Revamped Special Education Needs Discussed In Salamanca

SALAMANCA In January 2013, Salamanca City Central School District was the recipient of an audit of special education. District Director of Pupil Service Kristen Dudek addressed some of the deficiencies found with members of the Board of Education recently.

A large part of the deficiency standards found by state auditors dealt with the process, protocol, education and training within the department, as it pertains to the New York State Part 200 regulations. Those regulations, according to Dudek, are the basis in the state for the mandated Individualized Education Plans, or IEP, in school districts across the state. Those standards are in place to make sure services that are required under a student’s plan are followed and implemented in a timely fashion.

To bolster the Salamanca District’s abilities, a new software program has been initiated that will “talk” directly with the district software to expedite the changes needed for student success.

“What was happening was that, if a parent changed an address in eSchool, we didn’t know unless they contacted us as well,” Dudek said. “Now, with this new software that ties right into the eSchool database, if an address, or other information is changed at the parents’ end, it will change for our purposes. We cannot change anything on our end to make sure no errors can occur there.”

Another benefit is that once a CSE meeting takes place to determine the need and level of an IEP, and that plan is approved, it is available to all in real time.

“If we finalize the plan at 9:30, it is available at 9:31,” she said.

Other plans have been implemented to make for better communication, to include trainings focused at the home, with parents having access through a parents online network. Administrators in each building have taken classes to study up and learn the basics of special education in New York state as well, Dudek said.

Other changes have been made to facilitate compliance, according to the director. Summer programs have been scaled back from the 2012-13 high of 80 students that show learning regression of any level, to 22 in the current year and a projected 12 for the 2014-15 school year. Changes in standards have brought the number down to make the program eligible to students that show a regression over a 45-day period.

“That would be, if a student before holiday break is taught that ‘a’ is for apple and after break they have forgotten and still have not learned in a 45-day period.”

The eligibility criteria change may seem as though it leaves some students out of the equation, but some families are pleased about the actions.

“I had one mother in my office in tears when I told her,” Dudek said. “She looked up and said, ‘This will be the first summer my child will be able to have a regular summer break.'”

Changes in special education, according to both, Dudek and district superintendent Robert J. Breidenstein, are always in a state of change.

“We can see changes from one day to the next, and sometimes as many as three changes in one day, as to the standards in special education,” Breidenstein said.

The process of ensuring students in the Salamanca City School District are receiving the help they need is one that will continue from year to year, Dudek said.

“We will take a look at all of our information from year to year and see what we are doing right and where we need to improve,” she said.