by Peg Craig
The St. Michael–Albertville School Board met to hear a report on Special Education, authorize nurses to serve the after school and summer Kids Play program, and approve a plan to hire a new activities director.
School districts are required to provide an appropriate education for all of their students. In order to provide for those with special needs, the STMA district is a member of the Sherburne and Northern Wright Special Education Cooperative, along with the school districts in Big Lake, Becker, and Monticello.
Allyson Kuehn, director of the Cooperative, came to the meeting to report on how Special Education takes place in STMA. This district has a low percentage of students qualifying for Special Education services. Kuehn suggested that this is due in part to the excellent early intervention programs provided to children before they start kindergarten.
“Children who get intervention when they are young do better all along” she said.
Children living in the district are screened when they are 3 years old to check for problems that could interfere with later learning. The district also encourages parents, child care workers, and medical professionals to refer children who appear to have difficulties at an earlier age.
When it is indicated, preschool children can begin to receive services in their homes. The resources of the cooperative are available for the rarest conditions where a specialist can serve all the identified students in the three districts. Some problems, such as speech difficulties can be remediated so that no services will be needed when the student enters kindergarten. Other disorders cannot be fully corrected but the goal is for the students to be as independent as possible in the appropriate classrooms.
Students with severe disabilities may have an aide assigned to them and spend part or all of the school day in a special classroom. State programs contribute extra funds to help pay for part of these services, which can continue until a student turns 21.
STMA has 587 students in Special Education programs. Currently it receives $100 per student in additional state aid, but that will rise to $140 – 170 next year.
Kuehn said, “The cooperative’s role is to be a support to student, parents, teachers, staff and superintendents. That is what we do.”
In other news, Superintendent Ann-Marie Foucault recommended that the district hire nurses for the after school and summer programs of Kids Play, run through the Community Education office. Currently the district has three nurses serving the elementary schools, middle schools and the high school. There are trained health aides in every school during school hours working in cooperation with the nurses.
Children in the Kids Play program have health concerns that require monitoring and occasionally medication. To provide this Foucault suggests that a nurse be hired to work on school days from 2-6 pm and full days on week days when school is not in session. Another nurse will be hired for the summer program. Ideally this would be the same person but scheduling may mean that different people would be interested in each of these positions.
Since the Kids Play program is run by Community Education, the CE budget will cover the expense.
Current Activities Director Brian Benson will be retiring at the end of June. Superintendent Foucault consulted with the school board regarding the procedure for hiring a new director.
The position is currently posted and applications are being received. A committee will screen these applications and set up several for phone interviews. Two or three finalists will be recommended to Foucault. The prospective directors will take a psychological/personality test, visit the district to meet with relevant people, and have final interviews. After mid-April the superintendent will make her selection and negotiate with the candidate.
She hopes to have a recommendation for board approval by May 1.