Staffing to meet special education needs

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(Posted Feb. 11, 2020)

By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer

Jefferson Local Schools provides 263 students with special education services. Among those services are speech and language pathology, intervention, occupational therapy, and adapted physical education. The district employs a wide variety of specialists to provide those services.

According to department staffers Jennifer Merb and Joe Galore, during the 2018-2019 school year, 53 students in pre-school through high school were newly identified as having special needs. From the beginning of the current school year through January, 55 students were newly identified as having special needs.

“At Norwood (Elementary), intervention specialists can have (no more than) 16 total students. The number is determined by disability categories,” Merb said in a presentation to the school board on Feb. 10.

The number is the same at the middle school but jumps to a maximum caseload of 24 students at the high school. The ratio of youngest to oldest student in a resource classroom is 60 months, and 48 months for an emotionally challenged designated classroom.

“The state pays very close attention to that (ratio),” Merb said.

At Norwood Elementary and West Jefferson Middle School, four inclusion intervention specialists assist students in mainstream classrooms, and one staffer serves as a resource room intervention specialist.

Additionally, a pair of early childhood intervention specialists work at Norwood, and one consortium resource intervention specialist covers middle school and high school. Two inclusion intervention specialists and two resource intervention specialists work at the high school.

While special education students can get a waiver for end-of-course and third-grade reading evaluations, that does not exempt them from taking the actual tests.

“An IEP (Individual Education Plan) can exempt a student from not passing,” Merb said. “They have to take the test but are exempt from the consequences. There are very strict criteria.”

For every student exempted, a notation is made on the district’s state report card.

“Most of our students are doing very well,” Merb said.

Following the special education presentation, the board tended to items of business, approving the following:

• 17 coaches and volunteers for spring sports and the high school musical; and

• hiring Shawn Buescher as high school head football coach at a rate of $7,478; Rachel Stanley as high school head volleyball coach, $4,218; Dana Frabacher as high school head boys’ soccer coach, $3,834; Jason Phillips as high school head girls’ soccer coach, $4,985; Melissa Jester as high school head cheerleading advisor (fall/winter), $4,218; Jackie Fitzpatrick as middle school head cheerleading advisor (fall/winter), $3,451; Terry Lambert as middle school head football coach, $4,218; and Zach Olson as freshman head football coach, $4,985.

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