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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Superintendent Sue Walker Attacks Fircrest

Shoreline School District and Superintendent Sue Walker have decided it is a good policy to attack Fircrest School in Olympia at a Senate Hearing.
Superintendent Sue Walker

According to Shoreline-LFP PATCH Blog, Ms Walker made statements yesterday at Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee Hearing stating that,
"The continuation of the current state policy to segregate disabled children in the RHCs, of which the overwhelming majority are sent to Fircrest School in Shoreline, is bad for children and for all communities in Washington," 
Further the article states the District's policy as follows;
The Shoreline School District is supporting a bill in the Washington State Senate stating that children in the state’s care should be served in residential settings near their families, friends, and schools, not in institutions, including the Fircrest School in Shoreline.
Senate Bill 5132 would change state law to prohibit children under the age of 21 from being placed in Residential Habilitation Centers (RHC) like Fircrest.
Fircrest School is an RHC (Residential Habilitation Center) which has been located in Shoreline since
1959.  The School is in the Ridgecrest/Briacrest neighborhoods, just south of Hamlin Park. The site was also earlier in the century an Navy Hospital and then the Firlands TB Sanitorium.
According to the Friends of Fircrest website, Fircrest's its mission is:

Fircrest provides specialized, high-quality personalized service to the most challenging individuals with developmental disabilities. These services are consistently provided in a manner and environment that assumes, as the highest priority, client respect, dignity, and individualism.
Fircrest School Campus

Fircrest is considered to be a "center of excellence" by professionals in the care of the disabled. It serves a diverse population of medically fragile people with severe disabilities who are often profoundly retarded and often behaviorally challenged. There are currently 24 residents who are school age and only one is a Shoreline School District student.

So it is rather perplexing as to why Supt Walker would decide it was a good policy to attack Fircrest residents, staff and families at this time.

It seems to us, that she is remarkably out of touch with the concerns of the Shoreline/LFP community which strongly supports Fircrest's mission and the families who rely on it.

The students who reside at Fircrest rely on the expert care they receive and it is curious as to why Supt Walker and the Shoreline School Board would choose at this time to attack this valuable asset to our community. It seems to us that the teachers who would have to provide the attention required to these students,were they in the classrooms would find it difficult, taxing and distracting to other students, to say the least.  If these profoundly disabled students require expert care that is provided them at Fircrest, who is Superintendent Walker to deny them that service?


  1. I don't think she was attacking Fircrest, I think she was looking out for where our levy dollars are spent. According to Shoreline Area News:

    "The state's educational funding formula for Fircrest RHC students does not reimburse the Shoreline School District or our community for the actual costs associated with the program.

    The result is that the Shoreline School District is held responsible for providing education to all students in the least restrictive environment without adequate financial resources and infrastructure to do so.

    "This creates an unfair burden on the citizens of Shoreline and Lake Forest Park by requiring that local levy dollars be used to supplement the costs of educating residents of Fircrest," Walker said.

    Given the estimated number of institutionalized students at Fircrest for 2010-2011, Shoreline's out-of-pocket expenses for the school year will be approximately $200,000.

    Should the citizens of Shoreline shoulder the cost of education for school aged Fircrest residents?

  2. Currently there is only 1 student at Fircrest from the Shoreline School District. I don't think this is a good rationale for attacking Fircrest.

    It is a bizarre campaign for SSD to embark on. They should pay attention to how to serve the community, not divide it.

    She is clearly doing this with the blessing of the School Board, which is also out of touch with the real community.

  3. No, currently on 1 student has family living in Shoreline, the rest are from outside of our community and under the care of Shoreline School District for their schooling on the Shoreline citizens dime.

    Now, the state would like ALL of the school aged children in the ENTIRE state to be housed at Fircrest, regardless of where their families live.

    This seems to be putting an undue burden on the citizens of Shoreline AND the families whose school aged child (10-11 years old?) could be hundreds of miles away from them.

    Does that make sense?

  4. Actually 3:40 pm, approximately 50% of Fircrest has been closed in the past ten years, so what are you ranting about?

    The State of Washington has been actively pushing Fircrest residents into the community so they could cutback operations for residents, stating that it is cheaper to provide services in the community.

    Now that the State has run out of money, they are cutting funds for the community programs and there are no facilities left for the former residents to move back to, they closed a similar facility in Eastern Washington that will be put up for sale later this year.

    The City of Shoreline has benefited from employment at Fircrest for a long time - one of the few major employers in Shoreline. The City also will receive large pieces of Fircrest in the Master Plan, so tell me again how the community as a whole is suffering? Or are you suffering from school district derangement syndrome where the only way to address a problem is what Sue Walker/Marcia Harris tell to use as talking points?

  5. Sue Williams, Shoreline Schools Superintendent and Amy Vuyovich, Director of Student services both testified in front of the Washington State Senate Committee on Health and Long term care regarding their support of SB5132. This bill is very detrimental to the health and safety of our citizens who are disabled with the highest acuity. Rather than speaking to the real issues of this bill, these women chose to use this as a platform to complain about their “burden” of having special education students in their district. They claim that ultimately, “the students of Shoreline are denied the benefit of the local levy our community provides to enhance programs and services” due to the cost of educating the small number of students who reside at Fircrest.

    Fircrest School, one of our state’s 5 residential habilitation centers (RHCs) is in Shoreline. The RHC is critical to our continuum of care necessary to safely and economically care for our most vulnerable and high acuity residents. Advocates for people with disabilities have been fighting for years to maintain this continuum of care model.

    Fircrest residents are citizens of Shoreline and participate in many community events. The act of shutting out and segregating this population is a huge step backwards for the advocates that have fought so hard. The residents of Fircrest and all our RHCs are all part of our community and it’s time this was recognized.

    As educators, these women should be ashamed of the attitudes that they are expressing. Rather than complaining about the “burden” they could set a wonderful example by promoting the RHC as the best place to serve our community members with high needs. There are so many possibilities that could be developed by encouraging interchanges and sharing of knowledge and talents rather than cutting off others out of selfishness.

  6. Kelly Lancaster (Australia)February 13, 2011 at 9:17 AM

    I'm interested in the debate given that so many state-run institutions have been closed in western countries over the past 20 years. People with the most significant 'challenging behaviors' and physical support needs have been successfully supported to live in their own homes and get jobs in regular workplaces for at least but often more than minimum wage. Why would families choose segregated facilities to house and serve people with developmental disabilities rather than see people supported to live lives amongst us in the community? We know it can be done because we've seen other US states and the UK and Australia do it already. Why not move towards inclusion?

    1. Most (my brother included) that remain at Fircrest have severe disabilities and cannot work