posttrib
DISRUPTIVE 
Weather Updates

Story omitted Gary schools move toward compliance

Updated: January 31, 2013 6:23AM



An article titled “Gary special education funding hinges on improvements” was published in the Post-Tribune Dec. 15. Unfortunately, vital information shared was omitted that parents of special needs children and community stakeholders need to know.

During the interview, Marianne Fidishin, executive director of Special Education and Student/Family Services, was transparent about compliance challenges the school district is working tirelessly to correct but that was not printed.

The Special Education Department is experiencing progress and Fidishin is moving the department in the right direction. Four weeks after she was hired, the Special Education Department listed its first turnaround victory. The school district was cited for not having a sign language interpreter, but by Sept. 11 that noncompliance issue was corrected. Another turnaround victory for the Special Education Department addresses how we monitored complaints and hearings in the past. The Indiana Department of Education’s Special Education Division requires that complaints be resolved within a year and we’ve achieved that.

It will take time to correct the issues but now that the right team is in place and more changes are coming, there is no reason those goals can’t be realized. Here are some concerns and what we’re doing to move toward compliance:

• Noncompliance: Over identification of students

Status: Moving forward.

How: Instituted new procedures for initial evaluation to determine if students are eligible for special education.

• Noncompliance: Suspensions and expulsions

Status: Moving forward.

How: Instituting a new process for manifestation determination meetings. When a child with a disability engages in a code of conduct violation, the law states that we have to determine if that behavior is a manifestation of that child’s disability. The new process uses data in the student’s Individual Educational Plan and psychological assessments. Example: If a child with a learning disability in reading who is involved in a gang gets in a gang fight, that fight wouldn’t be a manifestation of that behavior. However, a child who is cognitively impaired (mentally challenged) might end up in a fight because they’ve picked gang bangers as their role models and they don’t have the judgment to discern.

A teacher committee is reviewing and revising our Code of Conduct Policy — creating more expansive behavior that will help keep students in school.

• Noncompliance: Inclusion

Status: Moving forward.

How: Matriculating our elementary students into general education classroom was a smooth transition. For some students that meant working from one class a day, three times a week to eventually moving them into general education core curriculum classes depending on the disability.

Placing students in core curriculum classrooms of their strength to ensure success. Parents are strongly encouraged to attend workshops hosted in partnership with Indiana University Northwest that are geared toward empowering them with helpful resources. The next workshop takes place at 6 p.m. Feb. 22, 2013 at Bailly School, 4621 Georgia St.

If you have questions about the school district’s Special Education Department, call 881-5404.

Charmella Greer is communications specialist with the Gary Community School Corp.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.