HAMLIN — The administration at the central office of the Lincoln County Board of Education have been working to correct non-compliance issues in the special education department across the county.
The full board received an update on findings from a previously completed report during their meeting June 1. Lynn Hurt has been working with county administrators, educators and staff for the past few months to address issues of non-compliance.
“In February we received, Lincoln County received, the report back on personnel in special education,” Hurt said. “And to be honest, the special education report was not a large surprise. In the course of my duties here, they had already brought some of the non-compliances to me to begin working on.”
Hurt said the report looked at Child Find, evaluation, eligibility, individualized education program (IEP) and services.
Hurt said to do the analysis they pulled 24 student folders — three from each school.
“What they were trying to do was verify services for those students at those schools,” Hurt said. “Of the 24 folders that were pulled, they could not verify services for 22. Part of it was that things were not organized to where it was easy for them to find services. Part of it was the kids were not receiving services.”
Hurt also said when the State Department came in to do their review, there were 300 IEPs from last year that had not been corrected — almost half of the 738 active IEPs in the county. Hurt said under the previous system, these reports were usually turned in during June, returned to teachers in August and then they were given three days before the start of the school year to make any corrections.
Hurt said she had asked questions about things in the program before the report had come back, so many of the issues did not come as a surprise.
“There was no monitoring in place,” Hurt said. “I have a saying, ‘what gets monitored gets done.’ And the monitoring wasn’t there.”
Joni Shortridge, the new Director for Special Education in the county, was also in attendance for the meeting. Shortridge currently serves as principal of Guyan Valley Middle School but began her new position June 7.
Hurt said Shortridge will have a lot of work to do to ensure improvements are made moving forward. Hurt said training for special education teachers and all principals has already been set for the start of the school year from the State Department.
To allow for more monitoring, the board approved the job postings for three IEP compliance specialists/diagnosticians and for one school psychologist. These are positions that were previously present in the county according to board member Dana Snyder, who at one point served as Director of Special Education in the past. It’s unclear when these positions were eliminated.
Last year, the West Virginia Department of Education launched a Special Circumstance of Review for the entire county school system following a Special Circumstance of Review for Guyan Valley Middle School. This resulted in several areas of non-compliance, including some that endangered the health and well-being of students.
Following the review, the county implemented several changes, including hiring a new superintendent and a new principal of Guyan Valley Middle School. Additionally, the district hired a school improvement specialist to address the deficiencies at Guyan Valley Middle School.
The next meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Education is expected to take place at 6 p.m. June 15.