Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I am happy to write that our district's on-site monitoring event is complete.  Of course, we have some areas we need to improve upon, but that is to be expected.  The monitoring team from the Office of Exceptional Children (OEC) were very cordial and complimentary.  I wanted to get an idea of how our district compared to other LEAs across South Carolina, so I asked the monitors which quartile our district would fall into with regard to compliance. The response was an emphatic "Top quartile!"   Our department values their feedback and we will work hard to provide training in an effort to improve how we do things.  In summary, we need to make the following corrections with regard to our policies, procedures and forms:  Update our Notice of Procedural Safeguards to include a revised revocation of consent provision, update our Baby Net Procedures, update our notification of parent's right to request additional information if the IEP determines that no additional data is needed, incorporate special education discipline procedures into our department procedures, and consider adopting uniform confidentiality policies and record review logging procedures at school sites.  In regard to IEP development, we need to provide ongoing staff training on the following topics:  drafting present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, drafting measurable annual goals, completing the LRE portion of the IEP (including removal justifications), drafting Prior Written Notice, and developing post-secondary goals and annual goals to assist with transition. 

Since I like to end things on a positive note, the OEC commended our District for:
  • Excellent use of the District's website to convey information about policies, procedures and recent news relating to special education;
  • Developing an internal monitoring system that identifies and corrects issues of noncompliance and promotes best practices for IEP development;
  • Excellent communication with school sites regarding the development and implementation of IEPs;
  • Surrogate parent policies that meet regulatory requirements;
  • Making District forms available in Spanish;
  • Good practices relating to confidentiality of student records and record access at the District level;
  • Diligent work in staffing our special services programs with appropriately certified and highly qualified personnel;
  • Meaningful parent participation in the IEP process;
  • Ensuring required parties participate in the IEP team meetings;
  • Adhering to IEP procedures and timelines;
  • Considering special factors;
  • Disciplining students with disabilities;
  • Updating post-secondary goals annually and using age appropriate transition assessments;
  • Appropriately documenting transition services and courses of study in the IEP;
  • Implementing IEPs as drafted by IEP teams;
  • Sending appropriate and timely progress reports;
  • Providing general education teachers notice of accommodations and behavior intervention plans; and,
  • ]Recording the provision of specialized instruction and related services throughout the District.
I am very proud of our special educators, general education teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators.  If you read this...THANKS!  You make Oconee County shine!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Suspension of Students without Disabilities

According to IDEA 2004, within 10 school days of any decision to change the placement of a child with a disability because of a violation of a code of student conduct, the local educational agency (LEA), the parent, and relevant members of the IEP Team (as determined by the parent and the LEA) shall review all relevant information in the student's file, including the child's IEP, any teacher observations, and any relevant information provided by the parents to determine: (i)  If the conduct in question was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child's disability; or (ii)  if the conduct in question was the direct result of the LEA's failure to implement the IEP.  If the LEA, the parent, and relevant members of the IEP Team determine that the conduct in question was not a manifestation of the child's disability or due to the LEA's failure to implement the IEP, discipline procedures applicable to all students in the LEA may be applied. 

According to South Carolina statute 59-63-220, "Any district board may confer upon any administrator the authority to suspend a pupil from a teacher's class or from the school not in excess of ten days for any one offense and for not more than thirty days in any one school year but no such administrator may suspend a pupil from school during the last ten days of a year if the suspension will make the pupil ineligible to receive credit for the school year without the approval of the school board unless the presence of the pupil constitutes an actual threat to a class or a school or a hearing is granted within twenty four hours of the suspension."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day 2 of On-site Monitoring

Today is the second day of on-site monitoring in the School District of Oconee County conducted by South Carolina's Department of Education, Office of Exceptional  Children.  Yesterday, the team conducted group interviews with parents, administrators, and special education providers and reviewed special education records for compliance.  Today, the majority of the team is conducting IEP implementation monitoring on the following campuses:  Northside Elementary, Keowee Elementary, West-Oak Middle, West-Oak High, Walhalla Middle, and Walhalla High.  A concluding conference with me, the Special Education Director, will take place sometime this afternoon.  I'm looking forward to the feedback that will help our department in our continuous efforts to improve outcomes for students with disabilities and support to our special educators and administrators. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review of Records: Student Selection for Participation in On-site Monitoring

The School District of Oconee County completed the pre-collection data submission process for on-site monitoring on October 31, 2013.  Therefore, we are expecting our list of participating schools and students any day now.  Student records selected for participation will come from two elementary, two middle, and two high schools in our district.  The subset of 35 to 50 students will include students who, in the past year, have:
*transitioned from Part C to B (were receiving services before the age of 3 through  Baby Net then were determined eligible for an Individualized Education Plan and were placed as a child with a disability in our district no later than their 3rd birthday)
*received an initial evaluation
*been removed from school more than 10 days or have been placed at an alternative placement
*reached age of majority
*revoked consent for services
A broad range of students will be selected to include different grade levels (preschool through high school), different eligibility categories, different levels of least restrictive environment, and different schools and settings.  Transition services will also be reviewed when applicable. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

What Records Will Schools Need to Make Available to the On-site Monitoring Teams?

For the on-site visit, schools will need to provide the following records to the monitoring team for each student selected:

1. Complete special education file
2. Attendance records for the past year
3. Current class schedule
4. Evidence of service provision (for current school year)
5. Incident Management reports from PowerSchool

Individual schools will need to consider who will gather and present this information.  For example, for items 2, 3, and 5, in some schools it may be easier for the PowerSchool operator to print the information in advance then give it to the special education teacher who will keep all records together for each student selected.  We should have our list of participating schools and  students selected within the next two weeks.  School District of Oconee County administrators are encouraged to contact Marge Bright, Director of Special Services, with any questions related to the on-site monitoring process. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

How Should Special Education Teachers Prepare for On-site Monitoring at the School Level?


Special education teachers should prepare for school level on-site monitoring by doing the following:
1) Organize individual student IEP folders chronologically with the newest information on top.  Clip all documentation related to each meeting together (e.g., Notification of Meeting Letters/Responses, resulting IEP, Prior Written Notice, progress reports, etc.).
2) Have all IEP implementation documentation ready for review (e.g., class schedules, attendance records, service logs, etc.).
3) Make sure progress reports are up to date.
4) Be prepared to show evidence that general education teachers received notice of classroom accommodations written in the IEP that must be provided in the general education classroom.
5) For students with Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs), be able to show evidence that school site administrators and general education teachers are familiar with the plan and are prepared to implement the plan when necessary.
Many thanks to our hard-working special educators as we prepare to demonstrate that the School District of Oconee County strives to provide a free and appropriate public education to students with disabilities while adhering to the procedural and substantive requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What Will On-site Monitoring Look LIke in SDOC?

According to training provided by South Carolina's Office of Exceptional Children, the school district of Oconee County can expect a team of about 8 members to visit our district on December 4th and 5th.  On December 4th, all on-site monitoring team members will work from the district office. Following a 30-minute LEA district presentation in the morning, two members of the on-site monitoring team will conduct focus group interviews with school site administrators, special education teachers and parents of the students randomly selected for review.  The group interviews will last about an hour. The remaining team members will conduct psychological folder reviews. 
On December 5th,  the on-site monitors will break up into three teams and will arrive at schools around 8:30 a.m.   From 9:00-11:15, they will conduct IEP implementation reviews at two elementary and one middle school.  From 12:30-2:45, they will conduct IEP implementation reviews at one middle and two high schools. They will debrief from 3:15-4:00 then will meet with the Director of Special Services for a concluding conference.