• The content below was presented at the April 13th Board of Education meeting. The slideshow is available for download at the end of this report. 

    Special Education Process & Procedures Audit Enlarged City School District of Middletown School Community Presentation - April 13, 2023 

    Process:

    In December 2022, the District partnered with Hudson River School Solutions to embark on an external review of the Special Education Department, including its process and procedures around the CPSE and CSE connected to Part 200 Regulations.

    We engaged in this process with the goal of uncovering the following/do we:  

    • have effective policies and procedures in place to support the CPSE and CSE Process in the development to support scholars with IEPs?
    • effectively leverage Response to Intervention (RtI)/ Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) to support all learners, including students who may later be identified as having a disability?
    • organize and utilize our human capital resources to effectively provide FAPE and LRE for students with an IEP?
    • effectively maintain an efficient and effective record-keeping system for its special education department promoting compliance, scholar outcomes, accuracy, and confidentiality?
    • foster supportive, transparent, and accessible relationships with parents/families and other key stakeholders?

    The first phase of our audit included:

    • reviewing information from the offices of Special Education and from our Data Management Systems
    • interview sessions were held with District leaders, administrators, educators, and staff 
    • IEP file reviews
    • office observations
    • document reviews
    • scholar record review
    • confidential interviews
    • non-evaluative walkthroughs (clerical work areas)
    • school campus tour (Maple Hill Annex at Truman Moon)
    • attendance at “All In” administrator meeting (full admin council)
    • review of previously recorded Board of Education meetings
    • data analysis

    The results of the first phase of the audit will be utilized by the District’s leadership team to develop a plan for special education with a focus on how our district can more effectively organize its structures, systems, and processes to better support the delivery of services to scholars with disabilities.

    Middletown Review Findings:

    The following nine board areas of concerns were identified as a part of the audit:

    1. Sustainability: Administrative Structure

    2. Sustainability: Related Services

    3. CPSE/CSE Process & Procedures; IEP Development & Compliance

    4. Efficiency of Pupil Personnel/Special Services Office

    5. Inter & Intra-Departmental Communication

    6. Professional Development & Training

    7. Special Education Program & Placement

    8. Response to Intervention (RTI)/Multi-Tiered Support System (MTSS)

    9. Parent Related

    Sustainablility: Administrative Structure

    Audit Finding: Current administrative structure within the special education department is not adequate to meet the needs of a school district of this size and complexity and is not sustainable over time. 

    Connected Action: Restructure the Special Services (Special Education) department with an emphasis on:

    • Alignment
    • Compliance
    • Efficiency
    • Enhanced internal and external collaboration
    • Streamlined processes resulting in improved parent/family experiences

    Structure for SY 2023-2024

    23-24 Org chart. Top director of sped below it assistant director below 4 new SWD Assistant principal case manager

    Sustainability: Related Services (Psychologists)

    Audit Finding:

    Current workflow and caseloads are at maximum capacity.  Not all providers have enough time to serve classified students. 

    Schedules at max capacity prevent psychologists for supporting scholars in crisis, and limits them from being able to support non-classified scholars in crisis or in need of support. 

    Connected Action:

    Shifted “building level school psychologist” into school psychologist role to help support the CPSE and CSE process inclusive of testing and counseling.

    Create a new process in which SWD Assistant Principal Case Managers support the CPSE and CSE team members by chairing central CPSE and CSE meeting and have ownership over the CPSE and CSE process per Part 200 Regulation.

    CPSE/CSE Process & Procedures; IEP Development & Compliance

    Audit Finding:

    • Excessive number of requests for initial referrals to the CSE, predominantly from parents, are a evidence of the need for a strengthened system of supports at Tier I and Tier II. 
    • Current CPSE and CSE process is cumbersome, inefficient, lengthy, and lacks alignment with legal mandates and timelines.

    Connected Action:

    • Create a new process in which SWD Assistant Principal Case Managers support the CPSE and CSE team members by chairing central CPSE and CSE meeting and have ownership over the CPSE and CSE process per Part 200 Regulation.
    • Revise the K entrant process (transition from PreK and screening) so families are more informed about available supports.
    • Continued professional learning and growth for all staff members to ensure a full understanding of the CPSE and CSE processes and procedures as well as the 504 processes and procedures.
    • Create a robust, highly functioning Response to Intervention (RTI)/Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) across the district to support academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs of all scholars.

    Efficiency of Pupil Personnel/Special Services Office

    Audit Finding: Special Services is a large, complex, department vital to the success of our scholars.  Inefficient workflow and office structure is resulting in delayed completion of tasks and “burnout.” 

    Connected Action:

    • Completed the process of hiring the Student Support Facilitators (former HSL positions.)
    • Restructuring of the non-instructional (clerical) staff within the special services department. 
    • Creation of an additional Senior Clerk clerical position to support the CPSE and CSE process and procedures due to the increased new entrant caseload.

    Inter & Intra-Departmental Communication

    Audit Finding:

    • Productivity is being slowed down and stress is being amplified by an excessive number of group listserv type emails. 
    • Staff at all levels spoke of a lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities.

    Connected Action:

    • Host “Listen and Learn” sessions with educators, staff, and administrators to learn more about how the department is currently perceived (glows and grows) as well as areas where individuals need additional support. 
    • Restructuring of the non-instructional (clerical) staff within the special services department. 
    • Creation of an additional Senior Clerk clerical position to support the CPSE and CSE process and procedures due to the increased new entrant caseload.
    • Discontinue current email processes and procedures.
    • Create opportunities for staff to engage in professional development on newly created structures, processes, and procedures.

    Professional Development & Training (Non-Instructional Staff & Related Services)

    Audit Finding: Concerns about the lack of professional development and training opportunities available over the years.

    Connected Action:

    • Provide instructional and non-instructional staff with opportunities to name the types of professional learning they would like to engage in (needs and strengths inventory).
    • Create opportunities for educators, staff, and administrators to engage in professional development on newly created structures, processes, and procedures.
    • Create opportunities for instructional and non-instructional staff to engage in professional learning and growth (PD provided during faculty meetings, Department meetings, professional planning time, district conference days, and after school.)

    Placement & Program Related

    Audit Finding:

    • A lack of building level support in the form of a highly functioning RTI/MTSS services may be contributing to the high volume of CSE referrals and overclassification of students.
    • Home instruction may be over utilized and not well monitored for students awaiting out of district placement. Consider expanding building level services to address the needs of non-classified students and students at risk.

    Connected Action:

    • Continued professional learning and growth for all staff members to ensure a full understanding of the CPSE and CSE processes and procedures as well as the 504 processes and procedures.
    • Create a robust, highly functioning Response to Intervention (RTI)/Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) across the district to support academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs of all scholars.
    • Brainstorm and think through potential solutions to address academic and behavioral supports for our scholars awaiting placement (on-campus solution).

    Response to Intervention (RTI)/Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)

    Audit Finding: Implementation of RTI/MTSS teams across the district should result in a reduction of referrals to the CSE.

    Connected Action:

    • Partner with a research-based consultant to support our next steps in the RTI/MTSS development process.
    • Create a robust, highly functioning Response to Intervention (RTI)/Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) across the district to support academic, social-emotional, and behavioral needs of all scholars.

    Parent Related

    Audit Finding:

    • Provide parents/caregivers with needed information and professional development on special education policy updates.
    • Strengthen opportunities for families to participate in building level parent groups as one family engagement team. Align current PTO’s to be collective support networks inclusive of general education, special education, and ELL families.

    Connected Action:

    • Revise the K entrant process (transition from PreK and screening) so families are more informed about available supports.
    • Continue to emphasize the need for sensory friendly scholar and family programming opportunities (during and after-school.)
    • Provide intentional professional development/information to campus PTO cabinets on our district needs and strategies to create inclusive partnerships/organizations.
    • Build out the monthly parent/caregiver respite seminars (currently held once a month on a Wednesday)
    • Partner with our staff, community, and leading industry experts to provide professional learning and growth for educators, staff, and families to support community connections (example: Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), transition supports, etc.)

    Strengths & Commendations: Audit Finding

    1. Leadership Team: The Superintendent, Director of Special Education and Assistant Director of Special Education comprise a leadership team devoted to ensuring quality education for all students and to building a unified and caring community within a culture of respect, trust and collegiality in the Middletown District.
    2. Professional Staff: The special education team of teachers, related service providers and chairpersons are dedicated and knowledgeable. Their caring and concern for the well being of the Middletown students and their families is evident.
    3. Clerical Support Team: The team of clerical support personnel is impressive. Their dedication to task, attention to detail and work ethic are to be commended. Their commitment to the staff, scholars and families was apparent.
    4. Internal Quality Review for IEPs: Every IEP created has a quality review process which involves checking all parts of the IEP for completion, accuracy and quality.
    5. Data Collection and Analysis: There is much evidence of detailed data collection, CPSE/CSE tracking logs & other organizational and management spreadsheets maintained by the Director & Assistant Director of Special Education and the Special Services Clerical Team.
    6. Support for Parents: Training sessions are held with a regular cadence (at least once a month) for parents of scholars with special needs. There is an emphasis on families as a unit - each session offers respite care and an activity for both the caregiver and the young person. Presentations focus on many practical and relevant topics including: respite care services; healthy eating for families; specialized feeding; strategies to support generalization of skills/goals etc.
    7. Climate and Culture Shift: It was evident to these evaluators the new leadership team has already earned the support, trust, and appreciation of staff for their commitment to improving the climate and culture within the Enlarged City School District of Middletown.

    Thank you!

    Click on image to download the slideshow as presented at the April 13, 2023 Board of Education Meeting. 

    Cover page of presentation