from the state. It makes no sense … The problem is strictly managerial.”

Blame game and finger-pointing aside, the task of finding new homes for the displaced children falls on agencies throughout California already hamstrung by limited options. While Devereux officials refused to speculate on the possibility of keeping their doors open beyond June 30, one longtime employee expressed doubt about the shutdown. “There’s no way they are going to be able to move all these kids in the next eight weeks. It is not going to happen.”

The center will continue to serve 61 disabled adults in participating programs on- and off-campus and a dozen foster children currently involved in the school’s new Residential Assessment Center, a program many feel will grow in coming months. As for the various buildings and dormitories to be rendered empty by the shutdown, it’s been widely speculated that because the 35-acre campus is designated for institutional use only, some or all of the Devereux structures may eventually be absorbed by UCSB. Devereux spokesperson Janice Johnson said, “The national center’s directors have entertained and will continue to entertain ideas for what to do with those properties.”

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