The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Pat Doody 

Special Ed problems addressed

Tehachapi School Board Update


Program Director Dennis Ferrell updated the School Board on the results of the Special Ed review.

After being forced to cancel their regular Dec. 12 meeting due to lack of a quorum, the Tehachapi Unified School District finally met on Dec. 19 to elect 2018 officers as well as conduct their regular board meeting. In a 4-2 vote, Leonard Evansic and Jeff Kermode will remain as President and Vice President of the Board. The two dissenting votes came from Trustees Joe Wallek and Dean Marham. The remaining officers were unanimously approved; Carrie Austin as Board Clerk, Jeff Kermode as Representative to the Kern County Committee and the Superintendent will remain as Secretary to the Board. The Board also decided to meet once a month in 2018 instead of twice.

In October of 2016, the California Department of Education did an on-site review of the TUSD Special Education Program finding 368 incidents of non-compliance in the District and asking for corrections and staff training. The Department conducted two three-hour training sessions on Sept. 6 and Sept. 13 of this year for Special Education staff and general staff addressing the issues. Programs Director Dennis Ferrell and the district psychologists conducted a workshop on Sept. 26 for administrators and Special Education staff. Three members of the CDE conducted an inspection on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, two members from the original team and one new member. They pulled 60 new files and pared it down to 20 for review.

On Nov. 9 the District received a review follow-up citing additional student level findings of non-compliance that must be corrected by 1-10-18. A Nov. 21 communication highlighted 67 incomplete corrections from the 2016 review and gave them three weeks to complete them. The team did state that they did not feel that they would need to return for another review.

Over 50% of the non-compliance items involved Special Education IEPs (Individualized Learning Plans). Ferrell plans to hold monthly meetings with the Special Ed Team and teachers and also coordinate more closely with the principals. Trustee Wallek expressed concern over possible non-compliance items in the files that were not pulled by the CDE and Trustee Austin suggested that the files be checked and fixed when they are updated but no decision was made. Several Board members admitted that they did not really know what an IEP was and it was decided that an IEP workshop would be held for the Board after the first of the year.

The Board also approved a daily pay raise for substitute teachers from $90 a day to $105. Personnel Director Tim Beard said that no one can remember the last pay raise for substitutes. With the increase in minimum wage at the beginning of 2018, Beard said that the increase was necessary to maintain the compensation spread between service staff and substitute teachers.

The lightest moment of the meeting was when Tompkins Principal Cheri Belcoe introduced Paige Chavez and Hannah Garrett who will represent Tompkins at the Kern County Oral Language Festival on Jan. 27, 2018. They performed their short skit called "My Lucky Day" for a thoroughly enthralled Board.


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