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Deadline extended for special ed corrective plan

On behalf of the King George School Board, Superintendent Candace Brown has been provided two additional weeks to submit a corrective action plan to the state to address non-compliance for Special Education services in eight areas.
According to Anthony Dursa, monitoring specialist with the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) Office of Federal Program Monitoring, Brown now has until Feb. 18 to develop and submit a corrective action plan to address changes required to comply with federal regulations for provision of special education services to eligible students with disabilities.
A Dec. 29, 2010, letter from VDOE had provided the original deadline of Feb. 3 for the corrective action plan to be

submitted.
Brown and Pat Nealon, supervisor of special services, had plenty of advance notice about the division’s non-compliance with state and federal regulations. Some of the deficiencies at the secondary level were noted by VDOE as “systemic” with continuous non-compliance for the last few years.
Yet, the state’s requirement for a corrective action plan has not yet been mentioned at a School Board meeting.
The last time special education deficiencies were discussed at a School Board meeting was on Sept. 13, when it was provided a report by division administrators on the reasons why the division and four of its five schools failed to achieve federal accountability standards for annual yearly progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001.  

FUNDING AVAILABLE
Money would not appear to be an issue, with local funding returned to the county at the end of each fiscal year over the last decade. $686,427 was unspent last fiscal year 2009-10, which ended June 30 and $1.19 million was unspent the year before.    
In addition, for the current year, the School Board received an additional unbudgeted $500,000 from the federal government for special education programs in budget amendments approved in December and January.
As previously reported, the latest budget amendment was approved by the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 18 that increased the School Board budget by $466,870 in additional federal funds.
Supervisors provided the amendment with the proviso that the additional funds would not supplant budgeted expenditures within the existing School Board budget.  
Supervisors were reluctant to grant the budget increase without assurances that the money would not be used to pay for positions or services already in the current School Board budget.
A spending plan distributed at the meeting contained the names of some current employees, some who have been employed in the division for years, including the Special Education department chairmen at both the middle and high school.
Joe Grzeika, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, commented on the most recent budget amendment at last week’s meeting on Feb. 1.
“At our last meeting we approved the grant funding for the schools. As I reflected on this matter, I want to place on the record that this board did its job in reviewing the regulations and getting from the school system how they would use these funds. We received confirmation from the schools that this funding would be for new efforts and not supplant what is in the budget. And now it is the school system and the school board that must ensure they do in fact use the funds as prescribed in the regulations.”
Grzeika added, “As I looked at the information we received that night, after I had time to study it, I just hope that the salaries and benefits for existing staff provided are in compliance. I trust they will be, but I did want to lay that concern here for the record.”

VIOLATIONS
The corrective action plan must specifically address the eight findings of violations and provide remedies for fixing them and putting structures in place to make sure that they don’t happen again.
The complete eight-page report and cover letter are posted on The Journal’s website, www.journalpress.com.
The findings are cited below.
Finding #1: EVALUATION & REEVALUATION - Multiple record reviews revealed that reevaluations of children were not conducted within the required three-year timeline.
Finding #2: INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM; ACCOUNTABILITY - Multiple record reviews revealed that IEP reviews were not conducted within the required annual timeline.
Finding #3: INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM; CONTENT OF THE IEP - Multiple record reviews revealed that test scores were not explained. A statement of the child’s present level of academic achievement and functional performance is to be written in objective measurable terms and test scores shall be self-explanatory or an explanation shall be included.
Finding #4: INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM; CONTENT OF THE IEP - Multiple record reviews revealed that evidence of progress reports not found in student records. “No progress reports were found in student records at the high school or in files of students placed out-of-district. Discussions with staff revealed that progress reports on students’ IEP goals were not being provided when interim report cards are provided to children without disabilities.”
Finding #5: INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM; CONTENT OF THE IEP - Multiple record reviews and discussions with the staff revealed that secondary transition requirements are not fully understood and followed at the middle and high school.
Finding #6: CHILDREN WHO TRANSFER - Multiple record reviews and discussions with the staff revealed that the requirements regarding children who transfer are not understood and not followed.
Finding #7: DISCIPLINE PROCEDURES – There is no evidence of implementation of discipline procedures according to regulations. It was apparent from the review of disciplinary records and multiple interviews with administrators that there was little understanding of the regulatory procedures for handling discipline.  
Finding #8: SPECIAL EDUCATION CASELOAD STAFFING REQUIREMENTS – Review of staff’s caseload at King George Elementary revealed the teacher of speech impairment had a caseload of 73 students, with a maximum of 68 permitted under regulations and by the Virginia Appropriation Act. “Additionally, the team expressed concern about the overall number of students found eligible for speech services.”

Phyllis Cook
Staff Reporter

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