After some starts and stops, the Delaware Special Education Strategic Plan is almost finished. The plan has been underway since 2014 when Governor Jack Markell inserted the creation of the strategic plan in the FY2015 epilogue language of the state budget. Matthew Korobkin, the Special Education Officer through the Secretary of Education’s office at the Delaware Dept. of Education, will give a status update on the plan to the State Board of Education at their meeting on January 19th. This is not to be confused with the State of Delaware Strategic Plan for Specialized Education Opportunities.
Last fall, the Special Education Strategic Plan was retooled after disability advocates viewed an initial draft. As a result of that, along with a very big push from State Rep. Kim Williams, a Facilitated Workgroup came into formation to fine tune the plan and make sure all voices were heard. In mid-December, the newly created group had a public two-day retreat to decide what should be in the plan. From there, sub-groups worked on different parts of the plan. It is expected to be released for public comment at some point in February, shortly after the State Board of Education meeting next week. From there, at some point in March, a presentation will be given to the State of Delaware Oversight Group for the Special Education Strategic Plan which includes members of the Delaware Interagency Resource Committee, a representative from Governor Carney’s office, and the Chairs of the Senate and House Joint Finance Committee.
The stakeholder workgroup has seven goals for development of the strategic plan which include the following: Students, Parents & Families, Community, Staff/Partners, Resources, Policies & Regulations, and Delivery/Structure/Systems. Like most Strategic Plans, this one will be not be set in stone and will be considered a fluid document whereby changes and tweaks can be added as needed. But every plan needs a foundation and what we will soon see are the building blocks for this plan. Things can happen which could substantially change the plan including the Delaware state budget and the upcoming ruling on the United States Supreme Court special education case of Endrew v. Douglas County School District.
Various groups and committees revolving around special education have occurred in Delaware over the past decade, but this is the first time I have seen such a huge mix of school districts, parents, and advocacy groups. The last group to form policy around special education was the IEP Task Force from 2014 which led to a large number of changes to state law and regulations. No education plan will ever please everyone and there will be parts people love and some others disapprove of. If there is one thing I have learned in education, it is constantly evolving and nothing will ever be perfect. But I would encourage any and all persons who care about special education to give this plan a very careful read when it comes out and let your thoughts be known with a goal of improving education for special needs kids.
The members of the Facilitated Workgroup consist of the following:
Michele Marinucci, Woodbridge School District
Daphne Cartright, Autism Delaware
Edward Emmett, Positive Outcomes Charter School
Katheryn Herel, PIC of Delaware
Jon Cooper, Colonial School District
Kendall Massett, Delaware Charter Schools Network
State Representative Kim Williams, Legislator
Kristin Dwyer, DSEA
Kristin Pidgeon, Down Syndrome Association
Lisa Lawson, Brandywine School District
Mary Ann Mieczkowski, Delaware Dept. of Education
Elisha Jenkins, Division for the Visually Impaired
Bill Doolittle, Parent Advocate
Sarah Celestin, Red Clay Consolidated School District
Vincent Winterling, Delaware Autism Program
Wendy Strauss, Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens
Annalisa Ekbladh, University of Delaware Center for Disability Studies
John Marinucci, Delaware School Boards Association
Sonya Lawrence, Parent Advocate
Teresa Avery, Autism Delaware
Laurie Kettle-Rivera, Delaware School for the Deaf
Mark Campano, Delaware Statewide Programs
Josette McCullough, Appoquinimink School District
Mondaria Batchelor, Woodbridge School District
*above photo courtesy of State Rep. Kim Williams, photographed by yours truly at the 12/9 retreat