Parents Meet With School Committee
Parents of Special Needs Children Want Supplemental Budget Allowances
More than 400 Cambridge parents met with the school committee last night to demand supplemental budget allowances for their children's schools.
Because the Committee's proposed 1993-94 budget $80 million falls short of available funds by more than $1 million, Cambridge School Superintendent Mary Lou McGrath announced earlier this month "real location and redistribution" of school resources may be necessary.
Parents of students from every school pleaded with the committee last night not to reduce their schools' staffs and to provide them with additional general resources.
But an overwhelming majority of the speakers were parents of children in special needs and early childhood development programs, which are threatened with cutbacks.
Barbara Tracy, a specialist in early childhood education for the School Department, said she worries that the proposed reallocation of the city's specialists--to increase the number of schools each specialist serves--will undermine advances in that field.
"Every early childhood resident specialist we have needs to be maintained," Tracy said.
The program, which brings reading specialists to a child's home and then continues to work with children until they reach the third grade, has been offered in some Cambridge schools full-time but not offered at all in others. McGrath said her office is interested ensuring equity in specialist availability.
Maria Rivera, a parent whose two children have participated in the early childhood program, said it provided her with support and resources.
"The program gave me skills and resources I would not have found on my own," Rivera said.
Parents of Cambridge's special needs students said their children need more time with the therapists than schools currently offer.
Many parents said they believed the schools would be better if all students received the one-on-one attention and teaching of special needs students.
Sarah Deal, whose six-year old son receives occupational therapy for his lack of fine motor skills, said she believes the schools must hire additional therapists for special needs children.
"O.T. [occupational therapy] lets kids be free," Deal said.
Hemietta Davis and Alfred Fantini, the budget sub-committee co-chairs, said all the schools' requests would be considered during the budget process this month.