By Mayrene Bates
As I do every year, I make every effort to attend as many year-end events as I possibly can. I love to celebrate the accomplishments of educators, students, parents, nonprofits, the business community and, even the newspaper reporters who take the pictures and write the stories.
That’s what makes all of these events so great, because we celebrate as a community the accomplishments of everyone involved. Needless to say, there’s not enough space here to write about every successful program across the county.
Someone once said that throughout history, there have been few events of significance that have occurred purely by accident. We know that success happens, because many care enough to make a difference for the good of all. According to Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”
Source: Solano Voices: Year-end events celebrate accomplishments
By Amy Maginnis-Honey
Gustavo Macias didn’t need music to enjoy the annual Adapted Physical Eduction prom Friday morning at the E. Gary Vaughn gymnasium on the Armijo campus.
Before the DJ started playing tunes, Macias was already showcasing his joy. Once the music began, the Armijo High student could be found near the free throw line, breakdancing.
His prom dates, Julia Harrison and Madison Kudsk, both members of Armijo’s leadership class, cheered him on.
“It’s fun to see the kids so happy,” Kudsk said.
Source: Promise of prom: Special-needs, general ed students dance morning away
By Joel Rosenbaum
More than 150 students from kindergarten to 12th grade throughout the Travis Unified School District gathered Tuesday for their first Special Olympics Schools Partnership Program.
At George A. Gammon Field at Vanden High School and accompanied by a sound track to popular music and cheering fans, the athletes competed in events including: shot put, javelin, standing long jump and two running events all overseen by members of the Vanden High School student body.
By Ian Thompson
Vacaville first responders may soon be better prepared to respond to situations involving special-needs children.
The city’s Police Department is finishing up a program that has been teaching the city’s police and firefighters about engaging with special-needs children and will soon allow parents of special-needs children to list them in a database which firefighters and police can access if they are called to that address.
They are also working to expand that listing to involve special-needs adults and Alzheimer’s patients.
The program is the brainchild of Vacaville Police Department School Resources Officer Jeremy Johnson, who is also the father of a 6-year-old child who has autism.
Source: Vacaville officer creates program to help first responders better help special-needs children
By Christina Samuels
Students with disabilities posted stagnant scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2017 and failed to close the gap with students not identified as having disabilities, who also reflected generally flat performance on the latest results for what’s been called the “Nation’s Report Card.”
Fourth-grade students with disabilities earned an average of 187 on the NAEP’s reading test and 214 on the NAEP’s math test, both of which are scored on a 500-point scale.
For 4th-grade students without disabilities, however, the average score was 227 on the reading test and 243 on the math test.
Eighth grade students with disabilities earned 232 on the reading test and 247 on the math test. Reading was a small bright spot—that score was a 2-point gain for students with disabilities from the last time the test was administered, in 2015.
Source: Scores Stagnant For Students With Disabilities on ‘Nation’s Report Card’ – On Special Education – Education Week
By Kimberly K. Fu
Giggles and glee rippled through the Irene Larsen Center Monday in Vacaville as students cradled squishy silkworms, threw confetti into the air and essentially had a grand old time learning.
Such was the experience Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Solano, walked into as he toured the county facility, which primarily serves students with special education needs from newborns to age 22.
The Vacaville school has infant-toddler programs, preschool programs, an inclusive ChildStart Program and a post secondary program for developmentally disabled adults.
Frazier, who is known as a champion of children with special needs and chairs the Select Committee on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, said he wanted to assess the needs of the Larsen Center and see how he could be of service.
Source: Assemblyman Jim Frazier tours Irene Larsen Center, pledges more aid for youths with special needs
By Daily Republic Staff
A Transition Information Fair for parents and guardians with students with disabilities will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Solano County Office of Education.
“The Transition Information Fair is an opportunity for our youth to engage with Solano County resources which will assist them to successfully acquire the daily skills and independence they need to move into the next phase of their lives,” Lisette Estrella-Henderson, Solano County superintendent of schools, said in a statement.
Source: Transition fair for Solano students with disabilities set Tuesday
By Nick Sestanovich
More than six months after its implementation, Dr. Carolyn Patton— Benicia Unified School District special services director—delivered an update on Benicia High School’s curriculum support model for its special education students at Thursday’s school board meeting.First, Patton highlighted some components of the Performance Indicator Review (PIR), one of five monitors which the state uses to indicate the special education performance of a school district.
The PIRs have different targets, which may change each year and examine students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) as well as how students are performing academically in addition to discipline with students compared to the state and peers within the district. If the district does not meet its target for the same indicator two years in a row, then the district has to complete a root cause analysis, develop a corrective action plan, include a Special Education Local Plan (SELPA) in its developing plan and have it approved by the California Department of Education.
Source: BUSD provides update on BHS special education model at school board meeting
By Richard Bammer
A discussion of 2018-19 budget priorities will be among the more significant items of an otherwise relatively light agenda when Fairfield-Suisun Unified leaders meet tonight in Fairfield.
Michelle Henson, assistant superintendent of business services, will lead the discussion, which will be based on Gov. Jerry Brown’s $190 billion 2018-19 state budget proposal, released in January and due for revision in May.
Her presentation, casting an eye on the impact of the state’s numbers on the district’s, will come two weeks after she led a budget presentation at the trustees’ Jan. 25 meeting.
Specifically, Henson will note that projected average daily attendance (ADA) funding for the coming year will be about $9,450 for each of the district’s estimated 20,550 students, yielding some $194 million in state funding under Brown’s landmark Local Control Funding Formula. Additionally, she will tell the seven-member governing board, one-time discretionary funds from the current year will account for some $6 million in additional funds spent on students.
Source: Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District to discuss 2018-19 budget priorities
By Daily Republic Staff
Nominations are being accepted for the 12th annual Community Advisory Committee Recognition Awards, recognition given to people who have gone “above and beyond” in their service of students with disabilities.
Awards are presented to educators, youth and community members. Recipients are from each school district within the Solano County Special Education Local Plan Area: Benicia, Dixon, Fairfield-Suisun, Travis and Vacaville, as well as the Solano County Office of Education.
Additionally, a student and representative from a community organization who have demonstrated dedication to supporting people with special needs will be honored.
Source: Committee seeks nominations for those who serve Solano students with disabilities
By Richard Bammer
A teacher retirement incentive program, a substitute classified employee salary schedule for the current year, and two major contracts for nursing services for two special-needs students are on the agenda when Vacaville Unified leaders meet Thursday.
The Vacaville Teachers Association has agreed to offer an early retirement program to members. If they submit nonrevocable resignation letters between Friday and Feb. 12, they will receive an extra $1,000 in their June 30 paycheck.
Trustees will consider the matter as a memorandum of understanding, dated Dec. 14, and are expected to approve it.
The seven-member governing board also likely will approve an adjustment to the substitute classified employee pay schedule, with pay rates, depending on the job (student monitor to payroll technician, for example), to range from $12.40 per hour to $18.90 per hour. It will take effect Thursday.
Source: Retirement incentive program, two special ed contracts on VUSD agenda
By Peg Grafwallner
Special education teachers are expected to do quite a lot: Assess students’ skills to determine their needs and then develop teaching plans; organize and assign activities that are specific to each student’s abilities; teach and mentor students as a class, in small groups, and one-on-one; and write individualized education plans in parent-friendly language.
In addition, they must know and apply the dozens of acronyms used in their field: ADA (American with Disabilities Act), DOR (Department of Rehabilitation), LEA (local education agency), PDD (pervasive developmental disorder), and LRE (least restrictive environment), to name just a few.
Source: What I’ve Learned From Special Ed Teachers | Edutopia
The Washington Post
The Education Department is proposing to delay by two years, to 2020, an Obama-era rule that would push states to ensure that students of color are not over-represented in special education and put in programs because of racial bias.
The department, headed by billionaire Betsy DeVos, expressed its intention to seek public comment on the plan to delay the rule. A notice published in the Trump administration’s Unified Agenda, which includes planned actions, says:
“The Department seeks comment on whether to extend by two years the compliance date of these regulations from July 1, 2018, to July 1, 2020, and, if so, whether to extend the date for including children ages 3 through 5 in the analysis of significant disproportionality with respect both to the identification of children as children with disabilities and to the identification of children as children with a particular impairment from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2022.”
Source: Education Department proposes delaying Obama-era rule on racial disparities in special education
By Richard Bammer
Vacaville Unified’s employee churn, normally busiest at academic year’s end in June, is active in December, with several principals moving on, The Reporter has learned.
Deanna Brownlee, the principal of Fairmont Charter in Vacaville Unified, has been named as Travis Unified’s new director of special education. Brownlee’s last day of work at the Marshall Road campus is Dec. 21.
“I’m very excited,” Brownlee, who has led Fairmont, a Title 1 school under federal guidelines, for eight years, said Wednesday afternoon.
The longtime educator, who earned a master’s degree in special education, added, “I have desired a position in special education for a very long time. Finally, all the pieces came together. I enjoy working with at-risk and special education students.”
Source: Vacaville Unified School District employee churn turns busy in December
By John Fensterwald
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is making big changes in how special education teachers will be trained, adding core courses and an assessment already mandated for general classroom teachers.
Commissioners view the overhaul of preparation requirements as critical to improve the education of the state’s roughly 740,000 students with disabilities and predict the changes could be transformative: More students with disabilities will be identified and served earlier, taught more effectively and “mainstreamed” more often in classrooms serving all students.
Though four years, several reports and iterations in the making, the commission’s most recent decision came one day after the state released data showing that students with disabilities did worse than other student groups in California on multiple indicators of achievement. Two-thirds of the 228 districts that will receive assistance from county offices of education were designated because of the poor performance of students receiving special education services.
Source: Big changes in requirements to become a special education teacher in California | EdSource
By Richard Bammer
Vacaville Unified’s special education department, including its goals for the current year, funding and staffing levels, will be the primary focus of a special governing board workshop tonight in Vacaville.
Sasha Begell, the department director, and Kimberly Forrest, assistant superintendent of student services and special education, will make what appears to be a highly detailed presentation consisting of more than 80 computer-aided slides.
According to agenda documents, they will tell the seven-member governing board that the department’s focus for the 2017-18 is to improve communication and identify needs, stemming, in part, from the department’s “vision statement”: “Supporting student success through equitable access, collaboration and empowerment.”
Begell and Forrest will note the importance of “building relationships” among teachers, parents and administrators, by “validating and showing appreciation,” “being responsive and having difficult conversations with honesty,” and “establishing monthly meetings,” respectively.
Source: Special ed program the focus of Vacaville workshop tonight
By Richard Bammer
Approval of a new board member, an agreement to accept a change to the El Dorado County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) document, and an update of the school’s special education program are on the agenda when the Kairos Public School Vacaville Academy board of directors meets tonight in Vacaville.
The directors are expected to approve the appointment of Leah Parker of Vacaville as the newest of seven board members for a three-year term. A former Buckingham Charter High teacher and the owner of Leah Dawn Photography in Vacaville, she will replace Bob Brigham.
The board also likely will approve an amended agreement with the El Dorado County SELPA, which, in October, OK’d a change in its “participation agreement,” which districts aligned to it must, in turn, approve.
Source: On Kairos agenda: New board member, SELPA agreement
By Andrew Ujifusa
Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos held a roundtable for advocates for children with dyslexia. Also at the meeting was Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a long-time advocate for dyslexia issues. We called up Cassidy, who’s a member of the Senate education committee, to discuss how the meeting went and what approach he sees DeVos taking on dyslexia and other issues.
This week, our colleague Christina Samuels published a story about the anxiety many special education advocates have felt about DeVos’ leadership. When we asked Cassidy about whether he shared those concerns before or after the meeting, he said he was focused on dyslexia specifically and praised DeVos’ willingness to hear out different ideas.
“I think the fact that she convened the meeting and was so attentive throughout told us volumes,” Cassidy said. “It told us that she cares about the issue, that she wants to democratize, if you will, the opportunities for children with dyslexia. She’s going to listen.”
Source: How’s DeVos Handling a Big Special Education Issue? See Bill Cassidy’s Answer – Politics K-12 – Education Week
By Jessica Rogness
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
The Special Olympics oath once again rang true Friday throughout Schaefer Stadium at Fairfield High School as elementary school students of all abilities met up for their annual soccer match.
Some 360 students from Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District elementary schools — Anna Kyle, Center, Crescent, Dan O. Root, K.I. Jones, Laurel Creek, Nelda Mundy and David Weir — paraded around the track, receiving applause from Fairfield High School students, officers from the Fairfield Police Department, California State Prison, Solano and the California Highway Patrol, as well as Fairfield firefighters.
Source: Students play hard at Special Olympics soccer event
By Christina Samuels
As a part of its regulatory reform efforts, the U.S. Department of Education is considering delaying a rule that would require states to use a standard method to determine if their districts have wide disparities in how they identify, place in segregated settings, or discipline minority students with disabilities.
As first reported by Politico, a draft Federal Register notice is seeking public comment on putting the rule off for two years. If nothing changes, the rule issued under the Obama administration is set to go into effect for the 2018-19 school year.
Districts already must use 15 percent of their special education funding to address widespread disparities in identification, placement, or discipline of such students. That funding requirement has been in place since the 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, but only a fraction of districts around the country have been identified as having problems big enough to require the spending shift.
Source: Ed. Dept. Scrutinizing Rule on Minority Representation in Special Education – On Special Education – Education Week