SALAMANCA – The Salamanca School District has made changes in response to a critical state audit of its special-education program, Kristen Dudek, director of pupil services, told the Board of Education this week.
The audit faulted the district for failures to meet state regulations in developing its individualized education plans for students in the program.
She said a new software program has been put in place that will “talk” directly with the district software to expedite the changes needed for students to succeed.
“What was happening was that, if a parent changed an address in school, we didn’t know unless they contacted us as well,” Dudek said. “Now, with this new software that ties right into the school database, if an address, or other information is changed at the parents’ end, it will change for our purposes. We cannot change anything on our end to make sure no errors can occur there.”
Another benefit is that once a student’s plan has been approved, it is available to all in real time.
“If we finalize the plan at 9:30, it is available at 9:31,” she said.
Other plans have been implemented to make for better communication, to include training focused at the home, with parents having access through an online network. Administrators in each building have taken classes to study up and learn the basics of special education in New York State as well, Dudek said.
Other changes have been made to facilitate compliance with state standards, according to the director. Summer programs have been scaled back from the 2012-2013 high of 80 students that show learning regression of any level, to 22 in the current year and a projected 12 for the 2014-2015 school year. Changes in standards have brought the number down to make the program available to students that show a regression over a 45-day period.
Some families are pleased about the actions.
“I had one mother in my office in tears when I told her,” Dudek said. “She looked up and said, ‘This will be the first summer my child will be able to have a regular summer break.’ ”
Dudek and Superintendent Robert J. Breidenstein said special education is always in a state of change.
“We can see changes from one day to the next, and sometimes as many as three changes in one day, as to the standards in special education,” Breidenstein said.
The process of ensuring Salamanca students are receiving the help they need is one that will continue from year to year, Dudek said.
“We will take a look at all of our information from year to year and see what we are doing right and where we need to improve,” she said.