School superintendent responds to autistic education concerns
by Larry Chowning
Middlesex County School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Taylor addressed the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors on April 25 concerning the education of students with disabilities.
During a public hearing on the budget on April 18, two parents voiced concerns as to the way the school system was educating their autistic children.
Dr. Taylor told supervisors the school system complies to all state and federal laws concerning the education of autistic children, and is making every effort to exceed state and federal requirements to meet the individual needs of each student.
He noted there are not enough children with certain disabilities in the Middlesex School System to financially warrant providing classrooms and teachers for all of them within the county. Therefore, some students have to go to either Richmond or Gloucester to be taught.
One of the remarks at the public hearing by a parent was that he had notified the school board of his concerns and felt the school board was not being responsive.
Carlton Revere, chair of the board of supervisors, asked Dr. Taylor if this was true.
Dr. Taylor indicated the parents had brought concerns to him and other school officials, but to his knowledge these concerns had not been brought before the entire school board at a meeting. “They may have approached individual school board members,” said Dr. Taylor, “but these concerns were not brought publicly before the board.”
One of the complaints from parents is that the vehicles used to transport students are old and the air conditioning does not always work. Dr. Taylor informed supervisors that all county school student transport vehicles have air conditioning that works.
He also told supervisors the school system will soon have two newer vehicles to carry students to Richmond. One is a surplus vehicle from the county sheriff’s office and the other will be purchased through the government bid process.
Dr. Taylor said he does have a “great deal of compassion” for parents who have voiced their concerns and who are supporting their children, and that he understands their frustrations.