Wood BOE questions special education report

PARKERSBURG – Wood County Schools Superintendent Pat Law presented members of the board of education Tuesday with a report on the monitoring of the special education program.

Board members questioned Special Education Director Yvonne Santin for more than an hour about the report and the corrections needed in the school system.

Two of the board’s largest concerns dealt with certification issues of teachers and changes made to Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

The report stated 21 specific certifications of teachers were found non-compliant. Santin said that’s out of about 150 teachers. Law said that’s an ongoing problem.

“These teachers bid out for a new job and we start over,” he said. “Certification issues are an ongoing problem. We need more graduates coming out of college with special education certification.”

The report also found issues with IEP development and implementation. Santin said a number of concerns raised by the report related to “training issues.” Teachers receive six hours – a half-day – of training. Half-day training costs the school system $6,000.

Board member John Marlow asked if more, long, additional training was needed.

No, Santin said, noting federal officials focus on differing issues each year. One year the focus was on the homeless. This year the emphasis was on discipline, she said.

“I don’t know what to look for until they look,” she said.

“You’re the expert, but it seems to me we need to increase the training,” board member Jim Fox said.

Santin noted there are 2,000 IEPs in the school system, which has about 13,200 students. Of those 2,000 IEPs, special education officials pulled 60 samplings that included plans for some gifted students.

“If there are findings, they pull them again to see if they are amended. If enough of them have the same type of mistake it is perceived as systemic. That was not the case,” Santin said.

She thought the school system was doing enough.

“I don’t think we are,” Fox said.

Fox served as acting president Tuesday. Tim Yeater was absent.

Fox also raised concerns over the proposed accreditation exit report from AdvanceED officials who are scheduled to visit at the end of the month.

“I don’t really have a good feeling about this,” he said.

He and Marlow questioned Law over the costs ($600 per school) and additional workload on administrators.

“I’m concerned we are piling too many things on our principals’ shoulders,” Fox said, stating he would like to table the matter.

Law said the process will not be as difficult the second time around as additional reports are prepared.

Board member Tad Wilson said they couldn’t delay the meeting, noting it has been in the works for months and the school system has been involved in the process for a few years.

“So we tell them to come another day or come back,” Fox said.

“We pay for them to come back?” Marlow asked.

The superintendent reiterated the school system’s involvement in the process, saying most of the legwork for this accreditation has been done. He said the accreditation was important for the school system to get a perspective on how things are done in other states.

“They will be coming in here giving us another set of eyes,” he said.

Law also noted the acceditation has been discussed several time among the board members. Marlow said he should have asked questions as the process moved forward.

Doug Kiger, director of Technology and Adult Education for Wood County Schools, spoke up, saying the accreditation was a “necessary evil” to qualify for grants for LPN and medical office program students.

“Without it, it will wipe out some technical center programs,” he said. “We have to have it.”

After hearing Kiger, the board voted unanimously (4-0) to hold the special exit meeting Oct. 30, at noon, with the accreditation officials.

“I still have reservations, as this moves forward,” Marlow said.