(Aug. 30, 2019) Worcester County Public Schools’ special education department is fully staffed ahead of students returning to school next week, Supervisor Rae Record said during a Board of Education meeting last Tuesday.
Record said that Snow Hill Middle School gained one additional special education teacher, but “we’re operating with same number of staff as we ended last year.”
While addressing board of education members, Record said the staffing program allows for one special education teacher per grade in area elementary schools, one special education teacher “per team” in the middle schools and one special education teacher per “core content area” throughout the three high schools.
Worcester County Public Schools has 87 special education teachers, with seven newly hired staff members for the upcoming school year, according to school officials.
Record also said it’s important to cater to students and provide additional resources if necessary.
“Some students may have sensory problems, so … we will use occupational therapy strategies to help with that,” Record said. “If children have speech and language communication disabilities, a speech language pathologist would meet, and provide services, and … [help] the classroom teacher or special education teacher in that area in its goals. So it’s very individualized just on the needs of students.”
Approximately 775 students receive special education services, according to officials. Of the 12 different reasons for assistance offered throughout Worcester County Public Schools, 29.03 of students have other health impairments, 25.29 percent of children have a specific learning disability and 16.52 percent of students have a speech or language impairment, according to school data.
Eighty-two percent of students receive their special education services in a general education classroom, where they typically spend about 80 percent of their school day, according to data from Worcester County Public Schools.
“The goal with special education, especially within Worcester County, is to narrow the gap and to include our students with disabilities with their non-disabled peers as much as appropriate for the student,” Record said. “We find that students with disabilities make larger gains when they’re with non-disabled peers.”
The public school system offers services to students from birth to 21 years of age, according to school officials.
An infant-to-toddler program allows children to take advantage of services at home or daycare. There are also early intervention services for prekindergarten-three, prekindergarten-four and inclusive kindergarten students.
Students in first through 12th grades can benefit from “specially designed instruction,” as well as other services relating to speech, physical and occupational therapies. Special education services are offered inside the classroom, outside of the classroom and within other facilities including Cedar Chapel Special School.
After students turn 18 years old, they can participate in several post-secondary education programs, including courses at Wor-Wic Community College and internship opportunities at Atlantic General Hospital through Project Search, according to school officials.
Record also said she’s looking forward to accomplishing goals related to students with reading, math and behavioral challenges.
“We’re very excited about some of the new projects that we’ll be implementing in the areas of reading and math for our students with disabilities,” Record said. “Also, we’re going to be taking a deeper dive into looking at our students that struggle behaviorally ... so we’re excited about some things we’ll be putting in place this year.”
When working on a staffing plan, Record said case managers and providers need to monitor the caseloads, analyze current services offered, talk with school principals, and take advantage of public input through surveys before making any recommendations.
Superintendent Lou Taylor recommended board members approve the staffing plan. Board member Sarah Thompson agreed and moved to approve the plan, which Board member Todd Ferrante seconded. The vote was unanimous.