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 6, 2012 Mr. Justin Smith, Education Director New Directions School Cutchins Programs for Children and Families, Inc. New Directions Day Program 78 Pomeroy Terrace Northampton, MA 01060 Re: ESE Response to Cutchins’ Internal Investigation of the July 19, 2012 Incident involving student D.A. at the New Directions School

Dear Mr. Smith: Thank you for submitting Cutchins’ Internal Investigation of the July 19, 2012 Incident involving student D.A. at the New Directions School. Upon review of Cutchins’ report the Department notes the following areas of concern: First and foremost, the Department notes significant operational issues that are systemic. Of serious concern is that Cutchins failed to keep the student safe because back-up procedures to ensure appropriate supervision of students were either not in place, staff was not aware of them, or they were poorly developed. While the recommendations provided in the Internal Investigation report alluded to this problem, the Department is requesting a detailed, written plan that specifically addresses each of the identified issues. The staff involved in the incident who used poor judgment and the ensuing disciplinary actions taken only partially address the problem. The greater issue is the absence of procedures required to ensure adequate supervision of students, along with established procedures not having been adequately understood and/or properly followed by staff, resulting in a serious breakdown in the overall operation of the program. The area of crisis communication requires immediate examination, and must yield thoughtful, planned written policies and protocols that ensure the health and safety of the students at all times. Some satisfactory actions were suggested in the report (cell phones/walkie-talkie’s available for time out staff). Cutchins must now decide which options it chooses to implement, develop a specific plan based on these decisions, generate protocols so that the plan has minimally three back-up strategies, and train all staff, regular and substitute, in the details of the plan as soon as possible.


Staff availability and experience-level are key areas of deficiency. It is of concern to the Department that such a high proportion (over two thirds) of staff on this day was not “regular staff”. The report noted " . . . the staffing pattern of 5/6 staff to the 13 students was fine; however if 4 or 6 are substitutes do 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 the number of regular staff and substitutes on a shift." Cutchins must address the high number of substitute teachers and ensure there are teachers in place who understand and can address the unique needs of the students. This requires 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 students to 1 licensed educator to 1 aide ratio. The Department has not received any Form 1s from Cutchins notifying us of vacancies in approved staff positions not filled by another appropriately licensed or waivered staff that have a direct impact on the service delivery to students. If Cutchins is experiencing that it must notify the Department as required. See Please note that while the school is able to temporarily fill a vacant position with a substitute teacher, it must notify the Department if substitute teachers are being used and must continue to document its efforts to fill the position with an appropriately licensed staff person. Furthermore, immediate notification to the Department is required pursuant to 603 C.M.R. 28.09(12)(a) Serious Incidents – Immediate Notification and Reporting. In the event of serious injury or death of a student, criminal activity on the part of a student or staff member, or other serious incident affecting the well-being of any student, the approved special education school shall immediately notify, by telephone and by letter, the parents, sending school district(s), any state agency involved in student care or program placement, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Cutchins did not notify the Department until Nina Marchese contacted Jay Indek the day after the incident to inquire as to what had occurred. A written notice, via a Form 2, was received the following Monday (July 23, 2012) when you returned from vacation. Both of these instances are unacceptable and are indicative of communication breakdowns and a lack of staff being able to cover for absences. This area must also be addressed by Cutchins. Please provide the Department with the requested responses pursuant to these concerns no later than August 21, 2012. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you need further clarification of the information noted above. I can be reached directly at (781) 338-3725. Sincerely,

Doreen Donovan-Barbera, Educational Specialist Program Quality Assurance Services

Caryn N. Goldberg, PRS Supervisor Program Quality Assurance Services

Cc: Darlene Lynch, Director Program Quality Assurance Services Jay Indek, Executive Director, Cutchins Programs for Children and Families, Inc.


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