Special education plan reviewed by board

Amy Cherry
Staff Writer

Details of the St. Marys Area School District's special education comprehensive plan were highlighted during Tuesday evening's school board meeting.
Sara Schreiber, director of student support services, presented the state-mandated plan, which focuses on a variety of areas ranging from available programs, future development of services, staff training and more.
"This plan reflects on our strengths and sets a path to the future," said Brian Toth, SMASD superintendent.
Every three years, school districts are required to submit the plan which will be valid from July 2018-June 2021.
The board will vote on the plan at their next board meeting Monday, March 12. The district will submit the plan to the state on May 1 for approval following a 30-day public review beginning Thursday, March 15.
The state requires each district review their current practices and plan for the future in state-selected targeted domains. These domains are aligned with state initiatives.
"In the SMASD, 14-15 percent of the student population is identified with a special need and has an individualized education plan," Schreiber said. "This statistic is within 1.5 percent of the state average."
Among the targeted areas are a look at all the programs offered to support students with special needs or disabilities in grades K-12 and inclusionary practices as to how often special needs students are included in the regular education setting. This could be in the form of student(s) being in a regular classroom with adaptations and modifications or with two teachers in a classroom with the regular teaching acting as a content specialist and a special education teacher being a specialist in the area of making adaptations or modifications to students with special needs. This area is monitored by the state through audits as to how St. Marys compares with other districts of the same size and as a state average.
"One of the areas that this region of the state, and more rural areas of the country in general, is under identification of autism," Schreiber explained. "This is something that continues to improve with the diagnostic criteria. We as a district have to look at where were we three years ago in identifying individuals with autism, what percentage are we identifying now and then furthering that as to what types of support do we provide for those students."