Here we are, in Dover at the John J. Collette Center in Dover. The task force is meeting in a smaller room due to the Delaware Department of Education Town Hall meeting in an hour and a half. We’re trying to get a videoconference connection.
Still having connectivity issues…with nine members of the task force here, this can’t be good!
A few minutes later…we have to have the meeting via speaker phone from Wilmington. We may get the live video feed going, but I won’t hold my breath.
Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn can be heard coming from a cell phone speaker. He just said they are going to try a different video conference “thingamajigger”.
Ruth Lavelle is talking about transition meetings. Can’t hear her too well with the cell phone speaker…
Kim Siegel got the video conferencing going up in Wilmington. Now the IEP Task Force up there has to walk four floors to get to the new meeting room!
Everyone approved the minutes from last month. Ruth Lavelle talking about transition from secondary school to life after school for students with disabilities. Talking about employment and life skills. Shouldn’t wait until age of 18 to talk about it with these students. DVR (Division of Vocational Rehabilitation) needs to come in earlier. Dale Mitusevich from the DOE is stating they would need to double their number of counselors to meet this demand. DOE is already looking at these issues. Explained DVR wouldn’t take referrals until students’ senior year. DVR gets Federal funding and very little state funding, so that is a huge issue. The Division of Developmental Disability Services is working with Pathway to Employment, which starts in the 8th grade. This program is for students who are more severely disabled. Denn asked age range that DVR works with. Mitusevich said it isn’t based on age. Some counselors work with students in junior year, but most are waiting until senior year. They work with students when they are employed for 90 days above minimum wage and working at least 20 hours a week. Mary Ann Mieczkowski (Mitch) stated the DOE has a Memorandum of Understanding with DVR and DDS. Needra Surratte from PIC suggested having someone from DVR attend the next meeting. Mitch said we would probably need another task force to cover these issues with transition. Joe Miro said it is a good idea to have someone come in for the next meeting (which is next week on November 20th).
I apologize, I have to confirm all these agencies and their abbreviations!
Division of Visually Impaired should also be invited to discuss these issues as per Senator Lawson. Mitusevich agreed. Denn asked who else we should invite to the meeting. Marissa Band is talking about student-led IEPs to help students self advocate for themselves. Laura Manges thinks it is an excellent suggestion for vocational schools in Delaware to establish teams to help with these services. She said this helps to justify the tax dollars being sent to these districts.
Bill Doolittle talking about service providers being able to advocate for students during IEP meetings. “Theoretically they are all supposed to be equal partners,” but this isn’t always the case Doolittle explained. Band talking about 504 plans and how there is a prohibition against retaliations. A teacher recently filed an OCR complaint and is going after her employer based on these guidelines. Denn asked if copying the language out of the other statute would be advisable, Band agreed. Doolittle said it is against the law for schools to do this. Lavelle said it shouldn’t just protect teachers, Denn agreed.
Dafne Carnwright talking about progress reports to students with IEPs. She said room for narrative should be added to IEP Plus. Liz Toney also said a checklist of when students received services should be added as well. Diane Eastburn bringing up section needing to be checked off if student met goal, didn’t meet goal or exceeded goal. It needs to be more descriptive and consistent across the state. Toney said it can be confusing for parents and needs to be simplified. Surratte said a narrative is good, but parents mainly want to see their child’s progress on goals. She said it could also be good to show examples of students work. Mitch explaining how Present Level of Performance and Benchmark Goals explains this process to parents. Tracey Bombarra said a lot of this can occur during parent-teacher conferences and this would be more work for the schools. Surratte clarified this work should be available upon parent request, and not necessarily at a parent-teacher conference. Everyone seems to be chiming in on this issue. Denn said as a parent he isn’t satisfied with satisfactory or exceeds. Everyone agrees there should be a narrative provided for children who are receiving related services to see when students had services and to ensure abbreviations are spelled out.
Senator Dave Lawson explaining to the group that members of the task force talking about what their school does isn’t helping. He said what brought them here is that not all schools are consistent. House Representative Miro stated fifteen minutes for Parent-Teacher Conference is way too short, responding to a comment made by Diane Eastburn. Mitch clarified no changes should be made to IEP during Parent-Teacher Conference. Miro keeps talking about this issue which really has nothing to do with any of this. God bless him!
Denn asking for member of public Debbie Harrington for clarification on services for visually impaired students. She said the bottom line is that educational services for visually impaired is too complex and it isn’t provided by the DOE. She recommends another task force for education for these individuals. There are way too many varying issues for what each and every student needs. The greatest deficiency is two agencies providing these services. Harrington said there is about 250+ students in the state that are visually impaired with only 8 teachers. This is classroom sizes of 30+ students (which is typical for a lot of classes in Delaware). Everyone seems to agree a separate task force should be made for this topic, which would of course be up to the legislators.
Denn going over proposed drafts with findings and recommendations that were emailed to members of the task force this morning. Lavelle brought up issue of parental safeguards and clarification on this. Band brought up this issue as well, and Lavelle said these are Federal requirements. Carnwright said seeing the actual behavioral data for a functional behavioral analysis is not always honored by schools to parents. Toney brought up issues of cancelled IEP meetings when the parents get there. Denn said 3/4s of parental safeguards go over what happens when an IEP matter isn’t agreed upon, so unless it is in those documents it can’t really be changed too much.
Members going over draft notes, but I am unable to see those notes, so I’m kind of in the dark right now. Sorry folks! Due to the technical difficulties this meeting is running way over. Lots of conversation about wisdom over giving parents a copy of the draft IEP ahead of time. This is a HUGE issue with members having different sides of this battle.
Also big issues with IEP Plus coming up again. Overheard one member of the task force indicating some previously discussed issues are not being put into the draft as originally discussed.
Public comment from parent of blind student. Said waiting for legislators to get task force going and then implementing findings is at least six months out and these students need help now.
Votech special education teacher talking about transiton services and liked comments previously said about vocational schools helping out in the state.