Members of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Special Education Collaborative Working Group hosted a Town Hall meeting Monday so the community could give feedback on the group’s recommendations and discuss anything that was missed.
The Working Group has been meeting since November, in order to develop a set of recommendations for the District’s Superintendent to help improve the District’s Special Education program. The group is made up of Special Education parents, District staff, and community members.
Prior to the participants breaking into groups to give feedback, Superintendent Tim Cuneo, made some comments. Cuneo stated that when he came to the District he noticed “there was a culture of blame and mistrust [in terms of Special Education] and I want to move it as Superintendent to one of collaboration and transparency.” He hopes the Working Group’s work “would help us develop a model to help address some very difficult issues we will be addressing in the future. Their work will then be transitioned into an implementation plan. “My commitment is this will not die, this will not be put on a shelf.” Their recommendations will be implemented over a period of time.”
At the February 9 Town Hall meeting, participants got a chance to give input on the six goals that were developed by the Working Group. One of the goals was to modernize the District’s communications systems and use the SMMUSD websites as a means to inform, educate, and make connections with those that intersect with Special Education. A second goal was to recruit and retain a world class Special Education staff.
Another goal was to improve the Special Education culture in the District by having a district-wide policy of integration so Special Education students really feel they are part of all aspects the District.
The Working Group also suggested improving the District’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) process. An IEP is a legal document that is updated annually and specifies what special education services the District will provide to support an individual child’s learning needs and goals.
Strengthening early intervention and assessment was another goal suggested by the working group because it has been found that the sooner Special Education services are given the greater the chance of success of the child in school.
Lastly, the Working Group suggested developing a discrete set of research-based program offerings so that District program offerings remain up to date with the evolving research.
The Working Group will incorporate what they heard at the Town Hall meeting into their recommendations they will be making to the Superintendent next week. The Town Hall suggestions will also become part of the appendix of the final report that will be developed from the Working Group’s work. The Superintendent’s recommendations will be presented to the School Board in March.