District comes closer to meeting needs of North Philly school; ‘not enough’ say some

 Christina Lee, a 7th grader at Feltonville School of Arts and Science, dreams of becoming a fashion designer and likes to design tattoos in her sketch book. Lee's mother says the school is not meeting her daughter's IEP. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

Christina Lee, a 7th grader at Feltonville School of Arts and Science, dreams of becoming a fashion designer and likes to design tattoos in her sketch book. Lee's mother says the school is not meeting her daughter's IEP. (Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY)

Last week I wrote a story highlighting LaTonia Lee’s struggle to ensure that her daughter Christina’s individualized education plan was being met by the School District of Philadelphia. Since the story published, Christina’s teachers say they’ve been informed that the school will now have a speech therapist for two-and-a-half hours a week.

Change comes, if only incrementally.

Last week I wrote a story highlighting LaTonia Lee’s struggle to ensure that her daughter Christina’s individualized education plan (IEP) was being met by the School District of Philadelphia.

Christina’s IEP — a legally binding document — dictates, among other things, that she receives one period per week of speech and language therapy. But Christina’s school, Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences, in North Philadelphia, did not have a speech therapist through the first six weeks of classes, and as a consequence, Christina’s needs remained unfulfilled.

During that time, LaTonia says her daughter struggled both academically and emotionally as Christina became the victim of bullying.

Since the story published, Christina’s teachers say they’ve been informed that the school will now have a speech therapist for two-and-a-half hours a week.

Although this is good news for the school, the teachers say this allotment is still far from adequate.

With at least 20 special-needs students requiring weekly speech therapy, Feltonville special-education reading teacher Adrienne Bomboy says two-and-a-half hours are simply “not enough” — especially “when the speech therapist is also expected to consult with the teachers about how they can use strategies in their classrooms,” she said.

LaTonia says she’s “glad” the district has provided Feltonville with a measure of relief, but she feels it’s almost a token gesture.

“It’s like: ‘Here, you got your speech therapist. Now shut up,'” she said.

The school district would not confirm the speech therapist’s placement. Last week, after receiving an additional $45 million from the state, Superintendent William Hite said he’d recall an additional 400 employees.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the specifics of those recall decisions wouldn’t be made public until Monday, Oct. 28.

In the meantime, Latonia says she’ll continue letting her displeasure be known on this issue and a host of others, including Feltonville’s lack of both a full-time nurse and full-time guidance counselor.

“I will definitely take the progress,” she said, “but I’m still pressing forward with the complaints.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.