School investigation continues in Chicopee
By JEANETTE DeFORGE Staff writer
CHICOPEE - The federal Office of Civil Rights is continuing to investigate the
School Department's special education and bilingual programs to ensure children
are receiving services they need.
School officials turned over boxes of records to the federal government for
review this summer. Federal auditors are scheduled to visit Thursday to examine
the schools, said Superintendent Basan N. Nembirkow.
"It is a compliance review. It has to do with special education," said Susan M.
Aspey, deputy press secretary for the Office of Civil Rights.
It is unusual for a school department to be investigated by the office without a
formal complaint. In earlier interviews, federal officials refused to say what
attracted the attention of investigators.
Aspey would not comment further. She said her office does not discuss ongoing
investigations. But Nembirkow said officials are questioning whether the city
provided adequate services for bilingual and disabled students in 2001 and 2002.
If violations are found, a deadline will be set to fix the problems.
The School Department has already hired a minimum of four additional bilingual
teachers as a "pre-emptive strike," Nembirkow said. It has also shuffled staff
so the clerk at the Chapin Alternative Program, formerly Horizon Academy, is
bilingual. The principal of the program also speaks Spanish and English, he
This is not the first time Chicopee's bilingual and special education programs
have been cited by independent investigators. In a routine audit last spring,
state examiners found many problems with the two programs.
Auditors listed dozens of violations in a 120-page report. They found some
students received improper services, and some received none. Some children were
not tested and others were evaluated long after state deadlines passed.
The report also said there were too few bilingual teachers for students who
spoke limited English, too few translators and those translators hired speak
only Russian or Spanish, although many parents speak other languages, such as
It also cited poor record-keeping procedures. Many records were late, some were
incomplete and many were missing.