Local school systems are required by the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 13A.05.02.13 D and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to develop a yearly staffing plan to ensure that sufficient staff are available to meet the programming needs of students. The entire FY 2014 Special Education Staffing Plan is not included in the operating budget document but has been distributed as separate document. The following are the identified staffing plan elements and their associated page numbers within the Staffing Plan document:
- Evidence of public input - Page 5.
- Evidence of maintenance of effort within the meaning of 34 C.F.R. 300.321, Maintenance of Effort, and COMAR 13A.02.05, Maintenance of Effort - Page 13.
- Staffing patterns of service providers of special education and related services - Attachment A.
- Consideration of time requirements beyond direct services - Page 8.
- The number and type of service providers needed to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to each student with a disability in the least restrictive environment (LRE) - Attachment B.
- Local accountability and monitoring - Page 8, 9.
- Strategies to resolve concerns regarding staffing plans - Page 11.
- Evaluation of the local staffing plan for effectiveness - Page 4.
- Steps to secure public input in the development of the staffing plan - Page 5.
- Information on how the public agency will use the staffing plan to monitor the assignment of staff members to ensure that personnel and other resources are available to provide FAPE to each student with a disability in the LRE - Pages 8, 9.
In light of the fact that that MCPS continues to face fiscal challenges for FY 2014, the Special Education Staffing Committee identified the following as the most important services and initiatives to preserve and protect:
- Maintain the Home School Model (HSM) and transition more elementary schools as funds are available; consider staffing Learning and Academic Disabilities (LAD) schools similar to that of HSM.
- Increase the budget for permanent itinerant paraeducators to support inclusion in LRE.
- Increase paraeducator support at resource only schools.
- Examine the model for the restructured Learning Center at Jones Lane Elementary School and explore the possibility of a downcounty site.
- Continue support to middle and high school students with passing required assessments.
- Maintain and increase the capacity of the Autism Unit to consult with teachers at all levels.
- Continue professional development for paraeducators.
- Review the staffing model for psychologists.
- Increase central office staff members to support parents/families with the transition to different grade levels.
The FY 2014 Operating Budget includes an additional 101.6 positions and $9.4 million to fund special education enrollment and other program costs. While the Office of Special Education and Student Services (OSESS) was unable to implement the first three priorities as stated, the budget maintains current HSM staffing formulas. In addition, the budget includes $713,655, including employee benefits, for additional temporary part-time paraeducators to address individual school needs as they arise in LAD and resource only schools, as well as to provide additional support for inclusion in LRE.
OSESS is committed to examining the model of the Jones Lane Learning Center to ensure the implementation of effective practices in instructing students with autism. This analysis will be conducted in collaboration with Kennedy Kreiger Institute. This location will provide county- wide access to students with autism who require the explicit strategies and practices as part of their daily instruction. MCPS has designed a structure that will permit Learning Center teachers across the system to gain access to on-site and job-embedded professional development to replicate the Jones Lane Learning Center instructional model.
OSESS continues to support the instructional needs of secondary students with disabilities by monitoring High School Assessments and graduation rates to ensure plans of support are provided. The support includes reading and mathematics interventions and professional development on instructional strategies to support students with disabilities. MCPS was recognized by the Maryland State Department of Education Leadership Conference in October, 2012 for reducing the achievement and graduation rate gaps.
The budget includes an additional 32.14 positions to provide required services to students with autism spectrum disorders. However, OSESS has provided professional development to build the capacity of teachers and paraeducators at all levels. Staffing for the unit was increased in previous years to help address the need for unit staff to consult with teachers.
To meet the goal of improving the academic performance outcomes of students with disabilities in the LRE, the Department of Special Education Services, consistent with research and literature in the field of special education, needs to continue to work toward increasing the capacity of staff members to support the needs of students with disabilities in all settings. As a result, professional development for paraeducators, as well as general and special education teachers, will continue to be provided.
OSESS has reviewed the staffing model for psychologists. Additional positions were not added in the budget due to budgetary constraints. Also, budgetary constraints did not allow for an increasing of central office staff members to support parents/families with transition to different grade levels. However, OSESS remains committed to partnering with community and outside agencies in order to support parents and families. OSESS will continue to expand its outreach to community partners and use grant opportunities to support parents and families.