Early Childhood Education program to remain unchanged
There will be no reorganization this year of De Soto USD 232’s Early Childhood Special Education program.
USD 232 Board of Education unanimously took action Monday night to discontinue any reorganization planned under director of special services Susan Sipe, who is resigning from the district effective July 1.
The program’s direction came under scrutiny after the March 2 Board of Education meeting, when Sipe announced a reorganization that included the elimination of five lead teacher positions, dropping the number of teachers in the classroom and using a licensed special education teacher and a paraprofessional to pick up their duties. The program this year serves more than 160 students.
The program’s direction became a point of contention when Sipe announced at the March 2 Board of Education meeting that five lead teacher positions would be eliminated. Under the plan, licensed special education teachers currently assigned to the classrooms would take over classes with the aid of a classroom paraprofessional.
Sipe’s resignation was accepted on April 24, and on May 4 the board put the announced program changes on hold. After Interim Superintendent Ron Wimmer took over full responsibilities of the district May 11, he met with concerned parents and program staff members. He also contacted the Kansas Department of Education on options for the program.
“The proposals that you had from the director reflects models that work in other locations, and that’s not to say it can’t work in this location,” he said. “But parents feel the program now works; they don’t see that the change needs to be made.”
In the fall, the early childhood program will continue to have one lead teacher with a background in early childhood, one special education teacher, and one paraprofessional in each classroom. The lead teacher and special education staff will collaborate to provide services for children with individual education plans (IEPs). The classrooms will be comprised equally of special needs students and peer models.
Wimmer said the lack of support for the reorganization showed more collaboration was needed if future changes were to be made to the program.
Board member Randy Johnson said he felt positive the program should be left as is.
Wimmer said under the current model the district could not claim lead teachers for special education reimbursement, costing the district an estimated $115,000 in state funding.
Board President Larry Meyer said the district should look into tweaking the system so the district would not lose the lead teacher reimbursement. Should the funding be lost, it could translate in to a loss of services for students.
Board member Jim Thomas said he had no issue leaving the program as is, but he reminded the board to remember budget implications.
Board member Bill Fletcher moved to maintain the current state of the program, member Janine Gracy seconded the motion. The motion was approved 5-0. Board members Don Clark and Tim Blankenship were absent from Monday’s meeting.
Monday’s decision reaffirmed parent Valerie Lehman’s hope in the district.
“I’m tickled,” said Lehman, who has a child in the program. “Dr. Wimmer had called all the parents that had spoken, written letters or e-mails or given any kind of communication about the program. We met on Monday morning to talk with him.”
Lehman said the board made the right decision for the program in staying with the status quo.
“It was definitely a necessity, not an option,” she said of the decision.