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School Board Addresses Tuckahoe Parents' Special Ed Fears

TUCKAHOE, N.Y. – Most of those in a crowd of about 30 people heard what they wanted to hear Monday night at a Tuckahoe Board of Education 2012-2013 budget workshop.

First, there will be no cuts in services for special needs students.

Second, no one is planning to fire Director of Special Education Anthony DiCarlo.

The latter item was stated clearly in response to a plea at the end of the meeting, when one audience member asked the question many had been alluding to all evening: Why is the school board planning to replace DiCarlo as head of special education.

"I haven't seen any documentation that says we are going to replace him," said board Vice President Anthony Buonocore, touching off murmurs of approval and relief throughout the crowd as board President Julio Urbina looked for a motion to end the nearly three-hour meeting.

Speaker after speaker praised DiCarlo as they questioned the board about budget changes that will eliminate several special education teaching assistants. They also questioned a planned structural change that will place the operations of the special education department in the hands of an assistant superintendent for curriculum and personnel. DiCarlo's current position would be eliminated.

Urbina said after the meeting that DiCarlo is being urged to apply for that position. In addition to his special education duties, he is also preparing to attend several meetings to assist Superintendent Edward Reilly in learning about and implementing state mandates in several areas, including teacher evaluations.

Patrick Fox, father of two special needs students, delivered an plea to the board to delay plans to restructure the district administration, including the hierarchy of the special education program. Fox drew applause on numerous occasions as he grilled the board on what data was used to show the proposed changes would work.

Fox and other speakers worried that the elimination of 18 teacher aides and assistants would hurt their students, but the board and Reilly explained that 14 of those positions were eliminated because the students no longer required one-on-one help.

Board member Michelle Liscio assured everyone that not one student who is judged to need one-on-one care would be denied. It was also explained that money in the budget's fund balance could be used to hire someone if such a situation were to come up.

Urbina said the meeting was called to answer questions and to put to rest what he said were rumors and misinformation circulating in the community. Before allowing public comment, he urged everyone to be civil and to not yell and make personal attacks. The residents complied.

The 2012-2013 budget proposal, approximately $30 million, keeps the district under the tax levy cap. Tuckahoe residents will vote on the budget May 15.

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