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Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Parents, experts gather
to air special-education
needs, shortfalls

By Harold Morse

Parents, teachers and service providers see a lot wrong with special education in Hawaii.

Complaints of teacher burnout, inadequate parental involvement and counterproductive bureaucracy were heard last night at Waipahu High School, following a similar meeting Monday at Kalakaua Middle School.

This round of special-education monitoring, a joint federal-state undertaking, is a matter of collecting data to gain a deeper understanding of how special education is working in Hawaii, said Judy Gregorian, team leader, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. The federal people will return in December to continue the process and issue a report next April, she said.

The some 80 in attendance broke down into six discussion groups.

Gregorian asked about regular-education classes that may have a special-education student or two, how needed special education is provided in that setting.

"I cannot run a classroom when I have a student who has severe emotional problems," one teacher said. "You cannot have quality services if I'm burned out."

She and at least one other teacher said they are on the verge of quitting. There was talk of teaching staffs being chronically shorthanded and overworked.

The team was to take the process to Kapaa Middle School on Kauai at 2 p.m. today and Baldwin High School on Maui and Waiakea High School, Hilo, both at 5 p.m. Next are Molokai High and Intermediate School at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow and Kealakehe Elementary School, Kona, at 5 p.m. tomorrow.

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