Parent asks for special education provisions in Burr and Burton contract
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | May 01,2013
MANCHESTER — The Manchester School Board was asked by the parent of a Burr and Burton Academy student Monday to change its contract with Burr and Burton to guarantee certain accommodations for special education students would be met.
Christina Rainville, of Manchester, said she was familiar with a recent incident in which she claimed an accommodation for a student, that had been recommended by a special education team, was not met. Rainville said she could not provide much detail because she wanted to protect the student’s privacy.
However, Rainville said she looked into the laws that govern special education for independent schools in Vermont and came to believe the rights of those students are not sufficiently protected. She told the School Board members that Manchester could protect the rights of its own students by adding some conditions to the contract.
Rainville, who is an attorney, submitted proposed language to the School Board to be added to what is called the “sending contract.”
Manchester has no public high school but there is a contract between the school board and Burr and Burton that allows all Manchester students to attend the school as long as voters approve its tuition rate. Burr and Burton is an independent high school that has 11 sending towns including Dorset and Sunderland.
The provisions that Rainville suggested included a requirement that Burr and Burton provide a “complete and detailed accounting of its use of special education money” every year and agree to either return any unspent special education funding or apply it to the following year’s special education budget.
Rainville also asked the School Board to have Burr and Burton commit to complying with a student’s individualized education plan, or IEP, which is the plan for students performing below grade level and the 504 plan, which is the plan for students who with accommodations and services can succeed at grade level.
“Burr and Burton should be complying with all of these things anyway. They’re taking our money. They’re agreeing to educate our special ed kids. Having them agree to it in writing costs them nothing,” she said.
According to Rainville, the contract would be important because of a court ruling, involving the St. Johnsbury Academy, which blocks students from appealing an independent school’s decision regarding the student’s education process. If the contract is changed, students would be able to appeal decisions through an inexpensive, confidential process.
Without the provisions, Rainville said as a practical matter, students would only have the option to leave the school rather than face an expensive process that offered no privacy. She also warned the School Board members that the Manchester school district could be sued if it didn’t offer the proper protections.
School Board members asked no questions and offered no comments at the end of Rainville’s presentation Monday.
Rainville and her husband, Peter Greenberg, have raised questions about Burr and Burton, its financial records and its special education services at recent public meetings. Greenberg spoke at an earlier Manchester School Board meeting in April and Rainville spoke at the town’s school floor meeting in March.
While Rainville is a prosecutor in the Bennington County state’s attorney’s office, she has said at each of the public meetings that she was speaking as a parent and resident and not as a public official.