I received this from an attorney that represents families in Special Education lawsuits and due process.
I wanted to update all of you on some information I learned. It appears that on December 12, 2012, DESE entered into a contract with the Tippin Law Firm to provide services for the Administrative Hearing Commission related to special education administrative hearings in Missouri. A key person who is providing these services was previously a special education administrator for the Kansas City Missouri Public School District; the law firm has also recently represented at least one charter school. The special education administrator appears to have been directed toward law school by a school district attorney. The school district attorney’s husband (a judge) appears to have delivered funds to the special education administrator to assist with paying for law school. I have also been provided information that Commissioner Nimrod Chapel has strong relationships with this law firm, such as previously working in a law office with one or more partners of the firm.
Since this contract was entered into, and in comparison to the situation before HB595 was passed, DESE (and in particular Cynthia Quetsch) appears to now be exerting the same if not more, control over these hearings. In my opinion the interests of DESE are in direct conflict with what the interests of the Administrative Hearing Commission should be, and the interests of DESE in special education matters is only to protect school districts from liability. Any contracting should be solely between the AHC and a contractor, and DESE should not have any involvement (other than forwarding funds). Persons previously employed by school districts as administrators should not be permitted to serve as a Commissioner, and the same conflict rules applicable to Commissioners should apply to contractors. I am very concerned and hope someone will address the situation. Feel free to pass this on to anyone who you think may be able to help or who may have interest. Particular contract provisions that I also believe create a huge conflict of interest are as follows:
I continue to believe that the State should have an audit conducted by unbiased persons (or biased persons on both sides), into DESE’s handling of special education matters in Missouri. I do not intend to be involved in any more special education administrative hearings in Missouri unless and until changes are made.