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Amy Thompson, the Rapides Parish School System’s teacher for the deaf, talks about how her own hearing disorder impacts her work with students who have special needs.
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The Louisiana Department of Education has outlined initial plans to redesign the state’s Special School District after an independent review.

The district provides education to students in state or private facilities and hospitals. It oversees the Louisiana School for the Deaf, the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired and the Louisiana Special Education Center.

In addition, this district manages educational programs for students in the Office of Youth Development, Office of Behavioral Health, Office of Developmental Disabilities, Department of Public Safety and Corrections, and private facilities.

As part of the overhaul, the state will redesign the role of the special district’s superintendent. The department will launch a national search for a leader with experience in educating students with disabilities and has successfully managed systematic change.

A management consultant will also analyze the district’s organizational structure and finances.

“With a new vision, the SSD can be a national leader in addressing the needs of some of our most vulnerable learners,” State Superintendent John White said in a statement. “Through partnerships with universities, adult services agencies and business communities, this district has the potential not only to prepare our students for a healthy and prosperous life, but also to affirm for the rest of our state the potential of all students.”

The department asked for an external evaluation of the district in July 2017 amid concerns about low student outcomes and opportunities. Education Development Center Inc., working with subcontractors, visited each site, conducted interviews and focus groups, reviewed school data and looked at national models that could be implemented in Louisiana.

Their recommendations included hiring leaders with appropriate levels of expertise; designating district and school responsibilities; implementing staff recruitment and retention plans and maintaining high academic standards and opportunities for all students.

“With the right structures and partnerships in place, the SSD could be viewed across the nation as a model of excellence in providing supports and services for students with low-incidence disabilities in these three schools and across an entire state,” said Lauren Katzman, executive director of Education Development Center, in a statement.

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