Letter questions DCSD special ed spending

Maddox 1

DeKalb County School District (DCSD) renewed a $700,000 contract with Southern Behavior Group (SBG) on June 12 following approval from the board of education, raising questions about the district’s spending on special education students.

According to DCSD Coordinator for Special Education and Diverse Learners Melinda Maddox, SBG provides the district with Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA) professionals.

BCBA educators at DCSD provide consultation on current students, analyze referrals for new students, analyze behavior in special education students and attend individualized education plan (IEP) meetings, Maddox said.

Maddox said that in the 2016-2017 school year, SBG provided more than 3,000 hours of service at a cost of approximately $400,000. Services have involved home-based programs for two students, ongoing observation for nine students, evaluations for five students as well as training to DCSD staff, including lead teachers for special education.

An anonymous letter The Champion received in early 2017 from someone who identified himself or herself as a DeKalb County teacher, suggests that DCSD may not have enough special education teachers in general.

The letter—which was also sent to state superintendent Richard Woods, the U.S. Department of Education and other local media outlets—states special education teachers are often responsible for teaching in collaborative classrooms with general education teachers and other duties throughout the building, including presiding over IEP meetings.

“My question is, ‘How can a teacher be in two places at the same time?’” the letter asks. “The answer is, [he or she] can’t.”

The letter describes a situation at an unnamed school where a general education teacher was assigned to a collaborative classroom with a special education teacher.

When the special education teacher was responsible for holding IEP meetings for each special education student throughout an entire school, the general education teacher was left alone.

“She was told, ‘These are your students, and if she is absent, you should be able to handle them,’” the letter states. “She is not certified in special education. Special education students in collaborative settings are promised the presence of a special education teacher to help them. This is what their IEP states as a promised service from [DCSD]. Because the lead teacher [was] left to hold meetings, these students did not receive the services they were promised.”

The letter also said in at least one instance, the education process was ruined for 30 special education and general education students.

“When she complained, she was told the same line,” the letter states. “The collaborative classroom was set up with two teachers for a reason. It takes two teachers to effectively serve the needs of the students in the collaborative classroom.”

According to the letter, special education teachers prioritized meetings with the entire student body over teaching in an actual classroom setting, doing a disservice to DCSD special education students.

“The special education students in [the] classroom were made certain promises concerning their education in their IEPs,” the letter states. “They were promised by DCSD the help of a trained professional in special education in their collaborative setting, but did not receive these services… I heard that this not only happened at my school, but at several other schools within [DCSD].”

The letter concludes by stating DCSD is using the lead teacher of special education position illegally and is doing its constituents a disservice.

Funds for the SBG contract come from DCSD’s general fund as well as its IDEA Federal fund. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), special education expenses to local school districts are offset through grants.

IDEA Funds can be used for special education teachers, training, recruitment, research and evaluations.

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