Haverhill Superintendent Calls for Audit of His Own Special Education Program

[Note:  Since this posting was made, kind readers have researched the numbers published in the Eagle Tribune and which I relied on in this post.  The district budget number for Haverhill is incorrect and the per pupil number is also incorrect – both are considerably larger.  Please see the comments to this blog.  Nevertheless, the point about both districts’ special education budgets stands.]

Haverhill has more than double the number of special education students in Timberlane, but both school districts have nearly identical special education budgets.

The Sunday (May 3) edition of the Eagle Tribune quotes Superintendent James Scully as calling for a study of his own special education program – because it is costing too much.

In an article entitled, “Special ed hikes hurt schools,”  the superintendent was quoted as saying,”We’ve asked for a study on how we can provide more special education services in-house in a more efficient manner.”  He went on to say, “We’ll also have to question whether children are being identified correctly in terms of special education needs.”

Here we have a superintendent calling for an audit of his own special education services.  When I ask for a discussion of something similar at Timberlane, I am told there is nothing that an auditor could find that the special education director couldn’t tell me.  Then when I ask for some very reasonable basic information, Dr. Metzler says he’ll figure out which of my questions he’ll answer. I’m waiting….

Haverhill’s overall average cost per pupil is $9,000*.  Timberlane’s: $15,500.

Haverhill’s total budget is 67.8 million – very close to  Timberlane’s ($67.3).  Haverhill teaches 7,240 students while Timberlane educates 3,773.

Timberlane has half the students…. but virtually the same budget! It gets even more eye-opening when we compare special education numbers.

Haverhill’s special education budget is $9.1 million.  Timberlane’s special education budget is $8.8 million – nearly the same.

Haverhill has 1567 children in special education this year.  Timberlane had 735 (ADM) last year (most recent figures available) – less than half the number that Haverhill teaches, with virtually the same special education budget.  Nothing to see here folks.

Haverhill’s superintendent is calling for a study because of high special education costs while Timberlane, with fewer than half the children in special education than Haverhill but with almost the identical budget, wants to keep its workings to itself and your school board thinks that is just fine. More money, please and thank you.  That’s all we hear.

I called Haverhill School District to learn what their $9.1 million includes to compare it to Timberlane’s $8.8.  If and when I get that information, I will do a subsequent posting should their budget include significant differences from our budget.

For the record, special education services are vitally important.  I am not out to destroy needed services. I simply want to point out that our resources are generous and ample to do a good job, and to find out why special education services are increasing while our student population declines.

* All figures concerning Haverhill School District come from the Eagle Tribune’s reporting except for their total number of SPED students, which came from Haverhill School District’s website.  http://www.eagletribune.com/news/haverhill/special-ed-cost-hikes-hurt-haverhill-schools/article_41a41efc-5c78-5719-9ac0-b2ea98a12af4.html



Filed under Budget 2015-2016, Budget Committee, Expenditures

14 responses to “Haverhill Superintendent Calls for Audit of His Own Special Education Program

  1. Cathy

    Stop being a simple-minded obstructionist. And please do/try something you may also find to be serendipitous will you??!! Other than the SpED audit of course …

  2. what year is that overall cpp of $9K and where did you get this data from?

  3. anonymous

    This is a link pulled from Haverhill Public Schools website, business department tab. Although I’m still not clear how comparing an urban school district in MA is relevant. No where on here do I see a $67M budget. I do see an approved $90M budget on the last page though.

    • The figures I used were reported in the Eagle Trib article. Haverhill did not respond to two calls for information and only yesterday I learned that their budget was online which I have not had a chance to look at in any detail.

      Regardless of the total budget number, my point about our SPED budgets nevertheless stands.

  4. Peter Bealo

    Haverhill recently had a family move into town with a child who’s Special Ed costs are over $400,000 annually. This is from a recent Eagle Trib. Ouch.

  5. Concerned Parent

    I found this interesting:


    If you can find out why autism rates are increasing, you’ll find out why the budget needs to be so high.

    I also like this quote:

    “Most people think those kids with disabilities can’t, and so why are we giving them money because they can’t,” she said. “And what people don’t realize is that if you provide the supports and services they can.”

    • I have asked for the breakdown of services we provide by the number of students in each service specifically so it can be determined if we are seeing an increase in autism or specific disabilities or areas of needed intensive teaching in our district. We need to understand what is driving the increase in special education identification.

      I have an autistic nephew (not at Timberlane) who is flourishing so I fully appreciate the need and benefits of special education services. It is only natural to question, however, why the number of students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) is going up while the general enrollment is going down. There is a logical disconnect in that fact.
      Demographically, I understand that California has the largest proportion of children identified with autism.

      • Concerned Parent

        I think the logical assumption to your statement regarding a “logical disconnect” is that you believe that Timberlane staff MAY be mis-identifying students. At least, that’s the connotation I perceived.

        That’s only one of several possible answers; there could be many environmental factors outside the scope of the school board, such as family dynamics leading to anxiety or emotional disorders, the effect of too much media for younger children, etc. No one, and I mean no one, has any clue as to why diagnoses for autism, anxiety, aspergers, etc are rising.

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