Feb. 28, 2024 School Committee Meetings

Feb. 28, 2024 School Committee Meetings
Posted on 02/26/2024
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Quincy School Committee Joint Special Education, Policy, and Teaching & Learning Subcommittees

Mrs. Courtney Perdios, Special Education Chair
Mrs. Kathryn Hubley & Mrs. Emily Lebo, Subcommittee Members

Mrs. Emily Lebo, Teaching & Learning Chair
Mr. Paul Bregoli & Mrs. Kathryn Hubley, Subcommittee Members

Mr. Doug Gutro, Policy Chair
Mrs. Tina Cahill & Mrs. Emily Lebo, Subcommittee Members

Wednesday, February 28, 2024 at 6:00 pm
Coddington Building, School Committee Room

  1. MCAS STE Update - Mr. Marani, Ms. Cunniff

  2. Special Education Rights & Responsibilities - Ms. Graham, Ms. Leary, Ms. Buckley, Ms. Carey, Ms. Kyranis

  3. Related Service Provider Caseloads - Ms. Perkins, Ms. Graham, Ms. Leary

  4. SEPAC Update - Ms. McGill & Ms. Wood

Members of the public can access the meeting in person or live on QATV Channel 22 or at qatv.org. The meeting will also be recorded for rebroadcast and posted on Friday, March 1, 2024 on the QPS SchoolTube channel.



Quincy School Committee Joint Special Education, Policy, and Teaching & Learning Subcommittees Meeting

A joint meeting of the Special Education, Policy, and Teaching & Learning Subcommittees was held on February 28, 2024 at 6:00 pm in the Coddington Building. Present was Subcommittee member Mrs. Tina Cahill; Mrs. Courtney Perdios, Special Education Subcommittee Chair, Mr. Doug Gutro, Policy Subcommittee Chair, and Mrs. Emily Lebo, Teaching & Learning Subcommittee Chair. Also present was School Committee Member Mr. Paul Bregoli; Superintendent Kevin Mulvey, Assistant Superintendent Erin Perkins, Ms. Simone Buckley, Ms. Catherine Carey, Ms. Lisa Chan-Ianetta, Ms. Kim Connolly, Ms. Michelle Cunniff, Mr. Michael Draicchio, Ms. Julie Graham, Ms. Jill Kyranis, Ms. Jennifer Leary, Mr. Michael Marani, Ms. Maura Papile, Mr. Keith Segalla, Mr. Lawrence Taglieri; Quincy Education Association President Gayle Cavalho; Quincy Special Education Parent Advisory Council Board members Ms. Darlene Wilson and Ms. Sarah Wood; and Ms. Laura Owens, Clerk.

Curriculum Director Michael Marani and Point Webster Middle School Grade 8 Science Teacher Michelle Cunniff presented on the MCAS Science, Technology & Engineering Expanded Pilot. In September, DESE released their educational vision for learning experiences that are relevant, real-world, and interactive. Students should solve problems, think critically, ask questions, make meaning of complex ideas, and demonstrate their learning. Students apply knowledge, skills, and abilities to solve an authentic problem or explain a phenomenon. The new MCAS for Grades 5-8 is meant to assess this new way of learning, and Quincy Public Schools is participating in the MCAS STE Pilot (which will not count towards student scores or accountability data). By the Spring 2026 assessment, it is anticipated that the results will be incorporated into student scores. DESE is providing sample Performance Tasks to familiarize students with the format and style. The Science staff are collaborating on sharing best practices and high-quality open-source resources, along with investigating a highly-rated science curricula for adoption.

Mrs. Lebo asked about the shift to performance-based learning, Ms. Cunniff said this transition began in the 2019-2020 school year and was slowed by the challenges of the 2020-2021 school year when many students did not attend school in person. Mrs. Lebo asked if the students would be daunted by the computer-based tasks, Ms. Cunniff said students technology skills are very good. Mrs. Lebo is concerned about students with disabilities or English Learners and their ability to read the text.

Mr. Bregoli said this type of assessment will work for visual learners, may be more difficult for students with different learning styles. Mr. Marani said because this is a pilot, we can advocate for our experience as a district and communicate our concerns.

Mrs. Perdios said this looks very complex if the performance task is supposed to take 20 minutes. Ms Cunniff said the entire assessment is supposed to take around 90 minutes, but it is not timed. Students can take as much of the school day as needed to complete the number of performance tasks in the assessment.

Mrs. Perdios asked about resources for families, Ms. Cunniff said the Science teachers are collaborating on a document to share.

Special Education Director Julie Graham, accompanied by Coordinator Jen Leary, and Team Administrators Simone Buckley, Catherine Carey, Lisa Chan-Ianetta, and Jill Kyranis presented on Special Education Rights & Responsibilities to ensure that parents will understand their children’s rights and the special education process. The information in the presentation will hopefully enhance the collaboration between the family and school and allow for the parents and staff to participate in special education matters as knowledgeable partners. The Quincy Public Schools Special Education department operates under the state’s Special Education law for Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).

A student is eligible for Special Education if they have one or more disabilities, they are not making effective progress in school as a result of the disability(ies), and the student requires specialized instruction to make effective progress. There are thirteen types of disabilities defined in state and federal regulations: autism, developmental delay, sensory impairment (hearing, vision, and hearing and vision), neurological impairment, emotional impairment, communication impairment, physical impairment, health impairment, specific learning disability, and multiple disabilities. Special Education is a specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of an eligible student and/or related services necessary to access and make progress in the general curriculum.

The timeline is up to 45 working days following the consent to evaluate a student, including evaluating the student, a team meeting to determine eligibility, development of the IEP and determination of placement, and proposed IEP and placement to parent within 10 calendar days of team meeting. Services would begin upon parent consent.

There are six Special Education principles: (1) Parent and Student Participation; (2) Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE); (3) Appropriate Evaluation; (4) Individualized Education Program (IEP); (5) Least Restrictive Environment (LRE); (6) Procedural Safeguards. These principles support the student-centered nature of the process and the rights of parents and students above age 14 to participate in the planning of specific, measurable goals, decision-making activities, and to be assessed in non-discriminatory fashion with appropriate notifications for each stage of the process.

Mrs. Lebo asked for the timeline when a parent brings a concern to the school, Ms. Graham said the timeline is the same, the school has to respond within five days. Ms. Graham said sometimes the school has data that can answer the parents’ questions, sometimes additional assessments be needed.

Mrs. Lebo asked about inviting students who are younger than age 14 to the IEP meetings, Ms. Graham said this will begin in the fall. Students can provide input, they don’t need to necessarily attend the meetings which can be overwhelming. The team administrators work with the students individually to include their voices.

Mrs. Lebo said that it is frustrating that dyslexia is still not listed as a specific disability.

Mr. Bregoli asked if schools can diagnose students with dyslexia, in the past this was done outside. Ms. Graham said that based on the assessment, students with dyslexia can be supported without this formal diagnosis.

Mr. Bregoli asked for a breakout of student receiving push-in vs. pullout services.

Mr. Bregoli asked if parents can reject the proposed assessments, Ms. Graham said the parents can notify the school directly and the team will work together to determine what the best options are moving forward.

Mrs. Perdios asked how many students are on IEPs, Ms. Graham said approximately 2100 students. Mrs. Perdios said the level of individual support for students and families is impressive, asked how families get written information. Ms. Graham said that DESE provides an overview in multiple languages.

Mrs. Perdios asked about families with issues that can’t be resolved at the local level, Ms. Graham said 2-3 families have issues that go to DESE for problem resolution per school year.

Mrs. Lebo asked if SEPAC has this presentation; Ms. Wood suggested a QPS Parent Academy with the Special Education Team Administrators at the beginning of the school year.

Special Education Director Julie Graham and Coordinator Jen Leary presented an overview of the Related Service Providers (Speech Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, and Physical Therapists) caseloads/workloads. The term caseload refers to the number of students with IEPs or 504s receiving OT, PT, or Speech and Language Services. Workload refers all the activities required and performed by the service providers for each of the students in their caseload. Caseload guidelines are not recommended by Massachusetts or national organizations for these professions, rather workload analysis that takes into account the complexity of student needs, evaluation responsibilities, amount and type of services designated, documentation and collaboration requirements with family and outside agencies, implementation and maintenance of equipment, team conferences, and preparation/development of individualized materials and assistive technology.

Information about current related service provider caseloads was shared with School Committee. In thinking about creating guidelines, considerations include the variety of eligibility criteria, service delivery models, students with higher level of need, and scheduling. Challenging variables include students found eligible for services after caseloads have been determined and move-in students with previous services documented in IEP or 504.

Mrs. Lebo asked for clarification, if an SLP/OT/PT has an assistant, their caseload could be higher. Some students are seen in groups, some require very short interactions on a daily basis, other students have 30 minutes once per week.

Mrs. Cahill thanked the presenters for the analysis, which was done at her request. Mrs. Cahill had recommended consideration of developing a Policy, but maybe an annual review of caseload/workload could be enough, especially because there are not state recommendations.

Mrs. Lebo suggested including these statistics in the Special Education PIP moving forward.

Mr. Gutro thanked the presenters, so much research put into the presentation and explanation of the variables. Mr. Gutro asked if there is a vehicle for feedback from parents and staff on their perceptions. Ms. Leary said the related service providers will contact her or Ms. Graham with their concerns. Things happen over the course of the year that may be a challenge and adjustments can be made as much as possible. Ms. Graham said each student is unique and at the end of the day, these are individual humans with a variety of needs. Ms. Perkins point out that the DeCristofaro Learning Center is coming online in the fall and these are students with very complex needs, so the caseload will be lower.

The makeup of the Special Education team have experience in different roles: Psychologist, Speech-Language Pathologist, Special Education Teacher, Student Support Services, and classroom Special Education teachers. This assists with completing the evaluations for the various positions.

Mr. Bregoli asked about the related service providers and traveling between schools. Ms. Leary said some schools have full time staff, depending on the programming. Others share an OT or PT or SLP staff member, their caseloads are lower.

Mrs. Lebo asked about Assistants; Ms. Graham said there are currently no Occupational Therapy Assistants. There are seven SLP Assistants, 5 of 7 are QPS employees and two are contracted. For Physical Therapy, there is one QPS staff member and two through agencies. There are two PT Assistants, one is QPS and the other is contracted. The agency staffing assists with the fluctuating caseloads, they are not subjected to the Educational Evaluation requirements, but there is still an evaluation process determined by the agencies.

Mrs. Cahill asked if the complexity of the individual cases is evaluated in assigning to providers and this was confirmed. This is evaluated every year and the student grade levels are also a factor.

Mr. Bregoli asked if students can receive Speech & Language services without being on an IEP, Ms. Leary said this can be delivered under a 504 plan.

Mrs. Perdios asked if there is a difference between staff and agency employees, Ms. Leary said there is no difference in how the caseloads are allocated. All are treated as staff, invited to meetings and professional development.

Mrs. Cahill reiterated this item would not move forward to Policy, but will be incorporated into the Special Education PIP. Mr. Gutro will remove this item from the Policy Subcommittee

Ms. Wood and Ms. Wilson presented the Quincy Special Education Parent Advisory Council update to School Committee. SEPAC has been collaborating with Quincy Public Schools on the opening of the Dr. Rick DeCristofaro Learning Center (ongoing). Successfully collaborated with QPS on improving communication between CARES staff and families; additional training for paraprofessionals; and collaborated on understanding transportation challenges. In terms of increasing community engagement, the focus will be on reaching out to preschool families through community events and students between ages 18-22 (learning about transition planning and filing for guardianship). Recent events include the Gingerbread House decorating event, Popsicle and Valentines events for Pre-Kindergarten students and families; vacation week music/play therapy camp; and monthly presentations to the community. There are challenges with social opportunities for middle and high school students and lack of transitional opportunities at the state level for students after age 22.

Mrs. Lebo thanked Ms. Wood and Ms. Wilson for their focus on the middle and high school students. Mrs. Lebo and Mrs. Hubley will reach out to the Recreation department about planning additional opportunities.

Mrs. Cahill asked about transition planning for older students. Ms. Wood said the April SEPAC community presentation will be on these topics.

Mrs. Perdios said the collaboration between Quincy Public Schools and SEPAC is so important, the volunteer efforts make a huge difference for families.

Mrs. Cahill made a motion to adjourn at 8:00 pm, seconded by Mr. Gutro. On a voice vote, the ayes have it.