DESE to review Westfield Special Education department

Debra Ecker, interim administrator for special education and student services. (SUBMITTED PHOTO/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

WESTFIELD – During the week of March 15, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will conduct a scheduled review of Westfield Public School’s special education services.

Interim Special Education Administrator Debra Ecker said the review began last winter under former administrator Martha Von Mering, when the district did a self assessment of the compliance areas under review. The review team was supposed to come for a site visit last spring, but cancelled due to the pandemic.

The Tiered Focus Monitoring Review, as it is called, is conducted every three years. Areas of review related to special education include student assessments, determination of eligibility, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team process, and IEP development and implementation. Areas of review related to civil rights include bullying, student discipline, physical restraint and equal access to school programs for all students.

Ecker said the department had an orientation in January, 2021. In February, Public School Monitoring Chairperson Amy Krukonis met with the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee to discuss involving parents in the process. SEPAC then sent out parent surveys, asking them questions on special education programming and supports. Survey results will contribute to the development of a report.

Ecker said she has also been mentioning the review in monthly communications to parents. “We want all families to know about this and give as much input as possible,” she said, adding, “I feel like Westifled has done a pretty good job trying to keep families informed. We’re trying our best.”

Parents and other individuals may call Krukonis at (413) 314-6702 to request a telephone interview. If an individual requires an accommodation, such as translation, to participate in an interview, the department will make the necessary arrangements.

During the week of March 15, DESE will conduct an onsite visit which will involve reviews of records and interviewing families, staff and administration. They will also look at various aspects of the focus areas, 

Sixty days after the visit, Krukonis will provide a report with information about areas in which WPS meets or exceeds regulatory requirements and areas in which the district requires assistance to correct or improve practices. The public will be able to access the report at

“While this is a time consuming process, we appreciate the opportunity to engage in DESE’s Tier Focused Monitoring Review in order to enhance our practices and procedures to improve student outcomes,” said Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski.

Ecker said the COVID-19 shutdown has definitely been a trial by fire in her first year of leadership. “I really like Westfield. I feel supported here, and everybody is working really hard together.” She said for students on IEPs, it is a harder adjustment, but she’s grateful the district is able to bring in as many students as they can in person.

“Our special education teachers have risen to the occasion with remote learning, as have our therapists. There are always a few students it will be more challenging for. The sooner we can get everybody back the better,” Ecker said..

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