Superintendent Presents Special Education Action Steps
Following a special education self-study, the superintendent presented action steps to address recommendations to the Board of Education at its meeting on March 5.
“I have to say, we’re really proud of this, at least the final version,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue.
Parents, PTA presidents, Special Education Parent Teacher Organization (SEPTO) board members, teachers, and administrators contributed to creating the action steps, according to the superintendent.
The school board first approved the special education self-study at its meeting on September 18, following parent complaints. Consultants Gail Mangs and Maria Synodi were then hired to conduct the study. The consultants’ recommendations were presented at a December 18 meeting, and the report recommended further district-level reviews of specific areas. Dr Rodrigue indicated then that she would work with the district’s administrative team to look into the report further and would present findings to the school board. The presentation was delivered at the March 5 meeting.
According to a document presented to the school board, the action steps will focus on the areas of specialized reading programs and certified staff, confidentiality, professional development/training, staffing, and the planning and placement team (PPT) and individualized education program (IEP).
For specialized reading programs and certified staff, the action steps to resolve recommendations from the December 18 report include having the assistant superintendent oversee a review of IEPs for students with specific learning disability (SLD)/dyslexia, continuing to offer comprehensive professional development in phonemic and phonological awareness, facilitating collaborative conversations between special education teachers and language arts consultants, and more. According to the action steps, a report is anticipated for the board’s next meeting or a following meeting on an analysis of the IEP program, and “professional development for staff is ongoing and will continue to be provided.”
Regarding confidentiality, the action steps document includes a review of expectations and mandates regarding confidential information and records, mandating annual training by all certified and non-certified staff and supervisors regarding handling of confidential student information and more. Additionally, all special education staff will receive a “yearly refresher training in confidentiality and handling information related to” the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
For professional development/training, the action steps document includes working with the district’s Safe School Climate Committee to organize and oversee training and professional workshops in social/emotional/behavioral needs for all staff, ensuring consistent social/emotional practices are implemented, offering paraprofessionals training in working with students with special needs and requiring training for paraprofessionals who deal with students with highly specialized needs, and collaborating with SEPTO to “develop a parent mentor program that helps support parents of special education students.” According to the action steps document, a yearly report will be provided to the school board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee starting in the summer of 2019 on social/emotional learning training, and enhanced parent resources will be made available.
On the subject of staffing, the action steps document includes having the district’s director of human resources collaborate “a qualitative and quantitative comprehensive review” of special education staffing needs. The document also specifies appropriate changes will be determined by June, and the director of human resources will collaborate with building administrators and special education supervisors to “review schedules, evaluate placement of students within the general and special education classrooms,” and ensure alignment with IEP services.
The action steps document also outlines plans regarding the PPT and IEP program. Plans include developing a practice for using a PPT agenda, including a timeline and meeting norms or expectations; helping to better orient parents in the PPT process; and ensuring that all participants understand their role and responsibility as a member of the team. Additionally, the practice of using an agenda at PPT meetings is expected to be implemented by May 1, and parent resources will be made available online.
A self-study “action team” is expected to convene by the end of June to review the status and progress toward the action steps, according to the document.
Along with sharing the document with school board members, Dr Rodrigue highlighted some of the steps at the March 5 meeting, and board members offered feedback. Board member Debbie Leidlein expressed support for a proposed parent mentor program collaboration between the district and SEPTO.
“I appreciate the thoughtful work that went into vetting this through all of the school community, the parents, and SEPTO,” said board Vice Chair Rebekah Harriman-Stites. “I really like that SEPTO is going to play a role in partnering to execute some of these goals, and I look forward to hearing about the progress.”
The full action steps document will be available with the March 5 meeting minutes on the district’s website, newtown.k12.ct.us.
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