School Committee Mulls Life Skills Program Move in Special Education Redesign

By Michael Coughlin Jr. 

During its regular meeting last week, the Revere School Committee had an in-depth conversation about a proposed redesign of the district’s special education programming, in which concerns have been raised for a specific part of the plan.

Back at January’s regular school committee meeting, various members from Revere’s special education department, including its Director, Sara Hoomis, presented a proposal to the committee to provide better support and more programming options for special education students.

To view the presentation of the January version of the proposal, which includes name changes and location changes for specific programming, visit The presentation begins at 1:09:00.

At last week’s meeting, Assistant Superintendent Richard Gallucci said, “The overall vision of the plan is to move our special education students toward a least restrictive environment.”

Adding, “We want to uphold our expectations academically, behaviorally, socially — you name it — that is the vision of our redesign.”

However, as previously mentioned, some feedback has been received regarding one part of the proposal: the middle school move of the Life Skills program, now referred to as ASCEND, from the Susan B. Anthony School to the Garfield School.

Acknowledging the “constructive feedback,” Gallucci expanded on the work done to respond to it and detailed how the Life Skills class is very active. Students in this program at the high school level do the recycling for the whole building and other activities.

Additionally, he explained that those students then advance into the post-grad program, where they work with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and other organizations.

“The vision of the ASCEND program is really this active kind of robust program. Susan B. Anthony has done a fabulous job, and as the committee has expressed, has welcomed this program with open arms, and really it’s become a pillar of the school,” said Gallucci.

“But I think we are pretty confident that the Garfield can do the very same thing,” he added.

He also emphasized that the change would eliminate another transition for students where “many of them” go to Garfield Elementary from grades K-5 and then would remain in the same building for grades 6-8 with this change.

He also pointed to the Garfield’s proximity to places like Revere Beach and public transportation, which could enable partnerships. Ultimately, he explained that the Life Skills or ASCEND program move remained in the proposal.

After Gallucci spoke, the discussion opened. Although Committee Member John Kingston acknowledged his support for the rest of the plan, including aspects such as allowing students to remain at the Beachmont to finish elementary school, he voiced his opposition to moving the middle school ASCEND program from the Susan B. Anthony to the Garfield.

“I think putting kids that have accessible medical devices on a third or fourth floor of a building — I think in case of an issue there, whether it be a fire drill, fire or any kind of emergency — I just don’t think it’s a good idea. I’m strongly opposed to it,” said Kingston.

He later added, “I’ll be honest if that ends up happening, I’ll be the one filing the ADA grievance because I think we’re putting kids in harm, and I’m not going to support that ever.”

Following Kingston’s comments, Committee Member Stacey Bronsdon-Rizzo motioned to accept the redesign, which was seconded, and more discussion ensued.

While Bronsdon-Rizzo said that she probably would not want her child on the third floor, she pointed out that qualified individuals are making these decisions.

“We’re not the experienced people. We don’t have the education behind us to be making some of these decisions. We can ask for their input, but we have to go by the guidance that they’re giving us also — that’s their jobs,” she said.

Aisha Milbury-Ellis, another Committee Member, admitted she was not an expert in the special education field but asserted that it was the committee’s job to ask questions. She continued by saying that the presentation raised more questions than it gave answers.

For example, Milbury-Ellis asked where the ASCEND students would be at the Garfield. Gallucci confirmed the third or fourth floors and added that in the past, these students had been on the third floor at the Susan B. Anthony.

She also shared Kingston’s concerns about safety with the ASCEND students being moved to the third or fourth floors of the Garfield and asked how that is being addressed.

While Gallucci said he could not violate student confidentiality, he said, “You have no greater chance of finding a physical disability in a Life Skills class than any other class in the building.”

Milbury-Ellis also spoke at length about the inclusive environment fostered at the Susan B. Anthony School for the students in the Life Skills program and struggled to understand why this proposed move of students to the Garfield would happen.

She also expressed her dislike for feeling “not prepared” or “not being provided with enough information to make an educated decision.”

Later, the Committee’s Vice Chair, Jacqueline Monterroso, joined the conversation, and the Life Skills program move was discussed even more. 

Monterroso had asked Gallucci why the students in the Life Skills program had previously been moved from the third floor at the Susan B. Anthony School, and he was unsure why they had been moved but thought the students had been on all three floors at some points.

He again expanded on the decision to pursue this move, saying, “When we’re looking to plant the seeds of what kids are going to experience at Revere High School, and then in the post-grad program where they’re really going off campus, that was the redesign team’s thought.”

“Let’s start planting those seeds at middle school, ‘Oh my gosh, look at the Garfield location.’ It also matches where they go K through five… nothing is set in stone; like we don’t have plans to take the MBTA right now, this moment, but in the coming years, to be able to have those resources close by that was the vision,” he added.

Later, School Committee Member Anthony Caggiano explained that his parents worked in special education, stressed the importance of students feeling safe and having consistency, and said, in part, “We really need to take a look at this.”

Mayor Patrick Keefe also joined in the conversation and raised a simple question about the redesign — “Is this just change for change’s sake, or is this change because we’re trying to make the plan better?”

In response, Gallucci said, “It’s certainly to make our special ed programming better — it has been subpar.”

Gallucci went on to emphasize that this redesign plan has been driven by special education teachers through meetings he said were “some of the most heavily attended meetings I’ve ever been a part of.”

In the end, the school committee supported a motion to approve the redesign plan except for the Life Skills/ASCEND move. The Life Skills/ASCEND move was then referred to the Health and Special Education Sub Committee for further discussion.

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