AP NEWS

Special-ed program is being reorganized in Florence One Schools

May 1, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – Florence One Schools is reorganizing the special education program across the district for the 2019-20 school year to make the program more student focused.

For the coming school year, the district will focus on three special-education goals: individualized education plans, or IEPs, and compliance; fully implementing and adding programs and supports in all IEPs; and reducing disproportionality throughout the district.

“We have sort of taken our special-ed department and turned it around so it’s student based, compliant based and shifting what I think the district has ignored in the past as far as special education students and their academic performance and moving them to the front,” Superintendent Richard O’Malley said.

With the reorganization there will be 10 new positions in the special-education department, including splitting the assistant special-education assistant director position into three supervisor positions — elementary, pre-K and secondary positions. This will allow the department to work with more grade levels.

To meet the first goal, the district is adding learning disabilities teacher consultant positions, which are new to South Carolina, O’Malley said.

The learning disabilities teacher consultant positions will be responsible for writing IEPs. Currently, teachers are responsible for writing IEPs.

“We want our teachers to be a part of writing IEPs, but not actually writing them,” O’Malley said. “So this will be the beginning of our compliance of the IEP writing.”

Under the new approach, IEPs will be fully written in 15 days. O’Malley said to ensure IEPs meet standards, the district will also hire compliance monitors.

To ensure that related services are available for students, the district will hire a related-services coordinator who will work with the occupational and speech therapists.

“One thing we have not done well in this district is related services actually delivering upon related programs and services,” O’Malley said. “That is the second part of our goals is to ensure that our programs and all of our supports are done.”

Lastly, the district will address the disproportionality in the special education department. According to O’Malley African-American males represent 70% of students who are in the special-education prgram and on the nondiploma track.

“We are not going to hide these things, and I think we are going to bring this out as our third goal to reduce the disproportionality in our special-ed department.” O’Malley said.

O’Malley said to do this the district will focus on making the transition for those students out of school better.

These changes to the special-education department come after the district began last fall by moving toward an inclusive program for special-education students.

This spring the district also began making the playgrounds inclusive to all students. The district began with McLaurin Elementary School and then worked on Carver Elementary School. The district plans to renovate Lester Elementary School’s playground by the end of this school year, according to O’Malley.

“We’re really trying to make our district an all-inclusive district,” O’Malley said. “Whether it’s recess or academic supports or programs, when we say all students, we mean all students, and that is what you’ll see moving forward.”