Room for improvement in Cobb’s special education program
A comprehensive report on the Cobb School District’s special education program pinpointed several issues Wednesday, including thin administrative resources for special education. One of the first problems identified in the report, a preliminary version of which was presented to the board in March, was that special education support on the school level was “spread very thin,” because resources were centralized at the district level, said Leah Kelly, one of a three-member team who conducted the review.
“For the 2014-15 school year, you had 40 district special education administrators and 150 support teachers at the district level,” Kelly said.
Kelly and two others from Florida-based SRG Technology, a team of education and technology industry leaders with offices in Atlanta and Florida, conducted the review of Cobb schools’ special education program. As part of the preliminary recommendations in March, Kelly suggested the district reallocate some of its support resources from the central office to the schools.
Mary Elizabeth Davis Kelly noted several areas where the district’s special education program could improve, including communication both internally and externally, consistency of messages, information and practices, and transparency of processes. Kelly said schools should share their success stories because many schools have great ideas and practices, but those need to be circulated across the district and with parents.
Another recommendation Kelly made was for the district to create a parent advisory group to collaborate with the school system for problem solving and ideas. Improvements already underway Cobb Chief Academic Officer Mary Elizabeth Davis said at the work session the district had already implemented changes to the administrative structure since Kelly’s recommendation, which had garnered positive responses from schools.
Davis said 85 district positions have been reassigned to local positions at schools, and the remaining district administrators were reorganized to become more efficient. Some other improvements have already been made since a preliminary report was completed in March, while other recommendations from the final report, presented at the school board’s work session Wednesday, are expected to be implemented going forward, according to Davis.
Davis said there is now a comprehensive contact directory online for educators as well as a general manual to help guide procedures. Going forward, Davis said the district will continue to improve online resources for internal communication and sharing of best practices. For special education parents, Davis said parent events have been scheduled for the upcoming year and more resources will be made available. Going forward Staff agreed to bring periodical updates to the school board on what is being done to improve special education services in the coming months.
The review, which began early this year, included an analysis of five aspects of the special education program and services including: delivery of services, communication, individualized education program development and implementation, budget processes and alternative curriculum materials. Kelly noted many positive features of each area of the special education program, but focused on issues that can be improved through recommendations in her presentation to the board.
Chairman Randy Scamihorn said the review was “well overdue,” noting it will help slingshot the district’s special needs services into the future. Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said the report is a great starting point for improving special education services in Cobb. Making changes to the district’s special education programs is an “ongoing process,” Ragsdale said, because there is always room for improvements. The report cost $73,000 and was ordered by school board member David Morgan.
Also at the work session, the school board approved the appointment of Janell McClure as the new director of digital and multimedia learning. McClure was previously the supervisor of digital transformation. Her annual salary will rise from $97,388 to $103,086.
by Michelle Babcock August 12, 2015 11:55 PM Mary Elizabeth Davis MARIETTA
Marietta Daily Journal