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Board OK's advisory panel for special education

The Medford School Board Monday voted in favor of creating a board advisory committee to study special education services in the district.

The board wrestled with the decision during a work session before its meeting, arguing over how the committee would operate and whether it would conflict with a newly formed parent-outreach program.

Ultimately, the board voted, 5-1, in favor of creating the advisory committee, which may draw in community experts and parents to serve alongside three board members. Board member Sally Killen voted against the committee, and member Marlene Yesquen was not at the meeting.

Killen said she spoke with several parents of special education students between the work session and subsequent board meeting, and parents expressed concern over the potential committee and how it might work with the new parent-outreach program.

During the work session, Tania Tong, Medford schools' supervisor of special education, gave feedback about the outreach program, which met for the first time Jan. 24.

Tong met with parents of special education students, two district principals and three special education providers to formulate a plan to improve communication between parents of special education students and district staff.

"There's a lot of different ways to have that two-way communication," said Tong.

Tong questioned how a board advisory committee would work alongside her parent-outreach program.

"I would wonder how they would interplay with each other," said Tong.

Board members applauded Tong's work to create the program, but some also insisted that a board advisory committee would serve an additional purpose.

"I think this is so important," said Board Chairwoman Paulie Brading. "These children deserve the best we can give them as a school board."

Brading said that while the parent-outreach program would serve a valuable function, a board advisory committee could focus on larger-picture policy making and go beyond strengthening parent-and-district communication.

"When we join forces, that's how outreach can really happen, and we erase barriers for learning," Brading said.

Tong suggested the board allow time for the parent-outreach program to develop before it undertakes its own committee.

"Give me a few months, or give me a school year," said Tong.

The board finally voted in favor of creating the advisory committee, deciding that Brading would appoint three board members and that the details of how the committee will operate will be decided at a later meeting.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.