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ESE Additional Steps Required Cutchins 8-27-2012

ESE Additional Steps Required Cutchins 8-27-2012

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11/01/2013

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1
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education 
 
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, Massachusetts 02148-4906 Telephone: (781) 338-3000 TTY: N.E.T. Relay 1-800-439-2370 
 
August 27, 2012Mr. Justin Smith, Education DirectorNew Directions SchoolCutchins Programs for Children and Families, Inc.78 Pomeroy TerraceNorthampton, MA 01060Re:
ESE Response to Cutchins’
Corrective Action of the July 19, 2012Incident involving student D.A. at the New Directions SchoolDear Mr. Smith:Thank you for submitting
Cutchins’
corrective actions as described in your response received August 21,2012 pertaining to the July 19, 2012 incident involving student D.A. at the New Directions School. Whileit is evident that a considerable amount of time was allocated to
Cutchins’
response, there are portions of the corrective action plan that require clarification.In the initial internal investigation, the Department noted significant operational issues that were systemic.Of serious concern was that Cutchins failed to keep the student safe because back-up procedures to ensureappropriate supervision of students were either not in place, staff was not aware of them, or they werepoorly developed. While the recommendations provided in the Internal Investigation report alluded to thisproblem, the Department requested a detailed, written plan that specifically addressed each of theidentified issues. The staff involved in the incident who used poor judgment and the ensuing disciplinaryactions taken only partially addressed the problem. The greater issue was the absence of proceduresrequired to ensure adequate supervision of students, along with established procedures not having beenadequately understood and/or properly followed by staff, which resulted in a serious breakdown in theoverall operation of the program. Specifically, you were required to examine crisis communication, staff availability and immediate notification.Cutchins responded by submitting a narrative assuring the Department that it takes responsibility for thesafety of students seriously and has examined and revised its policies and procedures. Updated policies
titled “
Policy on Communications
”,
 
Policy on Communications
 – 
Walkie-Talkies
and
Policy onImmediate Notification of Serious Incidents
were submitted.
1. The area of crisis communication required immediate examination.
 Cutchins was required to provide thoughtful, planned written policies and protocols that ensured the healthand safety of the students at all times. Cutchins was required to decide which options mentioned in itsinternal investigation were chosen to be implemented, develop a specific plan based on these decisions,generate protocols so that the plan had minimally three back-up strategies, and train all staff, regular andsubstitute, in the details of the plan as soon as possible.
 
2
The Department finds that
Cutchins’ two submitted policies titled
 
The Policy on Communication
 – 
 Walkie-
Talkie’s”
and
Policy on Communications
” requires further 
revision. Specifically, Cutchins hasembedded within the Walkie Talkie policy the extremely important protocol for signing students out of thebuilding. This protocol should appear first and foremost in your communication policy so that itsimportance is made evident to staff and can easily be referred to when needed. Furthermore, the correctiveaction narrative that was submitted states that the walkie-talkies have a 23 mile range
 – 
this fact should beincluded somewhere within the communication policy so that staff are expressly aware of the operativerange of the walkie-talkie. Having the policy named for walkie-talkies and then stating the preferred meansof communication is cell phones in the first sentence is also contradictory and confusing. Finally, thecontacts should be listed in the order by which they are responsible for implementing the policies andprocedures and it should expressly state that is the case. Please revise the policies accordingly, includingrenaming them and consider having one single cohesive communication policy rather than two. Submit tothe Department by
September 13, 2012
.
2. Staff availability and experience-level were noted as key areas of deficiency.
 It was of concern to the Department that such a high proportion (over two thirds) of staff on this day was
not “regular staff”. The report
by Cutchins noted " . . . the staffing pattern of 5/6 staff to the 13 studentswas fine; however if 4 or 6 are substitutes did we need to change the expectations of the structure." AND"An examination of the structure on a day to day basis and what changes should be made based on thenumber of regular staff and substitutes on a shift." Cutchins was to address the high number of substituteteachers and ensure there were teachers in place who understood and could address the unique needs of thestudents. This required a concretely developed plan to address and correct this issue in short order.Cutchins is currently approved to operate with an 8 students to 1 licensed educator ratio and a 12 studentsto 1 licensed educator to 1 aide ratio. The Department had not received any Form 1s from Cutchinsnotifying us of vacancies in approved staff positions not filled by another appropriately licensed orwaivered staff that have a direct impact on the service delivery to students. If Cutchins was experiencingthese vacancies it was to notify the Department as required.Cutchins responded to this concern by explaining that the two substitute staff that day were not substituteteachers, but rather substitute aides that were leading the learning activities that a teacher had designed theinstruction for. The Department wants to make clear that it is extremely important that Cutchins always bespecific when referring to the role a substitute staff person is playing in its program by including theposition, i.e., substitute teacher aide, substitute teacher, etc. The language Cutchins used in its originalreports created the misimpression that it had been a substitute teacher involved in the incident that day.The Department also wants Cutchins to provide it with a written assurance by
September 13, 2012
thatteachers are utilized appropriately to design all instruction for students and that they are available toteacher aides who are delivering that instruction to ensure it is delivered as intended. Cutchins also has notyet mentioned in any report thus far where the other teacher was on that day. The one teacher that hadbeen present was the person who told the substitute aide to go locate a time-out staff in response to beinginformed the student was off program. Please provide an explanation as to where the other teacher in thatprogram was that day. Cutchins had explained in its response to the Department that there are no currentvacancies at the program; thus no Form 1 was required. The absences that occurred on that day were forthat day only. The Department accepts this explanation.
3. Immediate telephone and written notification to the Department was required pursuant to 603C.M.R. 28.09(12)(a).
 
Serious Incidents
 – 
Immediate Notification and Reporting. In the event of serious injury or death of astudent, criminal activity on the part of a student or staff member, or other serious incident affecting the

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