SOESD / Special Education / News
While the start of every school year brings changes and surprises, the 2009-2010 school year has brought an abundance of challenges to those of us whose jobs are to plan and oversee programs and services and make sure resources are mobilized to produce the greatest and most efficient outcomes. Following the lead of our new Superintendent, Scott Perry, let me outline this year’s challenges in terms of his expectations for SOESD. “We are a high trust organization” means spending the time to talk over changes with our staff and consumers, taking care to acknowledge our mutual sacrifices in a time of fiscal constraints, and to be trustworthy ourselves in what we say and do. “We are cutting edge” involves the balance of dollars against training time and money: how can we make sure our staff learn about the newest and best strategies for providing services if we can’t afford to send them to valuable workshops? “We have an amazing service ethic” is the easiest one for me, because I never worry that SOESD special ed staff are working with and on behalf of children and youth with disabilities and I never wonder about the level of their expertise and effectiveness. “We are driven by clear, measurable success goals” involves going beyond the consumer satisfaction measures we typically collect each year to probe for other measures of effort, impact, and efficiency.
Our administrative activities this month have focused on finalizing staffing and assignments, including work schedules across many districts and varying school calendars; setting up staff meetings and inservice training; and planning supervision and evaluation for the school year, including setting professional (individual) goals and program goals. Our program goals will focus on SOESD’s leadership regarding inclusion of students with disabilities and on gathering evaluation data to measure the services we provide to districts and students. One of the big changes in inservice training this year is that we won’t be providing the typical series of workshops at the Smullin Center, which SOESD has co-sponsored for many years with the Special Education Administrators of Jackson, Josephine, and Klamath Counties. We will target the workshop series on specialists (such as Autism Specialists, Speech-Language Pathologists and SLPAs, OTs/PTs, school psychologists, and school nurses) rather than the broader audience of special educators as we done in the past. We plan to give the specialist groups structured collaboration time to establish their own professional learning communities or plan their own inservice topics. We’ll start by using established SOESD staff meeting dates and include district specialists in the inservice portions of the meetings. In addition, SOESD will be providing STAR Curriculum training (used by the RPATS autism sites) through a series of two-day Regional Roundtables as well as an AIM (Accessible Instructional Materials) Workshop presented by OTAP (Oregon Technology Access Project).
After considering potential candidates for a proposed, new STEPS cognitive/behavior needs class, resultant cost shifts within the STEPS program, and overall start up and operational costs, area special education administrators sought superintendent approval for moving forward with planning for the class. On November 16, superintendents approved the class as an additional Special education resolution service to be put in place for the 2010-2011 school year. The class will meet a long-identified need for students with both behavioral/mental health and sensory needs who are currently being served in STEPS or other public and private placements. Next steps include determining a location for the class, identifying needed equipment and materials (as well as any facility remodeling needs), and ongoing monitoring of potential candidates for the class.
The Special Education Services “Inclusion Team” finalized an action plan for achieving its goals: (1) Assess SOESD facilities, services, and disability awareness, (2) Develop recommendation for SOESD re: inclusion/accessibility, and (3) Identify barriers and solutions to implement the recommendations. The team is composed of representatives from all SOESD special education programs. We also hope to recruit involvement from other parts of SOESD as well as adults and students with disabilities and their parents. Our overall goal is to develop a plan for becoming an inclusion/accessibility leader, which would involve imbedding “people first” language in our practices, ensuring accessibility of all SOESD services and facilities, and promoting the inclusion of students with disabilities in educational and community activities.
As we returned from Winter Break, we have been faced with a number of personnel issues—from persons who are returning to work after an extended (medical leave) absence to individuals who have been injured and need to be replaced on a temporary basis to staff members working on programs of assistance for improvement to filling (or reducing) positions as student needs have changed. Area special education administrators have been discussing and seeking solutions for streamlining and improving processes (such as RTI, sharing confidential information electronically, and independent educational evaluations) and addressing changes in regulations (such as requirements for modified and extended diplomas and the recently released ASD Technical Assistance Paper).
We are engaged in some new, collaborative efforts to enhance our (already) positive relationships with area school districts. One example is the pilot of a communication model for which SOESD special education administrators have each agreed to be designated as the “spokesperson” for specific school districts in our region. (Think of the spokes of a wheel and how they inter-connect to make the wheel strong and functional.) The role of the spokesperson will be to act as a liaison to the district’s special education administrator for purposes of ongoing communication and feedback. Another collaborative activity is the opportunity to engage in long-term planning with Medford 549C School District administration regarding the location of STEPS and district special education classrooms within the Medford School District. Other collaborative activities have included the “Psych Summit” which brought together different professional disciplines to examine their respective roles in determination of Autism Spectrum Disorder eligibility and supporting the training of local district staff as TBI coaches.
This is an exciting time of year, as we look ahead to the completion of the current school year and plan for the 2010-2011 school year. Hard choices face SOESD and area school districts as we try to anticipate what school funding looks like for the 2011-2013 biennium while trying to provide fair compensation for our talented and skilled workers. Among the top priorities for my time right now are planning and implementation of “STEPS Plus” (the new STEPS cognitive/behavior needs class), finalizing ARRA (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act) activities and expenditures, determining district service needs and staffing levels for next year, and coordinating a number of inservice training opportunities for the region.