Echoing months of complaints by disgruntled parents, the Sacramento-based Fiscal Crisis and Management Team delivered a particularly damning report last week to the Santa Barbara School Board on the current state of the district’s Special Education department. Highlighting faults like the department’s high turnover-seven directors in the past eight years-communication breakdowns between parents and staff, alienation of Spanish-speaking families, and low staff morale, the report made some 160 recommendations for improving the program. Funded by the district as a means of better understanding the situation, the executive summary of the report opined, “Due to the inherent systemic problems found in special education, the districts may need to consider the use of an ombudsman for a minimum of one year to support orderly change. : It will take time to restore confidence and open the lines of communication between parents and the district.” Superintendent Brian Sarvis explained this week that the June 23 report would serve as a “blueprint for the future.”
The school board will hear back from staff in coming months as the district works toward implementing the recommended changes. Already, per report suggestions, the board last week had hired two new special education directors: Jacob Jensen, from Palo Verde Unified School District, and Dr. Barbara Parkhurst, from Oak Park Unified School District. (However, Jensen quit this week after parents publicly questioned his qualifications.) A top executive director has yet to be hired.