State board of education investigating Quincy Public School Dist - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

State board of education investigating Quincy Public School District

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QUINCY, Ill. (WGEM) - The Illinois State Board of Education is investigating claims that Quincy Public Schools committed several violations while providing special education.

Administrators at QPS declined multiple requests to comment on the allegations or the state's investigation. But, the former teacher who blew the whistle had plenty to say.

Brandy Neiswender filed multiple complaints against QPS this summer after leaving her special education teaching job at Quincy Junior High School. She says there were more than a dozen examples of the district not complying with state and federal regulations when it comes to special education.

"The kids had not made any progress in reading whatsoever, and so I knew something had to be wrong," Neiswender said.

Neiswender's complaints range from leaving parents in the dark when it comes to Individualized Education Program meetings to not providing appropriate accommodations to students.

"The fact that my class was segregated from the other kids and they can't have that access," Neiswender said. "They kept telling me, 'you have to teach them how to read in your history class.'"

"We never made any progress whatsoever, and then when I started reading the laws, I was like, 'oh my gosh, I'm supposed to be providing supplementary aids, audio and visuals,'" Neiswender added.

QPS hired Chicago attorney Kamilah Parker to formally respond to the allegations. In a July 9 letter to the state, Parker denied all allegations and asked that the ISBE find the district in compliance.

"Evidence shows that the district has consistently provided special education and related services to its students in accordance with their IEP's and in compliance with IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)," Parker said in a typed response to ISBE. "The district acknowledges that there are areas where it can improve and the the district is taking the necessary steps to make those improvements."

Also in Parker's response, she questioned Neiswender's motive when bringing the allegations to life. Parker said, during Neiswender's time at QPS, she started a private parent advocating company. Neiswender was told by school officials she could not serve in that capacity during work hours. The school later called a meeting with Neiswender to reiterate that she cannot conduct personal business during work hours. 

Parker said "exactly one month later, this complaint was filed with ISBE." Parker also said Neiswender was asking parents to contact the media so she was not associated with the alleged violations.

Neiswender says state investigators told her to expect a ruling in early August, but ISBE spokesperson Mary Fergus says there is no set deadline.

Whatever the ruling, Neiswender says she hopes bringing these allegations to light will improve the future of special education at QPS, even though she's now out of the classroom.

"I felt it was time for me to resign," Neiswender said. "I couldn't be in that system anymore that was broken. And they knew that. I said 'if I can't do my job, then I can't work here anymore.'"

Superintendent Steve Cobb refused to speak to WGEM News or even return phone calls. Special Education Director Eryn Beswick was reached by phone July 7. Beswick denied any knowledge of the situation.

"I'm not aware of any possible violations," Beswick said.

But a letter from the state board shows both Cobb and Beswick were notified in June about the investigation.

If the board says the allegations are unfounded, the district will be in the clear. But if the allegations are found to be valid, QPS will be given a corrective action timeline by the ISBE. If changes aren't made, the district could be placed on probation.
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