Next draft plan of special ed overall expected

Special education ombudsman John Verre provided a special education department update at the Tuesday, June 24 Board of Education meeting.
Special education ombudsman John Verre provided a special education department update at the Tuesday, June 24 Board of Education meeting.File photo Megan Spicer

The next stage of the Darien special education department overhaul is underway with the development of newly proposed district goals, according to Special Education Ombudsman John Verre.

In December, Verre presented the proposed short-, medium- and long-term action plans that would be implemented to address the illegalities uncovered by investigations following a complaint filed by special education students' parents.

The draft medium-term actions plans are anticipated to be finished by the end of June, Verre said.

"There are a number of new items that we will address that arose through required corrective actions, the Gamm report and experiences from this school year," Verre told the Board of Education at its Tuesday meeting without going into detail.

Once the draft is completed, Verre will present it to the board for consideration and approval.

In March 2013, a group of parents filed a complaint with the state Department of Education claiming that the Darien Public Schools violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by removing the "team aspect" of the Planning and Placement Team meetings, at which students' programs and goals for the year are determined. At a later meeting with state representatives, allegations were made that Individual Education Plans were changed after teams and services were not being provided. Those allegations were found by the state to be true.

The state Department of Education outlined several areas that required attention and change in its letters of findings as a result of its investigation into the parents' claims.

Five of the six state-recommended ad hoc groups ­­-- extended school year guidelines, comprehensive professional development program, Early Learning Program-to-kindergarten transition, standard operating procedures and data management systems -- were created and are underway, Verre said.

Draft guidelines for the comprehensive professional development program have been developed, as well as the ELP-to-kindergarten transition planning procedures.

The updated extended school year guidelines have been approved and were implemented.

Some special education children are eligible for extended school year services, which is determined as part of the individual plans. Students who may potentially regress and lose critical skills during the extended breaks are often eligible for extended services.

The standard operating procedures for the overall department are awaiting state Department of Education review.

Final guidelines from the ad hoc groups require approval from interim Superintendent Lynne Pierson before submission to the Board of Education.

Additionally, Director of Finance Mike Feeney must start implementing EasyTrac, which will allow for more comprehensive tracking of special education students' data, Verre said.

Verre told the board that the policy and procedure manuals, once completed and approved, would be available on the Internet in a searchable format for parents and staff.

The proposed make-up of the community relations work group will be established before the end of this month, Verre said.; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews