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Schools: County offers to help district gets report cards

The Forde Files No. 181

 

December 22, 2018

Two new trustees joined the Tehachapi Unified School District (TUSD) Board of Trustees on Dec. 11 as Mary Graham, who served on the board for 12 years – nine as president – ended her tenure on the board.

"When you are a board member it's a continuous learning curve," Graham said. "You deal with different situations. The learning never ends."

Interim Superintendent Paul Kaminski also honored outgoing trustee Carrie Austin, who lost her seat to Nancy Weinstein.

The board elected Trustee Jeff Kermode as new president.

The newly re-organized board heard a presentation pertaining to the district's ongoing efforts to meet state Special Education requirements and another presentation regarding the state's Dashboard report.

The Special Ed reporting is based on IEPs, or Individual Education Plans for individual students. These plans are detailed roadmaps that teachers, counselors and administrators must follow to the letter.

Special Education Department Director Dennis Ferrell told the board that reviewers from the Special Education Division of the California Department of Education (CDE), in their last visit to Tehachapi, found 28 of 46 cases to be 100 percent compliant and 18 of the 46 to be non-compliant. Since March 1, he said, they pulled 20 records and studied 18 of those to assess 20 requirements.

Trustee Walleck protested that the results "are a repeat of the failure rate."

Ferrell responded that the numbers show growth and steps forward. In 2016-2017, Ferrell said, the CDE checked 138 items. "The second time it was 46. Now it is down to 18."

"This, after mandatory training?" Wallek said.

"They look for 50 percent compliance each time," Ferrell said. "We are making progress."

The non-compliant items were for the most part clerical errors, such as consent for assessment and lack of prior written notice to parents.

"We need to put steps in place to prevent it from happening again," Trustee Markham said. "It's two years later. PWNs (prior written notice) are still being missed. That's a long time for a clerical error."

The district's Dr. Bonny Porter, Secondary Coordinator of Learning and Achievement, reviewed the California School Dashboard assessment, which presents scores by color – if two or more categories in 14 student categories are red (based on various streams of data), the district needs to take corrective action. TUSD received three red bars in the English Learner category (English Language Arts and Mathematics) and three in the Students with Disabilities category (Chronic Absenteeism, Suspension Rate and Mathematics).

Former Golden Hills Elementary School Principal Heather Richter, now Administrator for Continuous Improvement Support for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, explained to the board that the county can provide free "differentiated assistance" to TUSD to help get those categories out of the red.

"It's the Continuous Improvement Process (CIP)," she said. "You create a team to work with us."

During the 18-month process, Richter said, "We will handhold throughout the process. We will be your facilitators."

The district was to respond to the offer by Dec. 21.

 
 

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