PLEASANTON — The Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD) faced a firestorm of complaints from frustrated parents during a recent meeting where the school board reviewed teacher training updates for literacy and comprehension.
The complaints centered around the district’s slow pace in training teachers to work with students struggling with reading comprehension or other issues, like dyslexia.
Nancy Larson said her son had to leave the district to get help with his dyslexia, but he wants to come back for high school. She is not confident he will be able to cope with classes taught by teachers who are not trained to help students with his disability.
“What would it take to fund the teachers and provide the staff training it needs?” Larson asked the board during the public comment period. “We can’t waste time; we need to get to these kids who can’t read. Yes, it’s been talked about for years, but get to it now, please.”
Larson was not the only parent who asked the board to do something about training teachers to help children who cannot read.
Jameson Cummings was among those who spoke to the board about his daughter, who is also dyslexic. He felt the district had not acted efficiently since adopting policies for training teachers five years ago.
“The school district initiated an action plan back in 2017, and there were several think tank meetings, but please, that was complacency, and unfortunately, we have burned up a lot of time where children like my daughter have been struggling to get the instruction they need,” Cummings said.
He also said accountability and transparency were issues with the district’s special education programs, and questions from parents were often treated with hostility.
“There’s a culture within special education with not implementing programs properly and not collaborating with parents,” said Cummings, adding he had written multiple letters asking for help without receiving a response. He asked the district to collaborate more with parents, who often become experts on the topic out of necessity.
PUSD uses two programs to help students struggling with literacy and reading comprehension – Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS), which is designed for all students in the district, and The Wilson Reading System, geared specifically to help students with dyslexia and other disabilities. Though some training has been completed, the district has not yet reached all teachers and administrators.
“We want families to know that we hear their concerns, and we have training and next steps to help address the concerns they raised during the meeting,” said district spokesperson Patrick Gannon. “Namely, providing teachers with resources and training to help support all students.”
He further stated the district is aware it has work to do and will continue working with teachers and families to support all students in literacy.