Special Education in the Albany School District

Parent Q&A

In Search of Special Education Attorney with Availability Apr 11, 2021 (3 responses below)
Albany School District is stonewalling IEP request May 19, 2020 (9 responses below)
IEP Advocate for Albany student Oct 7, 2019 (5 responses below)
Success with school district paying for private math class? Aug 22, 2017 (2 responses below)
Albany School District - Problems with advocacy/504/IEP issues Jun 13, 2017 (4 responses below)
  • We are searching for a skilled attorney to help our family navigate the quagmire that is the Albany Unified School District's special education process.  We have done a ton of research, connected to DREDF, written the letters we were supposed to write, and filled out all forms.  We need a lawyer familiar with the Albany district who can efficiently clear a couple of logjams - it would appear that the administration is waiting for us to file suit.  It's hard to find any education attorneys with availability this time of year, so we are casting a wide net.  Thanks for any leads!

    Try Tollner Law Offices. They are in the San Jose area but have represented cases all over the Bay Area and are very good. We used Sarah Fairchild at Tollner and our district is in Contra Costa County.

    I have used Roberta Savage in Sacramento multiple times relating to issues with my kids’ IEPs in BUSD and WCCUSD school districts. I don’t know if she’s specifically familiar with Albany, but she had no problem navigating different districts because they’re all ostensibly following state law. I highly recommend her. Caring but no nonsense and reasonably priced for the quality of service.

    Deborah Jacobsen was a godsend for us in a similar situation. She is based in Berkeley and knows the various east bay districts well. She is highly competent and very nice. 

  • We have had our kids in the Albany schools since Kindergarten, and have been reasonably happy with their experience until they entered Albany High School.  After a year and a half of incessant bullying at Albany High, our daughter made a serious suicide attempt and is now in a therapeutic boarding school which combines clinical treatment with special education.  We requested an IEP evaluation shortly after she started treatment, and we have experienced nothing but foot-dragging, stonewalling, and non-communication ever since.  They are now using the Covid-19 shut down as a blanket excuse to not complete the IEP evaluation, even though we signed and returned the evaluation plan on February 13, a full month before the shutdown.  We are in shock that a district we have been a part of for 11 years is washing their hands of our daughter's special education needs.  We are being told that IEP evaluations will not happen until the kids return to school physically, whenever that happens.  So they expect us to send our daughter back into the same environment with no support services in place, and then they will think about evaluating her.  I never thought I would be in a position where I would be contemplating suing my previously beloved AUSD.  My questions (finally) are:   Has anyone had success with working with Albany High to address targeted bullying?  Has anyone successfully negotiated an IEP placement in an outside therapeutic school for mental health issues (like Hogan) with AUSD?  Did it require getting a lawyer?  Does the county play a role in special education when districts fail to provide FAPE?    Would Berkeley High provide better special education services (if we could get a transfer?)  Thank you for any and all input.

    I am so sorry to hear about your difficulties.  Our situation was different but  involved dealing with AHS around getting a 504 plan in place.  My child had a medical diagnosis requiring special accommodations. I consulted with this local non-profit DREDF who have advocates with very useful information.  I realize you are not dealing with a disability, yet they may still provide some information.  Once I knew what language to use, AHS completely changed their tune and we had a meeting in place quickly as well as the 504.  It really pays to be informed and parents do have rights.  I hope you can get this worked out.  Best of luck with it!  Albany parent.

    I am so sorry this is happening. Perhaps consider joining local Facebook groups specifically for parents of children with IEP-related needs.  They are an incredible resource as they have so much combined experience. I've seen them pool ideas on issues just like the one you are facing. Thanks also for going public. It's very important that we all know.

    While I realize this doesn't answer your questions directly, I wanted to let you know that I am a special education teacher is a different district.  Our district is not conducting initial evaluations either during the school closure as there does not (yet?) seem to be a good way to assess students from a distance.

  • IEP Advocate for Albany student

    (5 replies)

    I am seeking advice and/or recommendation for an advocate or lawyer to help me communicate with my daughter's school regarding her IEP.  

    Her AUSD school (Cornell) has been without a resource teacher this academic year and as a result the district has not provided her with 1200 minutes of resource class education (and counting).  I would like to hire a tutor for her so that she can get the educational support that the district has failed to give her and I need help getting the district to pay for this.  The district is "working on a plan" to make up missed minutes, but the only vague information they have provided me so far is that they might be able to make up the missed minutes during winter break.  

    I have contacted DREDF and await their reply.  I would greatly appreciate any experiences, leads, or information that parents who have been in this situation or gone through this process would be comfortable sharing with me.   Thanks very much in advance.  

    Our family lives in Oakland.  Our situation is slightly different but parallel.   I'm working with Tollner Law in San Jose.  Special education is their focus.  It's been a good experience.  Get in touch and I can give you more details.  Good luck.


    Our  daughter had an IEP and we had so many challenges with our local school district. I found many helpful resources, including free access to care managers at Children’s Health Center(CHC). There website is www.chconline.com and their care managers can be reached at 650-688-3625 or caremanagers [at] chconline.org. They are noted to be the top rated education and mental health services for children, teens and young adults, with reputable resources steeped in solid research and science. I hope you find this resources as helpful as I did.

    Good Luck to you


    Jennifer Callahan 415-238-2338 .

    This is her specialty!

  • Hello: I am an AUSD parent.  My child has an IEP for a significant math impairment.  She would not be able to keep up in even the most basic math class offered in her grade.  She has been talking math privately.    It's very expensive and it occurred to me (yes, silly that it took so long) that we should petition the school district to pay for it.  Has anyone been successful with this, and willing to talk to me about how they went about it?  Thank you in advance. 

    I also have a child at AUSD who is on an IEP and is taking math privately.  Your post did not indicate what grade your daughter is in, which I actually think is important in terms of strategy.  Firstly, I would suggest you look at your child's most recent testing for math aptitude and see what your daughter's scores indicate.  In our case, even though our kid scored in an average range, they placed him in Resource Math class once he got to Middle School.  By the time we got to AHS, they were again recommending Resource Math, even though by this time, we had figured out he was capable of more than that.  They said we could place him in a general education classroom for math, but he would only have Support Lab class to get extra help with the material.  We knew he would fail in that setting.  Here's the rub.  We consulted with an attorney who told us that if we wanted to have the district pay for private math, we'd have to prove that the district had not offered us FAPE (Free and Appropriate Education, I think).  But to do this, we'd have to put him back in the general education class, and let him fail first.  I wish we had forced this issue in Middle School, when grades don't really count.  We chose to just enroll him at Tilden Prep for math, where he has now successfully completed Algebra I and Geometry, working one-on-one with an instructor. 

    Bottom line is you could put your daughter into a Resource Math class at AUSD for free, but if you think she could learn significantly more with intensive instruction and her testing supports that, push for inclusion in a general education math class before high school.  You have to be willing to let her experience the humiliation of that failure, though.  It's also worth mentioning that my kid found Resource Math to be humiliating because it was so basic. 

    Other posters are going to tell you to call DREDF.  By all means do that, but I think the attorney we spoke with was a bit more of a realist than the folks I talked to at DREDF.  Contact me through my username below, if you like.  I would be happy to talk to you further.  Good luck to you.  This stuff is hard!!

    I assume AUSD, is Albany USD.  It is possible to get the district to pay for outside classes.  However, you would probably need to hire an attorney to do that and have outside evaluations done to show that it is necessary.  Whether it is worth it or not depends on how old your child is now.  If she is young, it will help you get services for many years.  If she is in high school, it might not be worth the up front costs for an attorney and private evaluations, depending on what you are spending now.  You could also just ask for an IEP meeting, and request that the district provide services for math education.  If you disagree with what they offer, then document that by writing an addendum to the IEP.  DREDF in Berkeley can help you with advice and doesn't charge for their services.  (Disability Rights organization).  Unfortunately the services provided by the district are generally inadequate.  So you can go with inadequate services,  pay for an attorney, (sometimes those costs can be recouped, but no guarantee) or pay out of pocket for the services that will benefit your child.  Not great choices.  You can contact me if you like.  

  • Hello,

    I am a single parent with a teenager at Albany High School (AHS) who has a special education plan. I have had a world of problems interacting with the counselors and the administration at AHS. I feel like they are constantly withholding information from me--everything from programs and classes my child is eligible for, to school policies. It is like pulling teeth to get them to offer information. 

    Has anyone else had this issue with AHS before? Either in regards to 504/IEP plans, or just in general?

     I could have wrote this post years ago. I thought the same way as my son was going through high school; he had an IEP his entire school career. In the schools defense often times teachers are not aware of the programs and services that are available for students. Depending on what track your son is on ( graduation versus certificate of completion )  they may just focus on the programs and services that are going to benefit him the most in achieving his goals and academic requirements. I would highly encourage you to attend the Adult Transition Fair that is held yearly in the spring. It will help you get a greater perspective of what is out there and make informed decisions on your sons individual  transition plan.  Are you a client of the Regional Center of the East Bay? If so I would encourage you to have your case manager attend every IEP meeting going forward. 

     Having a clear idea of your  sons hopes and dreams for his future is the most important thing. My son just graduated from Alameda High School this month and there are many things I wish I would have done differently in regards to IEP goals in high school to set him up for success in the future. 

    Good luck! It sounds like you are an awesome Mom and advocate for your child!!

    You might consider/attempt a transfer to Berkeley High School. Their Special Education Department is responsive, compassionate, professional and very intelligent. What an awesome staff! 

     I feel your pain. This has been a constant battle for me also since elementary school and we are doing the same battle in Albany Middle School. They are definitely not forthcoming with the information of what's available but what I found helpful is some groups on Facebook. Many of these people have gone through or are going through the same Issues  and I find they are quite helpful . 

    One of the groups that is local is called decoding dyslexia CA. When she start searching you can find many other groups.

    I would definitely like to stay in touch if possible as we will be heading up to high school in another year. 

     The Best of luck 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Oct 2015

RE: AUSD, SFUSD, and special needs

My kids go to school in Albany. I think it has a terrific program for special needs, with an emphasis on inclusion to the extent possible. My kids have had at least one kid with an aide in their class most years. They also have the special day class and all the supports but they really try to have as much inclusion as the kid can handle, which is great for all the kids. Anon

What is your opinion of special ed in Albany?

April 2011

I have a 6 year old daughter with significant language and cognitive delays. She is currently in a SH class in WCCUSD. The only time she is with ''regular ed'' children is during recess. I am considering moving to Albany because I believe that AUSD would provide her with a program where she would be more integrated with ''regular ed'' kids while providing her with all the support she needs.

If you have or had a child with special needs (and an IEP) in Albany Unified, please let me know your overall opinion of his/her education there. Did your child receive enough support? Was s/he significantly integrated in the school? How did the other children treat your child?

Thank you for taking the time to respond! -Mother-of-Special Needs Child

I have a daughter who is 13 and currently attending AMS. She is a gifted child who has severe learning dis. and emotional, and social issues.

I moved her from Raskob school in Oakland into Ocean view at the end of 4th grade, and she stayed there for all of 5th grade before moving to Albany middle school.She did not do well emotionally at Raskob and I was holding my breath when she started Ocean view, but it turned out to be the best experience to date for her.

She had SE classes for reading and math, but was in a regular classroom as well, where her teacher was great and was able to focus on her abilities and work with her strengths. Middle school, came and that all went out the window .

They put her in the ''resourse room'', which is a class room of 12-14 1 teacher and 1 aid, for all kids that are struggling.There was definitely no specific education plan to address her learning dis.in the ''resource room''.

After obtaining an advocate form DREDF, and going to metting after meeting she now has a modified schedule that is working better for her. my experience is that the folks are really nice at AMS but didnt listen to me as a parent until I brought in an Advocate to back me up.My daughter now has one on one with the reading specialists , small math class and likes her GE teacher for English and History. I cant say she's doing great but much better after a 2-year fight.Good luck and hang in there! -jackie

I have a child in special education at Cornell. He is in the general ed classroom with full-time paraprofessional assistance, and he has pull-outs for other services. Without seeing your daughter's assessment or IEP I can't begin to speculate about what her placement would be. However, I can tell you that the school is very inclusive of children with special needs. They are members of a wonderful school community. The principal talks about what a privilege it is to have a special day class at Cornell and cultivates an environment of respect. We also think very highly of the SDC teacher. Our experience with special education in Albany has been very good overall. If you have any more specific questions, you can ask the moderator for my email address. Special Ed Mom

Attorney for IEP disagreement with Albany school

March 2010

I have a child in Special Education with ADD and some language processing issues. We have been in an ongoing disagreement with our school district (Albany USD) over his IEP and are at the point that I think we need an attorney to help us, as we are heading toward filing a suit (due process complaint) against the district for failing to provide appropriate services, and several other issues. Any suggestions? Unhappy Albany parent

Catherine Doble is a great attorney from what I have heard. Unfortunately I do not have her number. I am also an Albany parent and unhappy. Would be interested to know which school your child attends and what grade he/she is in. Also are you a member of the Yahoo groups put on by an Albany Parent for families who have children with special needs? My child has processing issues and I would have to agree that I don't think they are addressing the issues appropriately. Frankly, I don't think they know what to do. Good luck. anonymous

DREDF will be able to provide some legal advice. They may also be able to refer you to an attorney. http://www.dredf.org/ Good Luck