Poway Unified officials hope to significantly revamp the district’s special education program in the coming year with a four-point strategic plan they are calling a “bold new initiative.”
Specifics of the plan still must be worked out in January and February, but the new approach seeks to:
• make staffers, parents and students feel more included in the process;
• reduce the number of disputes between special ed families and the district about how their children are treated;
• improve instruction and learning for special ed students; and
• implement more staff development for employees working in special ed.
Kevin Skelly, associate superintendent for learning support, said a key step will be to hire a new high-level administrator to help oversee the program, which currently includes roughly 3,000 Poway Unified students.
“Even though we are in tight financial times, it seems to make sense to take a look at what we are doing in special ed and commit resources to do things smarter and better,” Skelly said.
Another key element is finding a way to reduce the number of disputes between families and the district about what type of special programs should be provided for their children.
“Often we get into issues with parents in which a parent would like one level of service and the district feels another is appropriate,” Skelly said. “We want fewer of these cases to end up in mediation. That saps energy from parents and creates distrust.”
Skelly said that many details about implementation of the new strategic plan, including the overall cost, are still undecided. The details of the four-point plan are “what we need to roll up our sleeves and really get to work on in January,” he said.
The four-point plan was devised by a strategic planning committee of 36 members that included parents, administrators, three members of the school board, general education teachers and special education teachers. Work began in January 2004.
A draft plan was circulated to campus principals this fall.
In addition, Skelly said he has personally contacted many parents who have had issues with special ed instruction, in order to get their input.
JoAnn Murphy, PUSD director of special ed, could not be reached for comment of the new plan.