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Jun 10, 2015 1:05 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Killorans Threaten Legal Action Against Remsenburg-Speonk School District

Remsenburg-Speonk School Board President Cecilia Spellman-Frey and Superintendent Ronald Masera during Monday night's board of education meeting. KYLE CAMPBELL
Jun 10, 2015 1:05 PM

The parents of a 12-year-old boy with Down syndrome are considering a lawsuit targeting the Remsenburg-Speonk School District over what they’ve called an improper change to their son’s educational path, one that won’t allow him to attend Westhampton Beach schools in September.

Remsenburg residents Christian and Terrie Killoran are alleging that the Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School’s committee on special education changed their son Aiden’s individualized education program, or IEP, earlier this school year without providing an explanation. The Killorans believe the shift will negatively impact their son’s future education, as it will force him to attend a different school than his peers.

The Killorans have a preliminary conference with district officials scheduled for Wednesday, June 17, at the elementary school. Mr. Killoran, who owns a law firm in East Moriches, said he hopes he and the district can reach an agreement. If a settlement cannot be hashed out in the private meeting, Mr. Killoran said the issue will be taken up in court.

The special education committee’s change to Aiden’s IEP calls for him to be placed in a specialized program, rather than an integrated classroom setting as had been the recommendation of an earlier IEP. Such a special program is not currently offered at either the middle or high school in Westhampton Beach. Because of this, Aiden, who is entering the seventh grade in September, will have to continue his education in the Eastport South Manor School District, which offers the “8-1-1 environment” aimed at helping alternately assessed students.

The Killorans say this change will be detrimental to their son because it will separate him from his elementary school peers who have embraced him and because it removes him from the community in which he has grown up.

“We stand in a situation where we have to sue the school district simply to gain integration for our son into Westhampton [Beach schools],” Mr. Killoran said while addressing the Remsenburg-Speonk School Board Monday night. “This is a summation of what my family’s experience has been here in Remsenburg, and I become literally physically ill when I think that this administration takes any credit for Aiden’s progress.”

Bolstered by a group of roughly 20 supporters who staged a protest outside the school prior to the Monday night’s meeting, Mr. Killoran asked the board to direct the special education committee to reevaluate Aiden’s case and implored them to answer questions about why the IEP was changed in the first place.

School Board President Cecilia Spellman-Frey and other board members addressed some of the issues raised by Mr. Killoran and his supporters, but declined to get into the specifics of Aiden’s case, citing advice from district lawyers that doing so would violate Aiden’s rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA.

Mr. Killoran criticized Remsenburg-Speonk Superintendent Ronald Masera and Jan Achilich, the district’s special education director, for their handling of alternately assessed students. He said Dr. Masera, who also serves as the single-school district’s principal, sat in on Aiden’s evaluation hearings despite the Killorans’s request that he recuse himself.

“Obviously, he has an effect on [the committee’s] independent judgment inherently by simply being in the room,” Mr. Killoran said of Dr. Masera during a phone interview on Tuesday. “Under the CSE regulations, it states that the district can determine an eligible person to sit in on a hearing. Well, he is the district, so he’s evaluating his own eligibility to sit on a committee—which is ridiculous.”

When asked about the issue, Dr. Masera said he sits on no committee and only joins special education committee proceedings when invited to do so.

Ms. Frey spoke in defense of both Dr. Masera and Ms. Achilich, dispelling the notion that they were working in collusion to keep Remsenburg-Speonk students out of Westhampton Beach schools.

“First of all, in the years that I’ve been here with the Board of Education, I’ve known Jan Achilich, I’ve known Dr. Masera as well, and at no time do I feel they didn’t have the best interest of the children at heart,” she said before being interrupted by applause from the more than 30 district teachers in attendance who were wearing personalized Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School baseball jerseys. “They are professionals. I’ve seen them attacked personally, and it disheartens me to think it could come to that, personal attacks.”

Ms. Achilich is retiring at the end of the year. During Monday night’s meeting, the School Board voted to create the position of assistant principal and hired Adrienne Cirone to fill that spot at a salary of $75,000. Dr. Masera said one of Ms. Cirone’s primary responsibilities will be handling special education.

Mr. Killoran also criticized the district for not responding to a Freedom of Information request that he and his wife submitted last month and seeks its census report on special needs children. Mr. Killoran said he submitted a similar request to the Westhampton Beach School District and received a response within days.

Ms. Frey said the district has until Monday, June 22, to provide the information, but Mr. Killoran said the 20-business-day deadline has already expired, and that the district is trying to delay the process as long as it can.

“We do not control other school districts and how quickly they respond to FOIL requests,” Ms. Frey said. “As far as the FOIL request presented to our school, we’re working as quickly as we can. There are a lot of documents that have to be redacted because of the fear of violating other children’s FERPA rights.”

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Remsenburg-Speonk School District is going to lose this fight-they have been in the wrong since day one.
By westhamptonboy (227), Westhampton on Jun 10, 15 2:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
Despite not being given any answers, my son's fight continues to draw interest from various investigative parties. The pressure will build, the questions will continue, the support of the community will continue to grow and be conveyed and eventually the Districts, both RSUFSD and WHB, will be forced to address their shameful legacies. I've repeatedly invited both Districts to be a partner in building a new future that strives to create a world class education for ALL students, but they continue ...more
By Sleeping Giant (20), Southampton on Jun 10, 15 5:55 PM
why not let the student continue on the best method available to him? Part of his daily progress dependsa on the fact he has his friends and classmates in his life. seems to me that the cost per spec ed student might be a factor but he should be in the best environment suited for him and that clearly mean he stays with his current school. Why put the child through a change in his regular school function? Money maybe? Hope the parents win. My som at age 5 went to kind had the worst teacher, ...more
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Jun 10, 15 6:47 PM
2 members liked this comment
Isn't it ultimately up to Westhampton school on who they accept and why? I don't know the inner workings of special education, so how does Remsenburg dictate or influence Westhampton's decision? Are there state or Federal guidelines that need to be adhered to? I'm trying to connect what is right and ethical to the legal aspects of this.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jun 10, 15 9:47 PM
2 members liked this comment
It's up to Remsenburg to decide his IEP (individualized education plan). If Westhampton doesn't provide the services that Remsenburg puts on the IEP, then it's up to Remsenburg to find another location for him, which they did. Their job is to place him in the environment that the special ed committee decides is the best place for Aiden to learn. The parents are more concerned that the overall environment will be right for their child and their family, that their child will be well adjusted, and ...more
By lamm (304), Southampton on Jun 11, 15 7:30 PM
Thank you.
So Remsenburg school is not negligent then? That's the part that I find confusing. It seems that this is more an issue of ethical right and wrong, and less an issue of the school not doing what it is supposed to do. Do I have that right?
I think the Killoran family has a valid point about wanting their son to stay with his pears, but do they have a legal case against either school is the issue.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jun 12, 15 8:16 AM
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jun 12, 15 8:27 AM
Remsenburg is yet another school like Tuckahoe that needs to be shut down. The school serves the purpose of paying teachers very high salaries with mediocre results at best. How dare a wasteful district, and a clueless school board take away anyone's right to an education. Aidan deserves at least a chance to see how he responds in WHB. That probably won't happen, because another bunch of self righteous morons want to control a families right to give their son an education!
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jun 10, 15 9:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
But why would it matter to Remsenburg school where Aiden goes? They pay the tuition regardless, right? Why wouldn't they just make Westhampton the bad guys? Is this a case of Remsenburg influencing Westhampton, or Westhampton making Remsenburg play ball?
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jun 10, 15 10:20 PM
Hysterical Chief! We tried to close down Tuckahoe and merge, you fought it tooth and nail, possibly had a good part in it not going through with your non stop posts against it. Do Tuckahoe and Remsenburg just close and the kids don't go to school???
By lamm (304), Southampton on Jun 11, 15 7:20 PM
Every absurdity has a champion to defend it. Christian and his family will open doors for future families when they succeed.

By Michael Tessitore (76), East Quogue, New York on Jun 10, 15 10:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
Good luck, Killoran family. Aiden is lucky to have strong parents fighting for his best interests.
By Shinnecock Hills family (59), Southampton on Jun 10, 15 11:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
cupsogue is wrong this time-
By westhamptonboy (227), Westhampton on Jun 11, 15 12:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
cupsogue is NEVER wrong. Just ask him. Though he may be away on a super secret special assignment as a Warrant Officer in the US Army.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Jun 17, 15 12:13 AM
I was more disruptive than anyone in my school, accept for one of my friends Jason. He was awarded "class clown".
By Michael Tessitore (76), East Quogue, New York on Jun 11, 15 9:16 PM
1 member liked this comment
It's tough budgeting school funding, not only for special needs kids but for average students. The fact is that we follow an industrial age construct of mass education that adheres to the 19th century pattern of processing children in blocks for the sake of efficiency and economy. It works OK for most kids but not for many. This child is one for which it is, obviously, inadequate. For budgetary reasons, Westhampton Beach wants to turf him out to a regional facility that provides for special ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 12, 15 1:02 AM
The financial analysis would actually surprise you. When you outsource a child, you need to pay the receiving District tuition. Notably, this tuition also involves "profit", whereas educating the children internally simply involves covering cost. In addition, you have the transportation cost involved with the outsourcing. Finally, if the District was to commit to a program, as you integrate children, economies of scale begin to come into play, therein reducing the per pupil cost. The District wants ...more
By Sleeping Giant (20), Southampton on Jun 14, 15 1:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
Receiving districts (Southampton & Westhampton) get a price for regular ed and a separate price for special ed. Special ed can be as severe as a child with downs syndrome or a child who receives even the smallest amount of services (reading help). The differences in tuition charged is astounding - somewhere around $24000 for regular and $60000 for any child receiving any services. Westhampton does not accommodate the children with more serious needs because it's not economically advantageous ...more
By lamm (304), Southampton on Jun 16, 15 10:55 PM
... nonsense, programs have been established for children with special needs in surrounding districts. It is not about "family and friends" , just as it is not about family and friends for students without special needs. It is about providing appropriate educational material and life skills for these students, thus utilizing and maximizing shared services and resources for their specific educational benefit. Ideally, every district should be able to offer such programs, but it is not economically ...more
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jun 18, 15 2:19 PM
1 member liked this comment