Thursday, July 7, 2022

Hours added: How one mother is fighting the York County School Division for her child’s education

Brandon Turkatte with his toy, Elmo. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Larisa Turkatte)
Brandon Turkatte with his toy, Elmo. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Larisa Turkatte)

Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a three-part series about a mother’s experiences with the York County School Division.

Larisa Turkatte filed a complaint with the Virginia Department of Education against the York County School Division after she said her son Brandon did not receive the allocated hours from the school district over the summer.

Brandon has autism and a feeding disorder so he receives homebound education services at home courtesy of the school division.

York County School Division Superintendent Victor Shandor wrote Larisa in an email on Aug. 19, telling her the chief of academic services will review the matter and extension school year services.

“If deficiencies are found, we would of course schedule any remaining ESY services as soon as practical,” he wrote.

Keep up with this series, here’s part one: Missing hours?: How one parent is fighting the York County School Division for her child’s education

Elaine Gould, the division’s director of student services, sent Larisa an email on Oct. 5, detailing her findings regarding Brandon’s time sheet filled out by Gina Rondinelli, the boy’s former teacher.

“As I have previously shared with you, we have the teacher’s Homebound-Homebased log sheet for 16 hours of ESY services provided from July 2 through July 25,” Gould wrote.

Gould said Brandon’s Individualized Education Plan states he would receive 20 hours, but he only received 16 hours so the school division would have a new teacher provide those hours to Brandon.

After reviewing text messages between Rondinelli and Larisa and Rondinelli’s records, Gould found the documents provided to match however, the appointments were not scheduled consistently.

She did give Brandon an additional hour of education.

“I have read your text messages and compared them to the log, and I am unclear about the time of services (not the duration of services) provided on one entry; therefore York County will add an additional hour of services that will be provided by Brandon’s homebound teacher,” Gould wrote. “This in no way suggest that the ESY teacher was dishonest or misled the school division in any way.”

A new teacher had started providing home-bound instruction to Brandon in mid-September.

Larisa said the new teacher, Hannah Violet, was proactive and every time she provided educational services to Brandon, she would have Larisa sign the timesheet.

In her email, Gould also noted on Sept. 27, Violet arrived 10 minutes late because of traffic and once she arrived at the Turkatte household, she noticed there were two cars in the driveway, rang the doorbell three times and then waited in the car for 10 minutes.

“In light of this, the teacher will be compensated for 1 hour, and the York County School Division will not be required to make up these services,” Gould wrote.

She said future appointments would be scheduled by Larisa, the homebound teacher and the school administrator from Mount Vernon Elementary School. If the instruction needs to be rescheduled for any reason, the party must submit the request in writing at least 8 hours before the agreed appointment time.

After emailing between back and forth, a meeting was suggested between Gould and Larisa on Oct. 24 but it never happened since Larisa said she wanted the “stolen hours” back and Gould “refused” to give them to her.

In the meantime, Larisa said she submitted a doctor’s note and form renewing Brandon’s homebound services on Oct. 28 since the homebound certificate would expire on Nov. 4.

On Oct. 25, Frances DeVaughn, coordinator of student service II, emailed Larisa and noted Brandon would get 15 hours of instruction back.

“Five hours of homebound instruction will be provided to cover the time that you are requesting from the summer,” DeVaughn wrote. “Additionally, 10 hours of homebound instruction was initiated on September 16.”

Larisa said it was not clear when the hours would be made up so when Brandon’s homebound certificate expired on Nov. 4 and Violet kept coming to the house to teach Brandon, she was confused.

Larisa said she did not receive any notification the hours were being added to Brandon’s current instruction nor did she receive any update about Brandon’s homebound certificate renewal for almost two weeks.

After sending multiple emails to DeVaughn, she finally got a response on Nov. 8.

“Your efforts to complete and submit Brandon’s homebound documents are very much appreciated,” DeVaughn wrote. “Please be assured that during this interim period, services will continue through the provision of the 15 hours that are owed from the summer and the beginning of the school year.”

DeVaughn also added Gould reached out to Brandon’s doctor for more information about “Brandon’s present status.”

Larisa said she told Gould and DeVaughn Brandon’s physician, Dr. Mark Downey, completed the homebound certificate renewal and there should be enough information about Brandon’s medical status and condition. She added the school division had no business reaching out to Brandon’s doctors since Larisa did not give her permission.

In the Application for Extension of Homebound Instruction, Downey filled out the entire application.

Autism, sensory processing disorder, oral aversion, feeding difficulty and failure to thrive were the reasons why Brandon need an extension of Homebound Instruction, Downey wrote.

“Would this student be able to attend school if accommodations were made in the educational environment? For example, elevator, rest periods, shortened school day, extra time between classes.”

Downey circled no.

“Requires intensive outpatient therapy, ABA therapy 20 hours a week, OT two hours a week, Feeding Therapy one hour a week, Speech Therapy two hours a week and Physical Therapy one hour a week,” Downey wrote.

There needs to be an approval from the ABA therapist in order for Brandon to transition back to school, Downey added.

“Based on recommendations from ABA therapist will determine when he is ready to transition back to school environment,” he noted.

On Nov. 15, the teacher informed Larisa her last day teaching Brandon would be Nov. 16.

Brandon stopped receiving homebound instruction from York County School District on Nov. 17.

Editor’s note: The final part of this series will go online Dec. 11.

Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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