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Multi-Year Disaster at Neva King Cooper Educational Center, Part One

As this is my first post, an introduction is in order.

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Homestead Public School-Neva King Cooper School. U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Photo: Wikipedia.

My name is Bill Detzner. In June 2015, I retired from a 30 year career as a special education teacher with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS). I spent the last 25 years of my career teaching at Neva King Cooper (NKC) a public school exclusively for profoundly mentally retarded students with IQ’s of 25 and below.

During my career, I was selected as my school’s teacher of the year. I served as my school’s union steward (United Teachers of Dade (UTD))  for 10 years and I was a department head.

During the 2011-2012, school year, NKC attempted to exercise its legal option to convert from a public school to a charter school.

MDCPS smashed this attempt using tactics that a court of law ( the case number is Florida DOAH 13-1492) ruled to be illegal reprisal and abuse of authority.

I have written a very lengthy blog about how MDCPS smashed this charter school conversion attempt and the series of actions taken by MDCPS over the past 5 years against the staff of NKC that appear to be retaliatory in nature. That information can be accessed at mdcpsallegations.com. My postings on this site will present the contents of my blog in shorter segments.

NKC serves students between the ages of 3-22. The goal of NKC special education teachers  is for some of those students to attend a sheltered workshop  after graduation from school. Students who cannot be placed into sheltered workshops are sometimes placed in group homes. Sadly, the curriculum my school has been using for the last 5 years, the Unique Learning System (ULS) will greatly reduce the number of students we place into sheltered workshops after graduation. (I will discuss this further later on in the blog.) Special needs adults take enormous pride in earning a paycheck and doing meaningful work. A special needs student cannot be placed into a sheltered workshop unless he or she is toilet trained, relatively free of maladaptive behaviors, and able to remain on-task to perform repetitive tasks.

Up until 5 years ago, the Neva King Cooper school’s curriculum was tailored to help students achieve these goals. Most of our students are not toilet trained when they come to our school. They also exhibit many maladaptive behaviors, and an inability to remain on-task for long periods of time. Up until the last 5 years, our curriculum placed a very heavy emphasis on toilet training, extinguishing maladaptive behaviors, and replacing them with more socially acceptable behaviors, and a vocational program  involving horticultural and other activities designed to increase on-task behavior in repetitive tasks.  With the permission of MDCPS, our staff developed its own curriculum, which we call the Small Step Curriculum (SSC), based on the concept of task analysis. Task analysis breaks complex tasks into a series of simple sequential steps. If a person performs all of the simple steps in the correct order, the complex task is achieved.

Up until 5 years ago, our staff achieved great success using task analysis to teach our students complex self-help tasks such as washing their hands and faces, brushing their teeth, combing their hair, dressing themselves (or assisting in dressing themselves) (this task was done while changing students to participate in our on-site swimming pool program), toileting, and feeding themselves. People who have suffered a stroke who can no longer independently perform these basic self-help skills suffer an enormous loss in self-esteem. Special needs children who master these skills experience a great deal of joy and pride in themselves when they succeed in learning these basic self-help skills.

I believe that the need for accomplishment is a universal human need. (I will discuss this further later on).

RELATED ARTICLE: Lawsuit – Miami-Dade School Board Violated Free Speech by Shutting Down Charter School Bid

EDITORS NOTE: The Neva King Cooper Educational Center is a historic school in Homestead, Florida. It is part of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district. The school serves students with mental disabilities. The school was built in 1914 as the Homestead Public School and designed by August Geiger. In 1934 it was renamed the Neva King Cooper School. On December 4, 1985, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The property is part of the Homestead Multiple Property Submission, a Multiple Property Submission to the National Register.