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School districts consider
countywide alliance
North County Times
February 9, 2005

Local education officials have
proposed forming a countywide
alliance that would help school
districts defend themselves in
some special-education battles that
can cost districts hundreds of
thousands of dollars in legal fees
and special services.

The alliance, similar to one Orange
County school districts formed last
fall, would review special-education
disputes between districts and
parents and help cover legal costs
in cases that could set a precedent
for what is required of school

Joe Schwartzberg proposed
the idea and serves as director
of the North Coastal
Consortium for Special
Education, which represents 14
local districts.

He said districts usually settle
special-education lawsuits because
they're too costly to fight, even
when the district has a strong case.

"We're not trying to create a war
chest," Schwartzberg said, adding
that most legal disputes would still
be the responsibility of individual
districts. "This is a very principled
approach to trying to make more
informed decisions."

Under Schwartzberg's proposal,
districts in the county would
contribute 50 cents for each
student in their schools, which he
estimates would give the alliance
$222,500 to work with annually.
Along with helping offset legal
costs, the money could be used for
training and other programs in
cases where rulings came in
against the districts.

Although joining the coalition would
require a formal vote by each of
the county's 42 school boards,
Schwartzberg said more than half
of the districts have already
expressed their interest.

Some parents, special education
attorneys and advocates may not
take kindly to the idea, however.

Michael Cochrane, an attorney
who has handled several
special-education complaints
against school districts in the
county, said parents may feel
that the districts are trying to
gang up against them.

"My concern is that this
portends a more aggressive
approach by school districts
where they'll want to take
everything to a hearing,"
Cochrane said, adding that the
possibility of a protracted legal
battle could discourage
parents from fighting for their
children's education.

But Barbara Groth, a trustee of
the San Dieguito Union High
School District,
discounts the
notion that an alliance would
amount to ganging up on parents.

"This is 42 districts trying not to
duplicate labor," Groth said.
"Parents should be advocating for
their child. But parents aren't
responsible for every child's
welfare in our district, and board
members are and the
administration is."

Schwartzberg estimated that legal
fees for special education disputes
can cost a district up to $100,000
for each case, and even more if
they lose and are required to pay
attorneys' fees for the parents
suing the district.

In about 90 percent of cases,
anticipated legal costs often push
districts to settle with parents, even
when they believe they have
followed the letter of the law, which
requires them to provide a "free
and appropriate education" to
special education students,
Schwartzberg said.

Cases arise when parents disagree
with districts over what is
appropriate for their child. Parent
demands can range from special
counseling to paying for treatment
in expensive residential facilities
and covering families' travel

Giving into those demands can set
a dangerous precedent as well,
school officials say.

"Sometimes you just can't settle,"
Groth said. "Because it establishes
an atmosphere where, if the district
gets a reputation for settling easily,
then it kind of sets itself up to have
it happen more frequently, and
that's not a good use of tax dollars.

Details of each district's settlement
agreements are kept confidential.

But Cochrane said he believes
school districts only settle
when they believe they can't
win a case and willingly jump
into legal battles when they
believe they're right, no matter
the expense.

"Because, in my experience,
putting a parent in his or her
place is much more important
than money for a school
district," Cochrane said.
Claudia Houston
paragraph 6

paragraph 18, line 27 and contd. on next page

"Mr. Shinoff's client, NCCSE Director
Schwartzberg, was well aware of the fraud.  He
had funded the lawyers who appeared in the due
process hearings that Mr. Shinoff denied ever
occurred.  And he monitored our litigation against

"Thus, Mr. Gill and Mr. Shinoff and NCCSE
knowingly withheld documents from the court in
USDC 00/CV/2475 IEG that would have resolved
the exhaustion issue
5 years ago."

paragraph 20


NCCSE Director
Joe Schwartzberg
Downloaded 02/19/09

Joseph Schwartzberg, Senior Director North Coastal Consortium for
Special Education
[760] 761-5111
255 Pico Avenue, Suite 250
San Marcos CA 92069

Linda Dinkel, Coordinator ( ) 761-5112
Jeff Adams, Program Specialist/Assistive Technology ( )
Debra Basom, Program Specialist ( 761-5100
Robert Bray, Program Specialist ( ) 731-5446
Dawn Dully, Program Specialist ( ) 331-5015
Cathy Funke, Program Specialist ( ) 753-6491 Ext. 5588
Meredith Glover, Program Specialist ( 439-8095
Linda Haggerty, Program Specialist ( 858-755-9301x3681
Nancy Harris, Program Specialist ( ) (858) 794-7125
Laurie Leigh, Program Specialist ( ) 752-1258
Mimi McGinty, Program Specialist ( 634-0676
Page McKennett, Program Specialist ( ) 726-2170 Ext.2261
Rebecca Nobriga, Program Specialist ( ) 726-2170 Ext. 2263
Gayle Patterson, Program Specialist ( ) 761-5116
Robin Ross, Program Specialist ( 966-7835
Barbara Schmidt, Program Specialist ( ) 943-4300x1220
Teresa Shaffer, Program Specialist ( ) 761-5117
Leslie Taylor, Program Specialist ( ) 726-2170 Ext. 2258
Lorraine Thompson, Program Specialist( ) 752-1274
Jennifer Trevino, Program Specialist ( ) 752-1238
Audrey Weed, Program Specialist/Assistive Technology ( )
Debbie Basom, Project Specialist ( ` 331-5073

Bonsall Union Cathy Myhers, Director P.O. Box 3 631-5218
Special Education Bonsall CA 92003-0003 FAX 631-5219
Cardiff Miranda Shields, Director 1888 Montgomery Avenue 632-5890
Special Education Cardiff CA 92007-2399 FAX 942-5831
Carlsbad Unified Bruce Kramer, Director 6225 El Camino Real 331-5017
Pupil Personnel Services Carlsbad CA 92009 FAX
Del Mar Union Sheila Weinberg, Director 225 Ninth Street (858) 523-6194
Pupil Services Del Mar CA 92014-2716 FAX (858)
Encinitas Irene Elliott, Director 101 S. Rancho Santa Fe Road 944-4300 Ext.1130
Pupil Services Encinitas CA 92024-4308 FAX 942-9471
Fallbrook Union Barbara Driscoll, Director P.O. Box 698 731-5413
Special Education 321 N. Iowa Street FAX Fallbrook CA
92028-2108 723-2186
Fallbrook Union High Sallie Hunt, Director P.O. Box 368 723-6332
Student Services 2234 S. Stagecoach Lane FAX Fallbrook CA
92028-0368 723-8263
Oceanside Unified Ken Gist, Director 2080 Mission Avenue 966-7889
Pupil Services/Special Education Oceanside CA 92054-2391 FAX 439-8095
Rancho Santa Fe Jeffrey Owen, Acting Director P.O. Box 809 (760) 942-1210 x3
Special Education Rancho Santa Fe CA 92067-0809 FAX
(858) 759-0912
San Dieguito Union High Bruce Cochrane, Director 710 Encinitas Blvd. 753-6491
Pupil Personnel Encinitas CA 92024-3357 FAX
San Marcos Unified Jackie Bachman, Director 255 Pico Avenue Suite #250
Special Education San Marcos CA 92069-4076 FAX
Solana Beach Mary Ellen Nest, Director 309 N. Rios Avenue (858) 794-7123
Pupil Personnel Services Solana Beach CA 92075-1298 FAX (858) 794-7127
Vallecitos Paul A. Cartas, Superintendent 5211 Fifth Street 728-7092 Fallbrook CA 92028-9796 FAX
Vista Unified John Hannaman, Director 1234 Arcadia Avenue 726-2170 Ext.2257
Special Education Vista CA 92084-3404 FAX
Discovery Valley/Hills School Gloria Simmons, Coordinator 450 N. Melrose Drive
216-6780 x214 Vista CA 92083 FAX
Special Education