The Alternative Education Community Advisory Committee for the Muscogee County School Board has taken another step toward completing its task as it finalizes its recommendations.
Wednesday night in the Columbus Public Library, the committee conducted its third and final meeting after several subcommittee meetings the past two months. The 10 members of the 17-person committee in attendance tweaked the group’s recommendations.
Committee chairman Tollie Strode said he plans to submit the report by Sept. 1 to board vice chairwoman Kia Chambers, who proposed forming the committee as part of her prevailing substitute motion April 10 to delay for three months voting on superintendent David Lewis’ controversial recommendation in March to hire Camelot Education, a private, for-profit company based in Austin, Texas, to run three alternative education programs in the Muscogee County School District for $6.4 million annually.
The committee is expected to present its report to the school board during the Sept. 11 work session.
Although the wording isn’t finalized, the essence of the recommendations seems set. Here is an overview of the document the committee discussed:
“The AECAC does not support the (1) proposed course of action that consolidates alternative education in designated facilities and (2) employment of Camelot Education or any third party service provider in that course of action.”
The committee agreed to add the word “single” to emphasize it isn’t against the district hiring outside service providers at all.
“Rather, the AECAC proposes that the MCSB and MCSD act with resolve to (1) develop and implement policies, procedures and protocols, and (2) invest resources and funding to achieve a sustainable infrastructure and implementation of ‘world class’ alternative education across the schools district.”
The committee agreed to change “world class” to “premier” to match the adjective Lewis has used to describe the district’s goal.
The specific recommendations are divided into four main areas: A. Organization and Infrastructure; B. Policy; C. Resourcing; D. Education and Training.
Organization and Infrastructure
▪ “Immediately establish an Advisory Committee to champion the School District efforts to implement AECAC recommendations and others. … The committee should implement a quarterly dashboard type report to the MCSB and Superintendent, and publish it on the MCSD website.” The initiative also should be “formally reviewed each quarter by the School Board, including public discussion of substantive changes, progress, setbacks, barriers and plans for continuous improvement.”
▪ “Establish a sufficiently resourced high quality process to ensure the correct initial assignment of eligibility classifications and entry of special need, behavior risk, and age risk students into support services with assigned case managers and/or social workers.”
▪ “Establish mechanisms and resources that ensure continuity of service by MCSD case workers and social workers, school councilors, psychologists, and other service providers to special need, behavior risk, and age risk students and families.”
▪ “Establish an accountable MCSD office, policy (ies), and protocol(s) – with consideration of the role of school district social workers – to identify, enlist, and leverage a broad range of organic community resources in collaborative service relationships that support behavior and special need requirements.”
▪ “Investigate, find, and employ resources (school district, state, federal, private grant) as investments to incentivize teacher participation in special education disciplines, career paths, skill and subject matter expertise development. Investigate and employ wage and/or benefit incentives to promote retention.”
▪ “Review the aggregate impact of past alternative education policies and school resourcing decisions before turning to a third party option. Factors – changing demographics and environmental challenges (e.g., bullying, domestic terrorism), increased complexity of legal requirements, liability intensification, resource reductions and consolidation – led to systemic conditions with outcomes that rendered schools incapable of effectively and proactively addressing alternative education requirements on their own.”
▪ “Establish policies to address gaps that undermine sustainment of a ‘premier’ alternative education system in MCSD, including standardization, tracking and accountability for accurate and complete incident reporting.
▪ “Standardize triggers for early interventions to evaluate and pinpoint basic cause(s) of behavior deviations.”
▪ “Standardization of corrective action and consequences.”
▪ “Elimination of ‘plea bargaining’ as a mechanism to expedite the resolution of disciplinary issues.”
▪ “Consistent implementation of school climate surveys.”
▪ “Elimination of academic penalties in disciplinary action.”
▪ “Establish a policy that requires the use of evaluations, diagnosis, treatment recommendations, and other relevant information provided by ‘licensed’ professionals outside of Muscogee County assessment system as sufficient basis for Individualized Education Programs (IEP) development and immediate entry of affected students into support programs for special need and behavior risk students.”
▪ “Establish a policy and mechanism that ensure the dissemination of information by personnel gained from professional development classes.”
▪ “Establish a policy and procedures that ensure efficient scheduling of IEP meetings.”
▪ “Establish a policy and implement mechanisms to expedite the Response to Intervention (RTI) process.”
▪ “Establish a policy and implement procedures to ensure special needs students are evaluated for assistive technology, particularly if they have deficits in the areas of reading, writing or communication.”
▪ “Establish a policy to ensure that Behavior Improvement Plans (BIP) are evaluated annually and the reviews are reported as a quality metric.”
▪ “Establish and implement a policy that ensures magnet program application processes are non-discriminatory and assign appropriate weight to special need students’ area(s) of strength with respect to the programs’ selection criteria, academic goals and requirements.”
▪ “Resource classrooms with personnel and support that achieve consistent and sufficient teacher-to-student ratios, taking into account the number of students with special needs and/or behavior challenges, severity of their issues and unique student instructional requirements. This action requires a policy, enforcement and tracking. The tracking system must report instructional effectiveness, continuous improvement opportunities and the status of actions to achieve excellence.”
▪ “Implement resources to achieve and sustain ‘premier’ alternative education system improvements,” including full compliance with laws.
▪ “Establishment of ‘in-classroom’ resources and personnel, including trained paraprofessionals, to address requirements of special need and behavior risk students.”
▪ “Establishment of sufficient professional resources to quickly respond to student issues by engaging, informing and involving parents/guardians.”
▪ “Establishment of therapeutic services at A.I.M. (Achievement Integrity Maturity) alternative school at the Edgewood Student Services Center.”
▪ “Expansion of the curriculum and resourcing at AIM to train life skills.”
▪ “Increasing the number of trained Advocates to support families and students work through the Tribunal process, including consideration of possible special need and behavioral challenges.”
▪ “Implement resources to achieve front-end assessments and assist with implementation of ‘Response to Intervention’ (RTI) in classrooms and schools.”
▪ “Resource and support AIM curriculum flexibility to develop and integrate instruction with cultural pedagogy Leverage the resulting curriculum for use in schools across district to achieve cultural competency amongst teachers, administrators and students.”
▪ “Establish Quality Analyst positions to review IEPs, provide feedback and recommendations to ensure that the IEP addresses the student deficits and exceeds minimum standards.”
Education and Training
▪ “Identify and resolve shortcomings in the process for preparing teachers for classroom success and sustaining continuous personal and professional improvement.”
▪ Increase “classroom management training quality and frequency to enhance teacher skills.”
▪ Increase “training frequency to sustain teacher and administration implementation of ‘premier’ alternative education programmatic investments in respective schools.”
▪ Improve “verification and validation of teacher skill levels and classroom performance.”
▪ Ensure “comprehensive and repetitive training for teachers, support personnel and administrators on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) with special attention to the rights and responsibilities of teachers.”
▪ “Increase and sustain the number of certified alternative education personnel in schools using various approaches and methods.”
▪ “Increase training quality, rigor and frequency and performance screening to ensure highly qualified and capable personnel are available to assist teachers with the implementation of IEPs, particularly in the area assistive technology.”
▪ “Establish education for parents that provides them a standardized view of the MCSD programs, policies and resources available to support their engagement in processes addressing their behavior-risk student requirements.”
▪ “Establish education for parents that provides them a standardized view of the MCSD programs, policies, and resources available to support their engagement in processes addressing their special-need student requirements.”