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City special ed, advocacy communities lose a longtime member

Dee Alpert, a longtime special education advocate whose close analysis of official documents kept city and state officials on their toes, died suddenly over the weekend.

Alpert, who also commented frequently on GothamSchools, died of a cerebral aneurysm, according to a report from her son posted Saturday night to the NYC Education News email list.

For many years, Alpert ran the Special Education Muckraker website, which is no longer active. The site collected special education news and Alpert’s analysis of city and state education data. Alpert told EdNews.org in 2007 that she entered the special education fray after witnessing what she described as a “corrupt administrative proceeding” over the way a student had been treated by his school district.

“I’m a child of the ’60’s, and I guess that trying to right some very obvious governmental wrongs was just part of my generation’s thing,” Alpert said.

At a time when adversaries in education debates often shout past each other, Alpert earned a reputation for engaging thoughtfully with those who disagreed with her.

“I’m still in shock that she won’t be here anymore, emailing me about the latest atrocity committed against students with special needs, in that very colorful language that was her trademark,” said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children, which assists students with special needs. “I didn’t always agree with her, but always benefited from hearing her point of view and took some comfort in knowing that someone was out there watching the DOE, State Ed, and even advocacy groups like mine with such a critical eye.”

Alpert applied her critical eye both to official documents — parent-activist Leonie Haimson said Alpert was the only person she knew to scour agendas for upcoming Regents meetings thoroughly — and also to analyzing education news.

The last comment she left on GothamSchools, in the wee hours of April 5 on a post about the resignation of a deputy chancellor, offers an example of Alpert’s drive to look deeper:

Perhaps this is just all Cathie Black’s move to clean out the stables of her predecessor’s hand-picked top staff and replace them with ones more to her liking. Not unusual when a CEO comes in from outside a corporation or other large entity.

Why don’t you all try to read the tea leaves and see what kind of team Black’s putting together? Better, worse, same old-same old as were around under Joel Klein?

Wrote Haimson on the NYC Public School Parents blog: “Our NYC ed list will seem empty without her.”

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