Gregory Coverdale Resigned From The State Board of Education & Other State Board News

The Delaware State Board of Education has a vacancy!  Board member Gregory Coverdale resigned before the November State Board meeting and it was announced by President Dennis Loftus at the meeting.  His term expired prior to that but he decided to continue his seat until a replacement was found.  Coverdale was unable to continue serving due to work commitments.  Chances are good Governor John Carney will wait until the new year to nominate Coverdale’s replacement.  The 149th General Assembly returns in mid-January.

The State Board of Ed has their next meeting on December 14th, at 5pm.  The big news will be the charter school renewal-palooza with five schools awaiting the big decision.  Public comment on those renewals ended today.  Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College High School, First State Montessori Academy, Sussex Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School are all up for renewal.  Delaware Secretary of Education will announce her recommendation for each school and then the State Board will vote on each school.

Other items on the agenda for the State Board meeting include an update on the State Board’s Literacy Campaign, a presentation on the DPAS Annual Report, a Regulation dealing with matching Delaware state code with Federal Law concerning visually impaired students, a Regulation about Financial Literacy and Computer Science standards, a few Regulations from the Professional Standards Board on teacher licensure, and a couple of information items about appeals between students and the Smyrna School District.

What is NOT on the agenda is Regulation 225.  For those who don’t know, the Regulation received 11,000 comments which will take some time for Secretary Bunting to review.  She did thank all who submitted public comment.  This information appeared on the agenda for the meeting on Thursday concerning Regulation 225:

The public comment period for proposed 225 Prohibition of Discrimination Regulation closed on December 4, 2017. The Department received more than 11,000 comments, which deserve careful review before a decision is made. Secretary Bunting is asking the Development Team to reconvene in January to review the comments and make recommendations for changes to the regulation. If substantive changes are made, the regulation will be published in the Register again with another 30-day public comment period before any decision on a final regulation is made.

Secretary Bunting thanks, those who shared their feedback during the formal comment period. All comments received will be posted online so the public, as well as committee members, can review them prior to the January Development Team meeting.

I expect a full house with the charter renewals so if you plan on attending I would get there early!  Good luck to Greg Coverdale in his future endeavors!

Delaware Senate Submits Resolution To Create Task Force for Visually Impaired Students

I heard about this one last week, but I didn’t want to get anything out there until it was up on the Delaware Legislature website.  This was actually one of the recommendations from the IEP Task Force, as members didn’t feel that task force could give the issues facing the visually impaired enough time to truly tackle those problems.  I’m glad to see Senator Lawson took the baton and ran with it!  I expect this will be passed by the House next week.

From the actual Senate Concurring Resolution #2, which has already passed the Delaware Senate:

SPONSOR: Sen. Lawson & Sen. Lopez & Sen. Hall-Long & Sen. Poore & Sen. McBride
Sens. Bonini, Cloutier, Hocker, Pettyjohn, Richardson, Sokola, Townsend; Reps. Baumbach, Briggs King, Carson, Gray, Heffernan, Hensley, Hudson, Q. Johnson, Kenton, Matthews, Miro, Mitchell, Outten, Potter, Ramone, D. Short, Spiegelman, Wilson

 

DELAWARE STATE SENATE148th GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 

SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 2

 

CREATING A TASK FORCE TO STUDY AND MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING THE DIVISION FOR THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED AND STATEWIDE PROGRAMS FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED.

WHEREAS, students who are blind or visually impaired have complex learning needs and require specific interventions and instruction from specialized teachers of the visually impaired (TVIs), certified orientation & mobility instructors, and other related service providers; and

WHEREAS, students who are blind or visually impaired require appropriate accommodations, modifications materials to facilitate access to information, and adaptations designed to address their unique educational needs; and

WHEREAS, students who are blind or visually impaired require systematic and regular instruction in the Expanded Core Curriculum from certified teachers and other specialists and technicians who are properly trained to teach such specialized and unique skills, including but not limited to, technology and computer proficiency, braille literacy, safe and independent mobility, age-appropriate career education, independent living skills, and social interaction skills; and

WHEREAS, the Division for the Visually Impaired (DVI) currently provides academic and life skills instructions to 260 individuals from birth to age 21 who are deemed eligible to receive such services; and

WHEREAS, DVI has surpassed its legislatively mandated student teacher ratio of 28:1 for the delivery of educational services; and

WHEREAS, the educational resources for students who are blind or visually impaired are constrained by the division of responsibility and authority between two state agencies, the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Education; and

WHEREAS, The IEP Improvement Task Force, established by Senate Concurrent Resolution 63 to examine means to improve the IEP process, determined that the unique educational needs of students with visual impairments are not being met through the existing IEP process and recommended establishment of a separate task force assigned to specifically address the needs of students who are blind and visually impaired.

NOW THEREFORE:

BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the 148th General Assembly of the State of Delaware, the House of Representatives concurring therein, that the Blind and Visually Impaired Education Task Force is hereby created by the General Assembly.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the membership of the Blind and Visually Impaired Education Task Force shall be as follows:

  1. Two members of the State Senate, a member of the majority party appointed by the Senate President Pro Tem and a member of the minority party appointed by the Senate Minority Leader;
  2. Two members of the Delaware House of Representatives, a member of the majority party appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and a member of the minority party appointed by the House Minority Leader;
  3. A representative from the Governor’s office;
  4. The Secretary of Education or the Secretary’s designee;
  5. The Secretary of Health and Social Services or the Secretary’s designee;
  6. Two parents of students who are visually impaired, from a variety of age groups and geographic areas, one to be appointed by the Chair of the Senate Education Committee and one to be appointed by the Chair of the House Education Committee;
  7. Two parents of students who are blind, from a variety of age groups and geographic areas, one to be appointed by the Chair of the Senate Education Committee and one to be appointed by the Chair of the House Education Committee;
  8. Two individuals who are blind or visually impaired, one to be appointed by the Senate President Pro Tem and one to be appointed by the Speaker of the House;
  9. The Director of the Division for the Visually Impaired;
  10. Two Teachers for the Visually Impaired, one Orientation and Mobility Specialist, and one Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor who are certified and actively working with blind and visually impaired students in the State of Delaware where preschool, elementary, middle, and high school educational service areas are each represented, to be appointed by the Director of the Division for the Visually Impaired;
  11. The Executive Director of the Delaware Association of the Blind or the Executive Director’s designee;
  12. The Executive Director of the Delaware Parent Information Center or the Executive Director’s designee;
  13. The Chair of the Vocational Rehabilitation Advisory Council for the Blind or the Chair’s designee;
  14. The Director of the Delaware Birth to Three Early Intervention System or the Director’s designee;
  15. A member of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, appointed by the Chair of the Council;
  16. An assistive technology specialist trained with blindness and visual impairment technology assessments, evaluations, and use in educational settings, to be appointed by the Director of the Division for the Visually Impaired;
  17. Two local education agency special education directors, to be appointed by the Secretary of Education;
  18. The President of the Delaware State Education Association or the President’s designee;
  19. An ophthalmologist and a low-vision optometrist appointed by the Secretary of Health and Social Services;
  20. Two persons who teach special education in Delaware public schools, to be appointed by the Secretary of Education.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Task Force shall convene its first meeting no later than 30 days after enactment.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the member of the Delaware State Senate appointed by the President Pro Tem shall serve as the chair of the Task Force, and shall convene the first and subsequent meetings.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Task Force shall report to the General Assembly and Governor by June 1, 2015 on the following topics:

  1. The administrative structure and authority of the Division for the Visually Impaired (DVI) in regards to education;
  2. Existing Teachers for the Visually Impaired and other vision service providers;
  3. Compensation and benefits for teaching staff;

iii. Development of quality standards for teachers and related professionals serving blind and visually impaired students.

  1. DVI’s funding sources designated for use in educating students in the State of Delaware;
  2. Appropriate educational services delivery model;
  3. The disposition of the Resource Rooms in New Castle, Kent and Sussex Counties;
  4. Assistive technology provisions;
  5. Individual Education Plans (IEP) for the blind and visually impaired;
  6. Post-secondary transition planning and programming.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that staff support for the Task Force shall be provided by the Delaware Department of Education.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that suitable copies be delivered to each appointee and appointing authority.

 

 

SYNOPSISThis Concurrent Resolution creates the Blind and Visually Impaired Education Task Force.

AUTHOR: Sen. Lawson

What’s Up With The IEP Task Force? Are Parents No Longer The Focus? @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @Apl_Jax @RCEAPrez @ecpaige @nannyfat #netde #eduDE #edchat #Delaware

The IEP Task Force in Delaware has met five times.  The last session was very reminiscent of the second meeting.  Both of those meetings were very heavy on the side of the schools and not the parents.  The largest matter concern parents receiving a copy of the IEP draft prior to an IEP meeting.  There is also the matter of the group’s transparency.  Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn, the chair of the task force, always had the groups minutes and audio recordings up the next day.

The IEP draft was a hot topic the other night.  In prior meetings it had been discussed and most felt it was a good idea for parents to have a copy of the draft before a student’s IEP meeting.  But members were acting like it was a bad idea the other night.  Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director of the Exception Children Resources group at the Delaware Department of Education, said she worries about the legal implications of giving parents a copy of the draft.  Like parents don’t know what is a draft and what isn’t.  C’mon Mitch, I think parents can recognize what is and isn’t a draft.  I even overheard members, including a special education teacher, state parents get ten days after the IEP meeting to sign the document.  That is only if they choose to do so and aren’t pressured to sign the IEP right then and there.

There is also the matter of the group’s transparency.  Yes, the DOE pushed them out of their prior room and there were problems with the video conference “thingamajigger” as Denn put it, but Denn promised the public full transparency.  Here we are four days later, and nothing new is on the website.  Has anything happened between the fourth meeting and this one?  Something called an election?  Denn got the votes, and when asked if he would continue to chair the task force after his inauguration as attorney general, he didn’t answer.  Denn already suggested having the group continue after the report to Governor Markell.

The legislators come and go as they please.  Some arrive late, some leave early, some don’t even bother to show up.  In the beginning, most of them were very vocal during meetings, but now they barely say anything.

I had emailed Denn about including IEP denials as a topic in the next meeting.  I received a response from Kim Siegel indicating it would not happen, but the group does want to increase how the state audits IEPs and hold them more accountable.  To say I was disappointed is an understatement since I have been pushing for this since day one.  But yet things like vocational schools and services for the blind (mainly covered by the Department of Health and Social Services) are topics discussed at length during meetings.  What is the point of this task force anymore?

We will all know when the draft of the task force is released to the public what made the cut and what didn’t.  I sincerely hope the task force can bring it back yet again to the parents, but more importantly, the student with special needs.  They need to remember, as one task force member said, what got them there in the first place.  It wasn’t to discuss matters that did not put Delaware in hot water with the Feds and put the state on a “needs intervention” label.

IEP Task Force Meeting #5, Live From Dover & Wilmington @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @Roof_O @ecpaige @nannyfat @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

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.

Still waiting…

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.