Garfield Re-2 district looks to extend special education services
As the Garfield Re-2 School District enrolls more students with specific learning disabilities, the need to extend their special education services increases.
Data provided to the school board March 10 by Assistant Superintendent Lisa Pierce show an increase of 205 students with specific learning disabilities in the 2016-2017 school year to 232 students in the 2020-2021 school year.
But with the added increase, Pierce acknowledged that the district needs to expand their special education services in an effort to better support educators of the district.
“The special educators, it’s one of the hardest positions to keep and fill and recruit and retain,” she said. “We hear from our special service providers — occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, their assistants — that the workload is hard.”
Right now figures show 48 total special education teachers in the district as well as roughly 14 special service providers. The bulk of special education providers include occupational therapists, speech language pathologists and social workers, among others.
Over the past month, the administrators have gone through five listening tours with district principals to help determine how the district can better use resources to support special education teachers and providers, Pierce said.
Pierce said some students require more than one special education teacher.
“There are times that there are three to four adults working with one child at the same time because of the multiple disabilities that they have,” she said.
After touring the schools, however, the district is now proposing a model that could repurpose and add positions to help bolster the special education program.
To do so, Pierce said the district is working in conjunction with the Colorado River Board of Cooperative Education Services, which will completely fund a repurposed director of special education for both Re-2 and Garfield 16 school districts.
“Since 2005, we’ve had three different directors of special education,” Pierce said. “They’re overworked and overwhelmed, so (we’re ) getting more boots on the ground to support our teachers.”
Under the new model, a special education director’s salary would be $140,000.
Having a repurposed special education director will provide oversight, work directly with supervisors and organize training and induction, Pierce said. The process of induction will better retain special education providers, she added.
“We do train them like crazy — it really is a revolving door,” Superintendent Heather Grumley said.
Meanwhile, the model will also include the addition of a SPED secretary and a SPED financial secretary at $34,500 and $25,000 salaries, respectively. Those additions should help alleviate some of the workload for current special education teachers and providers, Pierce said.
“Right now in our current model, our special education teachers and providers are doing most of that paperwork themselves,” she said.
By freeing up space and time, instructors can work more with the students, Pierce said, which should “close the achievement gap.”
The model will also repurpose two coordinators, two compliance secretaries, a compliance secretary from the BOCES and a SPED secretary, according to Pierce’s presentation.
The entire model will cost $59,000, which will be allocated from the unassigned fund balance for ongoing full-time equivalent employees, according to Pierce’s presentation.
The major question the board had with the model, however, is in relation to the SPED secretary salaries. Pierce said one secretary will be employed to work part-time.
“Are you going to be able to find someone who will work 29 hours a week for $25 grand?” Board member Katie Mackley said.
The board, however, gave Pierce the nod to incorporate this new SPED model into the 2021-2022 budget.
Pierce also praised the model.
“It’s a dream,” she said. “It’s an outside the box dream.”
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