Special education services at WJ schools

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(Posted Jan. 17, 2019)

By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer

Special education staffers Jennifer Merb and Joe Gatore shared department programming and statistics at the Jan. 14 Jefferson Local school board meeting. Merb reported that 281 students in the district, from pre-school to high school age, are identified as having various special needs.

“We have 41 students who are new to the district or newly identified since Aug. 21,” Merb said. “Every year, we struggle with how many teachers we need, and 41 new students is a lot. That gives us a full roster.”

Merb stated the number of special education students completing programs at Tolles Career and Technical Center in Plain City has dropped since the 2016-17 school year when 10 Jefferson Local students finished programming at the center.

In 2017-18, four district students completed programs at Tolles. The number stands at three for 2018-19 after two students returned to the district’s high school this year.

“We definitely need more of our students to go to Tolles,” Merb said.

In an effort to familiarize themselves with Tolles, West Jefferson High School intervention specialists toured all of the career center’s programs in late September. They met with students on Nov. 4 to discuss Tolles programs.

As part of the district’s special education transition service, intervention specialists assess students turning 14 or older for post-education preferences, interests and needs. The specialists then develop individualized transition goals for each student.

“They have to think about a job and what they’re going to do after high school,” Merb said, “including who they are going to live with.”

Introducing special education students to life skills useful after high school sometimes includes a trip to LifeTown, a realistic indoor city designed for children with special needs.

Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, the Madison County Board of Developmental Disabilities, and Capabilities Ohio also provide transition services. The agencies help transition students with job training and skills, such as how to write a resume and dress for an interview.

Individual Education Plan teams may also decide to defer graduation for students to continue school-age services until their 22nd birthday.

“It’s a very challenging world out there in special education,” said Superintendent William Mullett. “We deal with a lot of serious situations.”

Organizational Meeting

Prior to the regular monthly meeting, the board held its annual organization meeting.

David Harper was named board president and Melissa Adams was named vice president. Regular board meetings will be held at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of the month at the high school.

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