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Embattled Special Ed Director Osypuk Resigns

Deirdre Osypuk, who has been on paid leave of absence as special education director for Darien Public Schools, has resigned, the school district announced.

Darien Public Schools announced Thursday afternoon the resignation of controversial Director of Special Education Deirdre Osypuk, who has been on a paid leave of absence since early 2013.

Here is her letter of resignation:

January 21, 2014

Dear Dr. [Lynne] Pierson [Interim Superintendent of Schools],

I am resigning as Director of Special Education effective immediately.

As explained to you in my December 23, 2013 18-page response to the Gamm report, I inherited many problems. I am proud to have led improvements in student achievement, as evidenced by an increase in CMT vertical scale scores in Reading and Math; to have promoted the inclusion of special needs students into their neighborhood schools; and to have delivered a student-centered and fiscally responsible budget.

It was validating to read in the “Gamm Report” that the corrections I made to students’ IEP’s did “not reflect substantive service changes.” The corrections, such as correcting inaccurate dates, did not impact student services and were trivial in nature.  It was also validating to read in the Connecticut State Department of Education’s report, “Many staff members said they did not interpret the ‘unified front’ language in the training material to mean that a preapproval or predetermination of services was required.”

It has been a pleasure working with such a talented group of educators, students, parents, and administrators.

Sincerely,
Deirdre Osypuk

Editor's note: Darien Patch originally published a copy of Osypuk's response to the Gamm report, but for now we've deleted our public copy. The copy was provided by Osypuk's lawyer, not the school district, as originally reported.

lisbeth ehrlich January 27, 2014 at 12:13 AM
assuming that you are either a serious bond fan or into obscure british names with inexplicable pronunciations, your comment is antithetical and demeaning to parents who share the following common goals: educating our children with disabilities, doing so in a manner that balances their needs with fiscal responsibility and the needs of other children in the district (yes we do consider them and even have a few of our own) and the seriousness of the problem before us. we do not all agree on what is the best approach, however we do all agree that the system has failed educationally and fiscally; the two are not mutually exclusive. fewer snide comments and more willingness to seeing most parents as members of a community dedicated to educating all kids would be a good start. there is a time and place for levity. an amex tag line at this juncture demeans those of us interested in forwarding the conversation, particularly keeping in mind that for some of us the outcome of our kids education is not the difference between harvard and yale, but our kids ability to contribute to society in a meaningful way, no matter how small. many of us are financing this independently using the credit card ( or another) whose tag line you so easily toss about. please just try to understand why that can seem insensitive and we will have furthered the conversation more than you can know.
A Darien Parent January 27, 2014 at 03:17 AM
Yes- those children are part of this town. And from what I know about the "25"- these are children with very special needs. What was later found out was that children that were not that badly off but still had certain needs were also targeted. The fact that Darien was crushed and unable to defend themselves speaks volumes.
Another Darien Parent January 27, 2014 at 05:43 AM
I actually like where thread is leading. There seems to be a groundswell of support for OUR CHILDREN and for moving forward in an effective and thorough manner to fix our system. That the last few posts have eliminated the rebel yell of targeting individuals like Osypuk, Falcone, etc. is positive. We know what were the upshots of the reports and investigations, now let's move forward and seriously consider what we have learned recently. In other words, investigate the allegations that have come to light via Dr. Osypuk's response. I can't believe that any parent in our community would want unfair treatment and expenditure to have occurred in the past or going forward. I can't believe that anyone would be ok with the district spending tax dollars on services and transportation, legal representation, etc. needlessly. I would be troubled if parents who vacation outside of the town/state were receiving town funded dispensation for the services their child was receiving - out of district - simply because they chose to vacation elsewhere. This doesn't pass initial muster and should be investigated. Osypuk , Falcone, LW, etc... they are all gone now and we must apply the same diligence to these recent allegations as we did for the initial investigation. I am sure all will agree as this would be the most effective path forward for our town and children. This would not be a certain faction trying to extend the investigation "until we get the result we want," but the responsible course of action that would lead to closure and a comprehensive roadmap forward.
John Sini January 27, 2014 at 05:55 AM
Deb, exactly who's "whining?" I'd be happy to share an email from Mrs. Gamm with you that outlines the fact that she did not have time to expand her investigation into previous budget years. This means that none of these recent serious allegations have been ever been looked into by the district. I'm simply requesting that our officials confirm two items: 1. Was there a policy in place that allowed favoritism to a select group of parents? 2. If there was favoritism, who received it and were there any reciprocal transactions, payoffs, etc. between the former director and those parents that received these enhanced services for their children -- i.e, were any laws broken? As Vickie said, "it's time for everyone to be held accountable." Part of the cleansing and healing process should include a purging of all the alleged the wrongdoers -- not just those who failed our children over the last 12 months.
lisbeth ehrlich January 27, 2014 at 07:43 AM
Mr Sini, as much as i would love to hear the answers to your questions, i find it hard to believe we will find a "policy" or direct payments to administration. however cronyism and favortisim, which i beilieve ( and this is only my perception from the samll part of the world i know) did exist. a perfect example would be dr judith mccarty. i wrote letter to the times years ago. she was hired to do "neuropsychological evaluations" on students despite lacking the credintials to do so. (i was told by administration that this was a typo on the invoicing, they were just evaluations) i FOIAd her invoices and contracts. she started work and receiving payments before her contract was in force. she charged more for these "neuropsychs" than top experts in the field like Dr. Michael Powers and the Yale child study center despite spending less time with the students, and her invoices were rife with errors - simple math hours times rate- yet they were still paid. so how did this happen? why was there no hue and cry when i brought this public to the papers in 2007? if i found this on a one off shot, what would a true investigation turn up? and do we have the resources to go through all the contracts and invoices? how do we check to determine connections to administration, not all of which are bad? not trying to throw up a wall, just trying to illustrate the enormity of the problem at hand.
Another Darien Parent January 27, 2014 at 07:54 AM
Great post and example, L.E. The potential enormity of the problem should drive our motivation and action. Your one off research seems to have borne fruit. Can you imagine what we might find - and leverage to heal our community- if we had but a portion of the resources dedicated to the investigation of a year and a half point in time?
John Sini January 27, 2014 at 08:59 AM
The Darien Times, which has been widely viewed as no friend of the administration and/or elected officials during this fiasco, was onto something last September when it called for an in-depth audit of expenditures. http://www.darientimes.com/23438/editorial-finances/ Now is the time.
Darien Taxpayer January 27, 2014 at 09:13 AM
LE. Your story is a perfect example of problems that Doctor Osypuk was addressing. We have scarce resources that are being wasted and divided inequitably. Now we have no director and no prospect of hiring anyone competent as a result of the way we have treated Dr Osypuk. Talk of winning and loosing is not really helpful but if anyone is winning, it's the lawyers.
A Darien Parent January 27, 2014 at 09:46 AM
Very interesting comments on the subject matter. However, students with very special needs cannot be compared to the typical student in regular education. I don't have a child in a wheelchair that requires feeding tubes- but it is only logical to expect that these students are going to incur higher cost to the school system then students in regular education. That is the reality of the situation and these higher costs should be expected by the whole community- and if that is not enough for some folks- it is the law, period. As for a forensic town audit on the BOE and the BOF- I seriously doubt those folks would not fight that tooth and nail. It is obvious there are many problems with these 2 groups. I would welcome a true forensic town audit and see what has been done with town money- I am guessing it would be quite ugly. Both groups are arrogant and act like they do not have to answer for their actions. If this was not the case then the special ed fiasco would not have played out as it did. Think about it- the 25 parents wrote to the BOE 3 times without getting a response. They thought nothing of deleting important documents and did not provide documents under the freedom of information act. That is unreal and all it tells me is that these folks thought they were untouchable. How wrong they were. Quite frankly, the people of Darien, all the people should be angry because the end result is a price tag of over $1 million (and rising) and this town now has a black eye. The idea of targeting the weakest among us to save money is sickening. And once again- I say this as a parent who does not have a child with such special needs.
lisbeth ehrlich January 27, 2014 at 09:50 AM
for the record, i do believe that what occurred while osypuk and falcone were multiple illegal acts that resulted in the direct harm of children, and the effected children deserve remedy and relief. that said, problems in sped have been ongoing prior to either of them taking the reigns so i believe all allegations should be fully investigated. everybody has a story, and somewhere in here lies the truth. being willing to listen and believing everything you hear are two very different things.
lisbeth ehrlich January 27, 2014 at 10:05 AM
a darien parent - agreed but to add, of that million dollars very little has trickled down to the kids yet. most of that has been spent on investigating and evaluating the problems, planning a way forward plus damage control. some times a fresh start is needed. new lawyers new auditors a new perspective. and judging from the small portion of billing i have personally reviewed, a new system for paying and tracking invoicing needs to be implemented. it could be as simple as they are understaffed or that they dont have a concrete policy or procedure for processing expenses and retention of records, but enough already.
singyn smithe January 27, 2014 at 10:19 AM
Well L.E. for the record I agree with second half of your post. There are two sides to every story and one needs to listen and research both sides to make an informed decision about the matter. If one thinks by dismissing Dr Osypuk and the others that the problem is solved one is sadly mistaken. If you really want change then John is correct an in depth audit is a good idea and a darien taxpayer is correct that we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss Dr Osypuks response as "an 18 page manifesto joke" and maybe her allegations should be looked into and the documentation in support of said claims. Will that occur? Doubtful based upon what I have read. So all should be well in darien from here forward back to the good old days where no one was the wiser and all ran smoothly as long as no one said the word No.
A Darien Parent January 27, 2014 at 10:38 AM
lisbeth- I think more of the million dollars has trickled down to students in upgraded IEP's and compensatory damages. Sad to say, i think that means an independent advocate per student (not very cost effective) and the decisions for the student are taken out of the schools hands (also, not cost effective and very individualized). I am sorry but this a nothing more than an expensive band aid. I agree with you that they are most likely understaffed or staffed with unqualified people. But here is a significant issue that I have heard from a few parents (not the 25) that will take tons of cash and time to fix. If a student fell behind in reading for example and they are in 7th grade with the skills of a 3rd grader- do you know what it will take to resolve that problem? First you have to ask yourself why wasn't this issue looked at in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade and what it would take to resolve the problem BACK THEN. Now you have a very serious problem and a problem that is not cheap to fix, if it can be fixed. In addition, those kids with very special needs- I don't think their services and service needs are held back and questioned anymore. As for billing and invoices- in my opinion that should be outsourced and independently audited- both the BOE and the BOF have proven neither is trustworthy and look at the money as theirs.
A Darien Parent January 27, 2014 at 10:45 AM
Gee Singyn- you sure that you are not Porter Gladstone?
singyn smithe January 27, 2014 at 10:47 AM
Of that I am sure.
Darien Taxpayer January 27, 2014 at 10:57 AM
I'm sorry, but there are 2 sides to this story. Parents can freely tell their side but Dr Osypuk's letter is the first time we are hearing the other side, but only part of it. She cannot, by law, respond to specific cases. The system was broken under Robin Pavia, the proof of that lies in a full disclosure of the cases of those 5-6 families that were her favorites but that, unfortunately, is not possible. Dr Osypuk took steps to fix these problems.... mistakes were made but now we have an even larger mess. I really hope we can come up with a solution, but I suspect that these 5-6 families will play a large part in picking the new SPED director. The climate has become so poisonous, who would want to step in and try to fix this?
Vickie Riccardo January 27, 2014 at 12:34 PM
John, please consider the tone of your your 5:55 a.m. post. Words associated with ethic cleansing certainly make me uncomfortable, and cloud a serious discussion of a hot-button issue. My thoughts: Right now, parents, the Administration and Town officials need to focus on providing appropriate services to children who are currently receiving special education, and on re-building the system for the future. We know things were managed badly. Now our leaders need to be accountable for fixing the problems. Perhaps the BOF, BOE and RTM should include a "Special Education Update" item on every meeting agenda. Yes, even during budget season. After all Special Education will be casting a long shadow over spending decisions for the coming year and many thereafter, and these bodies make the spending decisions that affect all of us. Deb Ann's comment is on target. She wrote: "What we have to do is create a system that mitigates the risk of favoritism or influence so all children get excellent special education services. From everything I have read to date, that appears to be the goal. And that goal will result in more cost effective education." I say: Look ahead. We can't undo the past. We can try not to repeat it. If we need to "purge" anything, it is the tendency to DELAY.
A Darien Parent January 27, 2014 at 12:49 PM
Darien Taxpayer- 2 sides to this story? Do you have a child in special ed? Do you have a child with severe needs? Or would your solution be to get rid of any children that are not just simply perfect. BTW- if you read her 18 page response- she did in fact discuss specific cases brought up by Gamm and her explanations were simply passing the buck. One variable is undeniable- problems with IEP's were systemic and not "clerical errors" as she claimed- unless you think all those parents are lying and your precious Osypuk was really beaten up by the big bad Darien special ed parents. I was involved in PPT's and you could see the "school wall" where only 1 voice would speak. And I was there on that rainy night where over 100 parents showed up and heard the various horror stories. Osypuk was brought in to cut costs at the expense of children. Robin Pavia might not have been a bargain, but obviously she could be worked with. The 25 parents did not have to go scorched earth even if they had issues. And BTW- you have to wonder why Darien so wanted to outplace certain students (under Pavia) instead of designing in house programs. Back to Osypuk- her policies broke the law- period. The documents were overwhelming proving this. Dr. Bookbinder's email to Falcone detailed it even further. The state agreed that violations occurred should concern you. The fact that Falcone erased anything that Osypuk did is more proof. And the fact that Darien did nothing more than eat crow during this whole fiasco should finalize it. If you really think 5 or 6 families of special ed children would have that much power in a town like Darien, Ct makes me question if you are a Darien Taxpayer.
Darien Taxpayer January 27, 2014 at 01:46 PM
A Darien Parent: I have been a taxpayer in Darien for decades, I have 2 children in our schools though not Special Ed. I can't image the difficulties parents of special needs kids face and I truly wish you and all parents with special needs the best. That said, I know plenty about PPTs and know how they used to work under Robin Pavia. Dr Osypuk's letter came as no surprise at all, it was just the first time that side came out. With all due respect, you have knowledge of your case only. There were plenty of kids getting services they did not need just because their parents threatened legal action while other kids did not get the services they needed. Dr Osypuk tried to stop this practice. Today, the sad truth is that, once again, the loudest voices are getting all the services regardless of need while kids with more need are being overlooked. Please see below for an old post to understand why you got the "School Wall" and why our educators have less and less time with kids who desperately need them... this was the case under Pavia, Osypuk and even more so today: ctyankee November 08, 2013 at 10:01 AM This note is for the parents of children with special needs that actually work with their teachers rather than against them. My wife is a Speech Pathologist in another town. Her biggest problems in helping the children are (1) their parents (2) the school administrators. What happens is that the parents that lawyer-up or work with a so-called "advocate" steal time and resources thus disadvantaging your child. Rather than actually working with your child, the speech and language pathologist is writing yet another report (of many) or spending unnecessary and an unfair amount of time with certain students because scared administrators agreed to it so they wouldn't face yet another lawsuit. One mother insisted that it was imperative that she be sent a daily (not weekly, not monthly) written activity report of her child's day. When it became clear that the family wasn't even reading these daily reports the administration refused to address the deep-pocket parents. Thus a teacher is writing a daily report for one (1) child that is a complete waste of his or her time and more importantly takes time away from actually working with children. So ... any presumption that a non-typical child is getting an equal and fair amount of special needs attention during school ... well, that's a joke. Just like pretending that some "advocate" is advocating anything more than putting your child ahead of another and your money in his pocket.
A Darien Parent January 27, 2014 at 02:21 PM
Taxpayer- Im sorry to tell you but besides being aware of what is going on with my child- i also became aware with what other parents have dealt with. As i said, I was at the meeting on that rainy night and the stories were horrible. It was also obvious that the problem was systemic. In my case, we were not looking for a daily report or anything over the top. But dealing with the wall and then seeing what was written in the IEP was pure bunk. We tried and tried to work with the system but it became obvious that a different tactic was needed- so yes, I lawyered up, got an advocate, and was educated on what was legal and right and the lies (yes, bold face lies) that the school system was telling us. The end result was a clear legal victory, money out of Darien, and my child suffered- sorry but I see that as a loss. As for the 25 parents- why wasn't 1 of their 3 messages returned? Why were documents not provided under the freedom of info act? Why did those documents have crystal clear violations? And why did the BOE and BOF get the hell beaten out of them last year? There is alot more- but that should speak volumes of what certain parents had to deal with. And BTW- if you think i enjoy my child being in special ed you are sadly mistaken. What I have seen is if certain issues were dealt with years ago- the problem would not have magnified to where it is now. Honestly, if issues were dealt with when they should have been my guess is my child would have been out of special ed at the latest 2 years ago.I waited years before going the legal route until it was obvious i did not have a choice and i have to say im kicking myself for waiting. Concerning Osypuk- her 18 page letter is a joke and it is quite clear she is trying to save her reputation. Documents she wrote broke federal and state laws. The resignations and town actions had everything to do with this- or do you honestly think she did not lawyer up at the start if there was a chance that she could fight back (and for that matter the BOE could fight back)? This was a 1 sided fight because the other side had nothing- do you honestly think they expected those documents would be made public? To sum it up, I was no fan of Pavia for many reasons but Osypuk was a horror.
lisbeth ehrlich January 27, 2014 at 03:27 PM
Before we start handing out the torches and pitchforks, is anyone wondering about the timing of the release of this information? Right before the Sped budget discussion? In the end, as much as I would also like to change the past, and I am speaking as the parent of a kid who for years did not get the services he needed, I think we need to concentrate on moving forward in a productive way, fix what was broken, improve where we can and help these kids get back where they should be. Unfortunately no amount of investigating or money can give these kids what they lost which is time an opportunity. We can make sure they get everything they need going forward. Let's not drop the ball just as we were starting to move forward. Come out and hear about the changes Mr. Verre would like to effect and support the means and the method to make it happen. If you have spare time over the summer investigate to your hearts content, but dont slow down getting these kids what they need.
singyn smithe January 27, 2014 at 08:46 PM
Too late seems the torches pitchforks and stakes were already handed out at that secret meeting on that oh so stormy rainy night. If this truly sad tale weren't actually happening I'd think I was reading a script to a movie. Its got everything ,money,power ,corruption , divas , drs , lawyers and secret meetings in a storm. Unreal. Its your house darien clean it up yourselves if not for the truth now do it for your ALL your kids now and in the future.
Darien Taxpayer January 28, 2014 at 09:04 AM
I agree, the pitchforks are out. Here's why Dr O's letter should not be ignored: some of the worst offenders under the Pavia years are now leading the search for a new Superintendent and Special Ed director. I fear we are going back to the days of cronyism where the system worked for a few but not the vast majority of Darien's kids. Darien patch, Darien times.... Do a little digging, I'm begging you.
A Darien Parent January 28, 2014 at 01:04 PM
Taxpayer- !st i would like to apologize to you based on the tone of my messages- it is quite clear we are all looking for what is best to resolve this problem long term. But i do have a question for you- why do you think a few parents would have the mandate and power to determine who gets hired for such senior roles? They can attend the BOE meetings where such issues are discussed and give input on what qualities should be looked for in candidates but the ultimate authority is the BOE. Put it this way- if these parents had such power, do you think Darien would have hired Osypuk out of Bloomfield with the record she had there?
Darien Taxpayer January 28, 2014 at 01:49 PM
No need to apologize, we are all trying to make the system better for everyone. It may surprise you know that I think we, as taxpayers, can and should spend more money on education in general and on special ed in particular. My problem is with how resources are allocated. As for the power these parents have... I would just point to the number of people who have been suspended, forced out or just found other jobs as a result of their petition to the state. There are 5-10 parents who started this action, talked a few more people to sign the petition and now, many of them are on the advisory comity to pick the new director. I just feel that people who benefited from a corrupt system under Robin Pavia should not have ANY input into the new director. Talk about conflict of interest... not as bad as picking a close family friend as Special Ed Director I admit. As for Dr Osypuk's record in Bloomfield, forgive me if I don't take David DesRoches, word for it.... He is pretty much Andrew Feinstein's mouthpiece.
singyn smithe January 31, 2014 at 10:59 PM
Could someone kindly explain how David DesRoches calls himself a journalist. His impartial reporting aatounds , doesn't it? As for Feinstein, well his amateur night YouTube performance speaks for his character and speaks volumes.
Sam February 01, 2014 at 09:17 AM
Lets give David DesRoches a chance. I will ask you to research and write a piece on the following: 1. Why does CT one of the smallest state have the highest Mediation and Due Process in the whole Country. Heres an example take the whole mid west due process cases and mediation times 10 and you still have CT leading the way. 2. Why does it cost 60,000 to 100,000 for a due process case, and 18,000 - 20,000 for mediation each for the districts schools attorney and parents attorney. 3. Why is it in Long Island, Westchester County one of the highest cost of living in the world Due process and Mediation is only a fraction of the cost. 4. Why aren't Attorneys and Advocates for parents utilizing complaint procedure which is free and very effective. 5. In this particular case why did the attorney threaten to have the state take over special education services in Darien? the state has mandated over the years to lower the cost and identification of Special Education students. This threat made by the special education attorney would have only helped the BOE and BOF lower cost and punish the special education student. 6. CPAC, FAVOR all offer free advocacy services to parents. Please write article so parents are aware that there is no need spend your life savings. 7. I'm no fan of Dr. Osypuk but if parents are taking advantage of Special Education services by asking for transportation during the holiday or ESY while they are out of the country This needs to be investigated and easy to do. It's called prior written notice the IEP list actions proposed and actions refused are on page 4 of the IEP. 8. Why are teachers afraid to speak up at PPTs is it because of the litigation on both sides. 9. Where were these avengers when Bridgeport Board of Education decided to unilaterally bring back ever student from outplacement without a PPT or a due process. And why are 20 children and six adults dead in Newtown when the whole state knew that Newtown Special Education was corrupt. The way I see it is simple the only people that are wining are the district attorneys and the parent attorneys they have a become cash cows. This is all money that could have gone directly to students services.
Darien Taxpayer February 01, 2014 at 09:58 AM
Sam, some great points, let's hope the patch leaves them up. I believe your comments were censored last time you posted. You are right, teachers are afraid to speak up and Apparently the patch is afraid of litigation also. My point is that it's hard to have a debate when there can't be an examination of the details of specific cases.
singyn smithe February 01, 2014 at 10:02 AM
I agree and yes I believe same last posts were removed for whatever reason. And taxpayer you are correct cant be any true debate without the drtsuks and specific facts.
Sam February 01, 2014 at 11:10 AM
I spent my whole life savings on these creeps. The whole special education system in Connecticut is completely broken.. And I truly have little faith that it will ever be fixed. I have a child with severe needs I lost me job due attending to my child's needs. My whole life savings went to advocates, attorney, evaluations and for what nothing - nothing to show just a fractured relationship with the very people I need to trust to help my child. Students, parents and teachers are the looser in this. You have shady attorney telling parents that the school district are evil, evil people they break all the laws just for the fun of watching your child suffer. And then they have the district attorneys telling teachers that these parents are monsters who want to destroy your life, take your home and kill your pets. The state of Connecticut needs to stop using IDEA funds to pay for litigation.

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