The Things Due Process Witnesses Say: Dottie Skrincosky

The Facts & the Contradicting Statements of Dottie Skrincosky

This related to three students (identified as student 1, student 2, and student 3 who attended Fairfax County Public Schools, and at whose IEP meetings and/or Due Process hearings a now-retired “FCPS expert” spoke. 2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21 school years:
  • Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) proposed implementation of the program “Just Words” for a student (Student 1) with Dyslexia. Although Student 1’s needs changed during those four school years, FCPS continued to propose the same program four years in a row. Proof: Recordings of Student 1’s IEP meetings.
December 3, 5, 9, 13, and 23, 2019:
  • Hearing for a due process filed against FCPS was held, for Student 2. The hearing officer was Richard M. Alvey. Among other things, the appropriateness of the program “Just Words” was focused upon during the hearing. Proof: Hearing Officer Richard M. Alvey’s final decision.
December 13, 2019:
  • Dottie Skrincosky testified at the due process hearing related to Student 2. She was called as a witness by FCPS.
January 2020:
  • FCPS continued to propose “Just Words” for another FCPS student (Student 3) who has Dyslexia. In January 2020, and on occasions before and after, Student 3’s mother stated 1) problems with programs administered to her son and 2) that she wanted FCPS to stop administering “Just Words” to her son and that FCPS address her son’s unique needs. Proof: Recordings of Student 3’s IEP meetings, emails, and the due process hearing officer’s decision.
February 7, 2020: June 29, 2020:
  • Dottie Skrincosky, then a curriculum specialist on staff with FCPS, made comments during an IEP meeting that indicated she 1) knew the publisher Wilson didn’t endorse the program “Just Words” for students with Dyslexia; 2) knew there were problems with a student with Dyslexia being implemented the program “Just Words” and 3) she had put in a request to “try to get more people to be trained in” Orton Gillingham and was concerned a) about FCPS’ ability to train up such a large county and b) that some teachers might struggle with Orton Gillingham. Proof: Recording of IEP meeting.
(*Other FCPS parents have mentioned in passing that Dottie has made similar remarks to them. If you’re willing to go on the record, please contact me so your information can be added to this timeline.) August 26, 2020:
  • The mother of Student 1 filed a due process hearing against FCPS. The mother of Student 1 is friends with the mother of Student 3 and attended the IEP meeting that was held June 29, 2020, for Student 3. The mother attended the meeting at the friend’s request, to provide moral support. Proof: Email parent of student 3 sent to VDOE, to which VDOE responded; emails between parents of Student 1 and Student 3.)
September 1, 2020:
  • Dottie Skrincosky retired from FCPS. Proof: Dottie’s testimony during due process hearing filed by parent of Student 1.
September 17, 2020:
  • The mother of Student 1 advised Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell and FCPS attorneys from the firm Blankingship & Keith (B&K) of her plan to call Dottie Skrincosky as a witness. Dottie still was listed on FCPS’ web site, although parent had heard that Dottie had retired. FCPS did not indicate that it planned to call Dottie as a witness. Proof: email sent by parent to hearing officer and FCPS private counsel.
  • Dottie Skrincosky and B&K attorney Wesley Allen held an “initial phone conference”. Proof: Dottie’s 10.8.20 invoice submitted to FCPS.
September 22, 2020:
  • Dottie Skrincosky engaged in “witness prep with FCPS attorneys”. Proof: Dottie’s 10.8.20 invoice submitted to FCPS.
September 26, 2020:
  • Dottie Skrincosky engaged in “review FCPS and parent exhibits”. Proof: Dottie’s 10.8.20 invoice submitted to FCPS.
September 30, 2020:
  • Dottie Skrincosky engaged in “review files sent by Wes Allen”. Proof: Dottie’s 10.8.20 invoice submitted to FCPS
October 1, 2020:
  • Dottie Skrincosky engaged in “prehearing conference call with John Cafferky, FCPS attorney” and in “due process testimony (parent) and phone call with John Cafferky”. Proof: Dottie’s 10.8.20 invoice submitted to FCPS and transcript for due process hearing.
October 2, 2020
  • Dottie Skrincosky engaged in “due process testimony cross exam (FCPS) day 2”. Proof: Dottie’s 10.8.20 invoice submitted to FCPS and transcript for due process hearing. Although Dottie’s 10.8.20 lists the second day as the same as the first day, the transcript confirms 10.2.20 as the second day.
October 1 and October 2, 2020: Dottie Skrincosky stated on one or both of these days 1) that she’d never received complaints about “Just Words”; 2) that students with Dyslexia have been successful in “Just Words”; 3) that she didn’t recall telling any parents that “Just Words” is not endorsed by Wilson for students with Dyslexia; 4) that “Just Words” could be implemented to students who have Dyslexia; 5) that she wasn’t aware of students struggling with “Just Words”; and 6) she’d never had concerns about teachers being trained on Orton Gillingham. Proof: Dottie’s testimony during due process hearing filed by parent of Student 1. October 8, 2020:
  • While the due process hearing was still being held, Dottie Skrincosky submitted an invoice to FCPS. (Proof: Dottie’s 10.8.20 invoice submitted to FCPS.)

The Documentation

Dottie Skrincosky’s 10.8.20 Invoice to FCPS:

Dottie Skrincosky’s comments during the 6.29.20 IEP Meeting:

Dottie Scrincosky  39:35 Yeah, I just wanted to add a point, um. We don’t have Wilson in use in the cur- in Fairfax County at this time, so our teachers aren’t trained in it. Um, we bring in — Family Friend #1    39:46 Why not? Dottie Scrincosky  39:48 I don’t have an answer for — Family Friend #1    39:50 Why — Dottie Scrincosky  39:51 We don’t have it right now. . . . Family Friend #1    42:23 Thank you Dottie. Can you please let me know is Wilson “Just Words” confirmed to be, ah, an evidence-based program for students with Dyslexia? Dottie Scrincosky  42:31 According to, according to Wilson, the publisher, they have, um, not endorsed it. They have gone to endorsing Wilson Language. Family Friend #1    42:44 Why? Monique Blunder  42:48 I don’t think that this conversation is helpful right now. Right now we- Family Friend #1    42:55 Monique, with all due respect, I feel that it is because we need to figure out here what is the best plan you know for ESY for [Student]. And if he has Dyslexia, and he’s been utilizing “Just Words”, we need to go back and look at what is going on here because discussion was centered and concerns were centered around progress. Okay? And he’s only at unit seven, and that’s concerning for me. And his teacher is unable to identify, or even have the data at the table today to discuss the areas of weakness that he’s presenting and specific patterns within those units and which units took him longer. I’m sure, Dottie, you can, you’ll know that each one of those units are structured and then you can glean a lot of information from that performance and it’s not here today. Dottie Scrincosky  43:41 I’m not denying that, [Family Friend #1] at all. What I mean if if there is a need for [Student] to go into, um, you know, a more intense tier of instruction, um you know, we can have that conversation. The team’s here. Karen Tuttle  43:58 Thank you. Kristina? Kristina Roman  43:59 I think [Family Friend #2] hand was up before mine, so I’m happy to let her talk first. I just, the only thing I was just gonna say is that is, um, the parent had requested we not continue with Just Words. I’m a little confused as to, um, proceeding with that programming moving. Family Friend #1    44:18 Well, I’m concerned that Wilson is not available from the county and no one has been able to answer why Wilson Language is not available. Karen Tuttle  44:29 [Family Friend #2]? Family Friend #2  44:31 Thank you. I’m, I’m concerned that we’re having this conversation without the data being available. I understand that the books are- the booklets for “Just Words” are still in the school. I’m confused as to why nobody has obtained those booklets, because, um, I know parents have gone in- I myself was going into the school. I’ve been in two or three times since COVID, and very early on. So I know that if there’s something that is needed, that you can go and get it. So I’m concerned that nobody thought to pull those books to get the data so that we could write goals that are based on the most recent data. And then the other thing is, can we get those, which [Family Friend #1] already asked, and then also, to your point, Kristina, are you guys now saying that, even though [Parent] said this back in January, she said that “Just Words” wasn’t appropriate, that you find that it’s not appropriate and that you are going to put him on a different program? Kristina Roman  45:40 We wanted to honor that request and consider that although we believe that the data we have says that “Just Words” program was targeting the identified needs in his IEP. That, um, yes, we were prepared to consider other programs to use. Family Friend #2  45:55 Even though, even just Dottie said a few minutes ago that “Just Words” is not endorsed as a program for Dyslexia. Kristina Roman  46:04 That’s why we’re looking at other programs. Dottie Scrincosky  46:09 Endorsed by the Wilson language publisher. Yes. Even though even though Dyslexia occurs on a continuum from mild to moderate to severe, they do not endorse it for students with Dyslexia, with that diagnosis. And that’s why I said, you know, maybe it is time for us to have that conversation about what else might be available. Dottie Scrincosky  49:29 Okay, our current tier three programs in Fairfax County for students who have needs comprehensive needs including Dyslexia, or language exclamation, or as they get older, we have Language Live another version written by Louisa Moats, who is an expert, researcher, educator, psychologist on, um, Dyslexia, um and we are also building up our core of teachers and getting trained in Orton Gillingham approach. Um, that is that that training is being done solely by our Dyslexia specialists. So, it’s happening slowly. We’re a big county, but you know, we are getting teachers trained so that they can deliver that. Family Friend #1    50:21 My concern again, is the confusion because I hear what you’re saying about the programming from Louisa Moats. But as we know, the way the structure of the words are presented to the student is different than the way they are presented with the Wilson programming. Although both Orton Gillingham-based they have different ways of going about that presentation. Dottie Scrincosky  50:44 I agree. I agree. Family Friend #1    50:46 And so Iâ’m concerned that that’s going to be confusing for [Student] and he’s going to be starting over from square one. Dottie Scrincosky  50:52 So to clarify, you’re saying the difference is between like the Language or Language Live programs versus the Wilson based, which are very similar to a lot of the OG programs out there. Family Friend #1    51:04 Well, I think Wilson is the most comparable but not as not so much with the Language and the Language Live, especially the Language Live. Dottie Scrincosky  51:12 Okay. Okay. Fair point. Fair point. Family Friend #1    51:14 Right. Dottie Scrincosky  51:15 But we do we are training up teachers as quickly as we can, of course, COVID interrupted the flow. Um, I have made, you know, requests that we try to get more people to be trained in this so that we could- I mean- We’re- How are we going to train all these teachers in Fairfax, you know, at the rate that we need it? We need to build that capacity. Some teachers are going to struggle even with Orton Gillingham, because it does require teachers to be very prescriptive and, well diagnostic first and then prescriptive in how they tailor their lessons. Karen, did you know do you have anybody who attended recent trainings with Carrie Leestma? Karen Tuttle  51:59 Yes, I do. I have teachers that have attended 52:01 Inaudible Dottie Scrincosky  52:04 Okay. Monique Blunder  52:08 We still need to look at the area of needs that we’re going to select and that additional information in conversation I feel like certainly could occur after we identify — and I understand [Family Friend #1], um, that you’re concerned with the programming, but we still need to talk about which area of needs, which goals, and what service time. Family Friend #1    52:29 Right, it’s not just an in and a concern what programming, Monique, so I just want to clarify that. It’s a concern with the ??? of [Student]’s needs and his identified subtype of Dyslexia and needs matching again with the programming. So I understand that you have deference, but I would like the team to be respectful of what his needs are, and not what is available. Okay? So that would be important.

Dottie Skrincosky’s Comments During the September/October 2022 Due Process Hearing:

Transcript excerpt 1:
Parent 1: Okay. Let’s look at the Just Words program. What tier did you say this program is? Dottie Skrincosky: Tier II. Parent 1: Okay. Does Wilson endorse the program Just Words for students with dyslexia? Dottie Skrincosky: According to some of their newsletters and communications — they have excluded the use of dyslexia — students with dyslexia — for using Just Words. Or they say it’s not for students who have a language-based learning disability — including dyslexia. . . .
Transcript Excerpt 2:
Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell: So — can you give me some information — I know you went through a sketch of Orton-Gillingham. But can you go into a little more detail? Dottie Skrincosky: Yes. That is a pretty intensive tier — or you can make it a very intensive tier of instruction — and it does target decoding and encoding — and fluency — and we just started to recently train on that in Fairfax County. [Student], if I had to guess, would probably fall in the intermediate level of that — and, you know, teachers would have to be trained up on that. Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell: Is it offered — or is it in the works? Dottie Skrincosky: It, it — we started it in, you, you know — last year — and are trying to build those cohorts in our county — so yes, it is being offered. And we have one person — Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell: Was that offered to [Parent]? Dottie Skrincosky: No — it was mentioned at that IEP that we discussed earlier — as an option that maybe we could address. Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell: All right. What other option do you think would be available for [Student]? Dottie Skrincosky: There were some other Tier II programming — we have one called Corrective Reading Decoding — which has some efficacy with students with dyslexia, according to the publisher. Your Honor — many of the publishers, now — I, I think, as a result of dyslexia being more pronounced in the news — have all sort of joined that bandwagon — and, you know, will tout that their programs do work for students with dyslexia — have come up with a variety of white papers, things like that. So — you know — there’s a lot out there to investigate and match — based on the, the needs of the individual child. Dyslexia — Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell: Well — were these various programs offered to [Parent]? Or did you just push Just Words? Dottie Skrincosky: Just Words was the one that was mostly talked about in the spring — along with the mention of the option to consider Orton-Gillingham — which was at the last meeting. Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell: Well — why wouldn’t a team sit down with a list — and go through the pros and cons of the programs — or other potential learning systems? Dottie Skrincosky: Okay. Okay. So you cut off a little bit. You said — why didn’t we go, go down with a list — did you say? Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell: Or go down with other options, I guess — and provide the options — the pros and cons — to [Parent] — instead of just pushing Just Words? Dottie Skrincosky: We just never got to that point —
Transcript Excerpt 3:
Parent 1: Why did you — do you think teachers will struggle with Orton-Gillingham, with implementing it? Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell: How does she know that? Ask another question. Parent 1: Did you say — okay. Why did you say teachers will struggle with Orton-Gillingham? Dottie Scrincosky: Orton-Gillingham is a complex approach. Teachers must actually formulate their lessons based on the diagnostics that they acquire when they meet with their students and assess them and as they move forward in the program. It’s going to require teachers who are skillful in not only diagnosing but then designing some of the lesson components and then how you move forward. You know, I think it’s going to — there will be many teachers who are able to do this. There may be some teachers who struggle with this, given the fact that, you know, we have some teachers who are provisionally certified and may not have the skill set. For those teachers, maybe they might do better if they used a program that was commercially designed which would remove some of those challenges, you know, that I just — that were mentioned, so. Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell: I’m confused. I thought Orton-Gillingham was a principle, that it involved principles and was not a program. But sometimes those principles can be used in these vendor programs. Is that accurate? Dottie Scrincosky: Yeah. That’s correct, Your Honor. And some of the — even within the Orton-Gillingham approach, there are some curriculums that were developed by companies that are going to require more intensive diagnosticians, you know, capacity and the ability to formulate the lessons than others. So some have a little bit more scripting to them or more of a scope and sequence that’s easier to follow as say maybe a beginning teacher would need or a teacher who’s more of a novice than a teacher who may have been in the field over several years, has more of a reading background. You know, it’s not easy to do some of these Orton-Gillingham approaches because they are not as scripted as some. So there’s a variety out there. And there’s more and more coming out that have — so some have more scaffolds than others for the teachers, so. Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell: Okay. I understand. Thank you. Dottie Scrincosky: Okay. You’re welcome. Parent 1: And, but Orton-Gillingham is what your Fairfax County is teaching all its teachers before you left. That’s what — that’s what they’re working on, teaching all the teachers Orton-Gillingham? Dottie Scrincosky: Yes. And — John Cafferky: Objection. Hold on. Objection to the form of the question. That’s actually not a question. Parent 1: We already addressed — we already said that Orton-Gillingham is being taught to the teachers. How is it going to help students if teachers struggle with it? Dottie Scrincosky: Okay. So Orton-Gillingham can be used across the tiers. So it could be used with general education students who just need a good foundation in reading for tier one all the way to the most intensive tier three where you actually take the same components and principles but intensify it. So that teacher almost has to have that capacity to do that scope, especially if they were doing it with a student who was really impaired. They have to intensity it and know, you know, the how and the what and the why. And that’s very important. The trainer who is doing the training is our dyslexia specialist. She will be supported by somebody from the Office of Special Education Instruction as well. At least that was in the groundworks before I left. And I’m assuming they will put into play some definite professional — ongoing professional development during the year to support these teachers because I do think it would be good and a necessary step in making the program — in making the delivery of this intervention sound and successful.
Transcript Excerpt 4:
Parent 1: Ms. Skrincosky — why did you say that you would recommend Just Words for [Student], if you know that [Student] has dyslexia? Dottie Scrincosky: Because dyslexia occurs on a continuum — and based on his profile — I, you know — I feel he — that he has mild to moderate needs in that area. And it is a good program for adolescents who need a structured literacy program that, you know, will tackle high-level phonics — more advanced phonics. And I think, in conjunction with the pairing of technology and accommodations — it can be a good match for him — and it was never tried. It’s a good program. We have a lot of — lot of students who have benefitted from it. Teachers clamor to get that training — because it is — upgraded version of Wilson Just Words — it moves faster. You know — he is going to be — he’s a Junior now — or — yeah — he’s a Junior. And — you know — we want to use our time wisely. So it — Parent 1: Why wouldn’t you take the recommendation of the publisher — which says that it is not for students with dyslexia? It clearly states it in what you read. Dottie Scrincosky: That is the publisher’s — you know — that’s what they have, you know, touted in their newsletters and in some of their — like you said — their manuals. We have found it to be successful with some students with dyslexia, for sure. Parent 1: So does Fairfax County have more data on Just Words than the publisher that actually developed it — which is based on research — their research? Dottie Scrincosky: No. Question: No? Okay. Dottie Scrincosky: No — we don’t have more data than, I’m sure, Wilson has — no. Question: All right. So why would you — Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell: You don’t need to compound. Parent 1: Okay. Okay. I have a question. In four years, would you expect a student to stay in the exact same position — whether they had a program or not? Dottie Scrincosky: No. Parent 1: Okay. Dottie Scrincosky: No — and that’s — your data shows that he has improved over time — your, your data from 2019 from, you know, Fairfax — and then your new data from Dr. Ling’s reports — show that he has, you know, growth in areas of word attack — and things like that. So other options should be on the table. We do have options that are available. . . . Parent 1: Why did Fairfax County promote the same program four years in a row, if [Student]’s profile changed four years in a row? Each year — he was a different kid with different percentiles — different strengths and weaknesses — some progression — what have you — why was this same program continually recommended? Dottie Scrincosky: Okay — that’s a fair question. I still see his lack of — his fluency rates were still low, based on the 2019 data that we reviewed from Fairfax. His fluency, I believe, is a result of a lack of automaticity in identifying words quickly — and Just Words is a program that could facilitate automaticity by developing his skills in phonemic awareness and phonics. They will contribute to automaticity — which thus would lead to better fluency — which thus contributes to better comprehension, down the road. Parent 1: Have parents complained to you and/or the dyslexia team that Just Words is not working for their child who has dyslexia? John Cafferky: Objection, relevance. Parent 1: It is relevant because it’s also — Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell: Well, that is — that is relevant. Go ahead and answer the question. Have you received any complaints? Dottie Skrincosky: I have not received any complaints . . . .
Transcript Excerpt 5:
Parent 1: Have you ever stated to a parent that Just Words is not endorsed for students with dyslexia? Dottie Scrincosky: I don’t believe I’ve said that. Parent 1: You don’t believe or you haven’t? Dottie Scrincosky: I don’t recall. I don’t think I have. Parent 1: Okay. Have you ever suggested a student with dyslexia be pulled out of Just Words because it doesn’t work? John Cafferky: Objection to — objection — objection to relevance. Ms. Skrincosky has dealt with a lot of students over her 43 years and whether somebody else responded differently is just not germane.

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