NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Former New Rochelle Director of Special Education Yvette Goorevitch has had a rough time since leaving New Rochelle in 2017 to become Chief of Specialized Learning and Student Services in the Norwalk Public Schools; acrimony with parents, lawsuits, state investigations, even a ban from the Norwalk Special Education PTA.
Put simply; Norwalk parents were not buying Yvette’s baloney.
Goorevitch, who left New Rochelle after decades as Director of Special & Alternative Education, is looking to return to New Rochelle, She has moved past the first two rounds of interviews to replace Dr. Anthony Bongo as Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services. Bongo is set to retire on October 31, 2020.
Goorevitch is expected to begin the next round of interviews for Bongo’s job today.
Those among District employees interviewing Goorevitch and those on the school board who would have to approve any recommendation by Interim Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero would be well served to study the 2019 report from the Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) which came about after a lawsuit and complaint to SDE by 17 parents in Norwalk.
Above is a link to a redacted copy of a letter from the Connecticut State Department of Education describing the report stemming from complaints against Yvette Goorevitch filed by Norwalk parents — what the investigators labeled “systemic” failures.
To understand some of the language in the SDE Report, it would be helpful to clarify terms that are different between New York and Connecticut.
A special education committee in New York State is the Committee on Special Education or “CSE”. In Connecticut, the special education committee is the Planning and Placement Team or “PPT”. The members of a CSE or PPT include parents/guardians, any advocate they wish to be present including an attorney, a general education teacher, a special education teacher, a school psychologist, possibly a speech pathologist or any other appropriate service-related professionals such as an audiologist or occupational therapist, all led by a CSE or PPT Chairperson.
Both states use the term Individualized Education Plan or “IEP” to mean the legally-binding recommendations and goals agreed upon by all parties including parents/guardians as members of the CSE/PPT.
It is not uncommon for 6 to 12 or even more people to sit on the committee. A typical, well-run meeting takes about an hour where most of that time is spent hearing from each member, determining eligibility and writing the IEP with the chairperson entering the data from the reports, parent input and the goals of the IEP into a laptop computer running special software like Frontline, what used to be called IEP Direct.
Connecticut requires that the PPT meeting takes place with 45 days of the filing of a Teacher Request for Assistance Form by a child’s teacher and/or parent/guardian or both. In New York State there is a 30-day window.
Reading the SDE report, anyone familiar with Yvette Goorevitch will recognize the pattern.
What we call the “4 D’s”:
Here are a few samples from the SDE Report arranged with the 4D Framework.
Proof of Residency requirements were implemented in Norwalk Public Schools (“NPS”) by Goorevitch. This unnecessary and unwarranted requirement had the effect of discouraging parents, especially those who were living in Norwalk, already enrolled in NPS but “undocumented” residents, from seeking support and services for their child. This same tactic was used by Goorevitch in New Rochelle.
The Proof of Residency requirement also added delay. Goorevitch did not consider the clock ticking on a referral until all paperwork she required was complete, in this case that parents/guardians proved the child was a Norwalk resident.
Goorevitch would add a delay of as much as a month or more by waiting to send the Referral Letter from the District acknowledging receipt of a Teacher Request for Assistance Form. Goorevitch did not consider the clock ticking on the 45 day window until a PPT meeting was scheduled.
Goorevitch would defer action by scheduling parents for a purported PPT meeting in a letter listing all those who would supposedly attend, but then only Goorevitch or a PPT Chairperson representing Goorevitch would show up for the meeting. The parents/guardians would be told (falsely) that before an actual PPT meeting could occur Goorevitch would claim she wanted the parents/guardians to “review the referral process” at which point she would seek to convince parents/guardians to sign a document withdrawing the Teacher Request for Assistance Form which would have the effect of terminating the PPT referral process.
Failing this Goorevitch would seek to convince the parents/guardians to agree to just one of the State-required evaluations. For example, Goorevitch would get parents/guardians to agree to just a Speech and Language assessment not the full battery of State-required assessments, resulting in additional delay because the Speech and Language Pathologist would do the assessment, conclude the child required additional assessments at which point all of the State-required assessments would be ordered adding still more delays.
During the PPT meeting, Goorevitch would do most of the talking, going on at length about her opinions on the results of the assessments and what she thought was best for the child. Rather than an hour spent writing the IEP, the PPT meetings became a stage for Goorevitch to “perform” for 2 to 3 hours with no IEP written.
In some cases, the delays in having the PPT meeting or producing the IEP would continue for the balance of the school year, from November to June.
Even if parents/guardians persisted to the point of actually getting an Individualized Education Plan, Goorevitch would not provide all of the services and accommodations mandated by the IEP leading to a new round of meetings, discussions and emails.
For students who already an IEP but experienced a lack of progress on their IEP goals, Goorevitch would deny additional services during the annual reviews, thereby denying Free and Appropriate Education or “FAPE” for those students.
When it came to implementation, the services outlined in the child’s IEP were not being tracked leaving many students not actually receiving the services mandated in the IEP.
The programs developed for children often did not comply with Least Restrictive Environment considerations. For example, a child with an IEP that mandated that child be in a general education setting for some portion of the day would be placed in a supposed general education class but the number of special education students would significantly outnumber the general education students in the classroom so that the class was actually a special education class and so not in compliance with the Least Restrictive Environment requirement that the child be in a general education setting for some portion of the day.
The report reads to be a vindication of the parents concerns and complaints about Goorevitch but in their press statements she and her bosses attempted the fifth “D”, to Deflect, claiming the letter was not an accurate summary of the report and the statements made by the parents were not an accurate summary of the letter.
These claims are flatly contradicted by the findings of the Connecticut State Department of Education which found numerous violations of State and Federal law, what amounted to a wholesale, systemic denial of the civil rights of the 15 students named in the SDE complaint, and likely many more students not covered under the original complaint.