Looks Like A Win!

“Out of left field” is how Cindi Durham, mother of the 17 year old special needs student, described the decision by Hillsboro/Deering Cooperative School District’s “Life Skills Team” to leave her son, Joel Jr., in the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center, where he belongs, if his neurologists suggestions are to be taken seriously. This decision will last until the end of the 2008-2009 school year.

This is a big win for the Durham family, Joel Jr., taxpayers in the Hillsboro/Deering School District, and of course our taxpayer group, CNHT.

The Coalition of NH Taxpayers has been helping the Durham family since early this year to reverse the attempt by the H/D “Life Skills Team,” the persons in the school charged with creating a place within the district for any out of district placements of special needs students, to bring Joel from the facility he has been in for six years and place him in their new program no matter what the real cost or liability.

It is surprising how much of a tough sell to the “LST” and H/D School Board this issue has been.

Joel has severe epilepsy and has been hospitalized three times since May with seizures because he is outgrowing or in some way not effected as much by his standard medication. We are talking serious seizures that have made several of our CNHT Directors, Johnna Grzywacz and Jane Aitken, cringe from the one they observed during Joel’s first H/D orientation visit. He spent four hours in Concord Hospital during his first day there.

A month ago Joel had an emergency trip to Dartmouth Hospital which lasted four days and resulted in a letter from his doctor saying Joel should not be in any public school. He belongs in a facility with MDs on site. That site would naturally be Crotched Mountain where he has been since his family moved from Henniker to Hillsboro/Deering. A few weeks back Joel was sent to the Peterborough Hospital by ambulance from Crotched Mountain because he has a seizure they could not control.

We were still under the impression until this last action by the “Life Skills Team” at H/D that they were not going to change their minds about moving Joel to their school. Our latest efforts were to jump over the “LST” and have the H/D School Board itself do the right thing and let Joel stay at the rehab center. I appeared, along with the Durham’s, several times before the board to try to persuade them that Joel was a medical problem not an educational problem and his well-being and safety were at stake.

They would have none of it and wanted no discussion of Joel’s situation in public.

This leads us to another aspect of this case. CNHT and the Durham’s have filed a Right to Know case against the H/D School Board to release minutes of a meeting they had about Joel. Our purpose was to put public exposure into play.

I filed the case August 1st and did not hear from the Hillsborough Superior Court until this Monday! Five weeks for a 91-A case?

Now we are scheduled to have a hearing September 18, at 9 am in Manchester. Should we win, which we should, all discussions with the Hillsboro/Deering school Board regarding Joel could be held within public view. The Durham’s have waived the provisions of RSA91-A which require discussion of any student be non-public. We have notarized statements that allow CNHT the right to review all of Joel’s records, a first for us.

Here is our argument to the school board:

Joel has severe medical problems combined with a fluctuating ability of his meds to control them.

He does not speak and has limited mobility.

Joel is entitled to State Catastrophic Aid which means the school is liable for only $38,600.00 of the total of much of the $127,000.00 his education cost last year. Medicaid covers half of any therapy he receives.

If the average student cost for H/D is $11,000.00 or so the school is only spending roughly $27,000.00 more on Joel than any other student, not $150,000.00 like most taxpayers there think when they see the budget at the Annual School District Meeting.

As per our Right to Know requests of the school we have found that they have to date spent $20,000.00 on legal fees involving this case! The Durham’s have no lawyer – they are working with CNHT. This could be much more expensive had counsel been retained by the Durham’s.

If this decision by the H/D “Life Skills team” is real and final we have a big win for everyone involved. Thanks to Joel’s parents for sticking with us through some tough times.