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Prospect board gets update on special education

June 14, 2011
ALTON — A presentation about the different programs that are offered to children with disabilities was held at the Prospect Mountain School Board meeting on Tuesday, June 7.

Elaine Dodge, the director of special education at PMHS, talked about the differences between 504 plans, which are created with children with disabilities, and an Individualized Education Program, which is created for students with disabilities who need specialized instruction.

Dodge said that students in 504 plans have physical or mental disabilities such as anxiety or ADHD.

Students don't receive special teaching and can be suspended up to 10 days. After more than 10 days a meeting is held with the 504 team, which is made up of parents, members of the administration and the 504 coordinator, to determine if the suspension is a result of the disability.

Dodge reported that 42 students, or eight percent of the student population at PMHS, are presently enrolled in 504 plans, 76 students, or 14 percent of the student population, are involved with IEPs.

Mandy Demers, a social worker at PMHS, talked about reports that are made to the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF).

Demers said that sometimes junior probation officers and trackers are assigned to specific cases.

The school typically files cases involving chronic truancy, and the parents typically file cases involving runaways or uncontrollable children.

Demers said that she had initially filed 21 reports to DCYF this year, but that number was reduced to six through interventions and working with the families.

Demers reported that nearly 100 students need counseling, which is approximately 20 percent of the student population.

She reported that 33 students see a Genesis counselor, 17 are seen by a school psychologist, 21 are seen by a private counselor and that 28 additional students have been identified in need of counseling.

Demers also reported that 28 students required a safety assessment, six students required further emergency services and five students were admitted to an inpatient facility for extended stay, with three students visiting multiple times.

Member Terri Noyes asked if student enrolled in 504 plan could be moved into an IEP, and Dodge said that is possible and that there are also students who are on medication for ADHD who aren't enrolled in a 504 plan.

Noyes also asked about the state cuts in the Genesis program, and Demers said that only four students who are currently seeing a Genesis counselor would continue to do so if the proposed cuts go through.

Superintendent Paul Bartolomucci said that he has already began talks to keep the Genesis counselor on site if funding is cut because it is very important for the students.

Member Krista Argiropolis asked Kate King, who works in the learning center and is the 504 coordinator, about the self-study program.

King said that students are monitored in the learning center and additional support is provided.

Bartolomucci also said that students who need a break from the normal classroom or may have been kicked out of class could use the learning center. Students are limited to one or two periods in the learning center per day.

Demers was asked how the current years' reports to the DCYF compared to previous years. She said that it was increase from last year and that she has spent more time in court this year than ever before, an average of about once a week.

She said that the school has created an I-team, made up of members of the administration, the 504 coordinator, the nurse, guidance counselors and school psychologists to help report incidents. Demers said that any member of the staff could bring concerns to the I-team.

Bartolomucci said that he is working with Principal Jay Fitzpatrick to develop a pilot program on instituting in-school suspensions.

He feels that out of school suspensions aren't effective and reward students by giving them the day off. Bartolomucci said that in-school suspensions have been used this year on a limited basis and have been effective by requiring students to continue their class work.

Demers was asked about working with students at Alton Central School and Barnstead Elementary School and introducing life skills and coping skills, and she is willing to work with the ascending schools to develop such programs.

David Finethy asked several questions, but Noyes objected to the questions because they were specific to his sons and asked that it be done in a non-public session.

Finethy then asked if the option of obtaining a GED is introduced directly to a student before talking to parents, and Bartolomucci couldn't recall talking to a student about getting a GED before talking to parents.

Barbara Howard said that the creation of the I-team focuses too much on the problems and is worried that the label sticks with the students.

Earlier in the meeting, chair Eunice Landry announced that the election of the vice-chair and secretary would be delayed once again because a full board wasn't present.

Student Representative Courtney Bennett reported that the senior class was scheduled to start finals and is looking forward to various celebrations including the senior cookout on June 16 and graduation on June 17.

Bennett was recognized by the board for her state championship in the 3,200-meter run.

Shirley Lane, the school treasurer, came before the board and asked why the school was advertising the position of school treasurer. Lane is under a three-year term that expires at the end of the 2012 school year.

Bartolomucci said the advertisement was placed by accident, that they have a valid agreement and no applications will be accepted. Landry apologized on behalf of the board for posting the position.

Kaitlyn Hills, the chair of the professional development committee, talked to the board about the updated Professional Development Master Plan.

She said that one major difference with the new plan is to align the school goals together with a strength goal, a reach goal and collaborative goal.

Bartolomucci said that the plan would be submitted to the New Hampshire Department of Education and meets criteria required by the NHDOE.

Board member Lynda Goossens suggested adding a home school connection to the plan in the future.

Agiropolis asked how input of the administration is implemented into the plan, and Bartolomucci said that the $2,000 that can be used for professional development by each teacher is only available after a plan has been approved.

Fitzpatrick talked about the upcoming graduation on June 17 and about the loss by the faculty by three points in the student/faculty basketball game, a fundraiser that was held by the sophomore class.

Fitzpatrick reported that the eighth grade information night was very well attended on June 25, with nearly 300 people attending, the senior class trip to Lake George went well, and the recent school concerts were a success.

Goossens asked if the senior class trip could be held so that it wouldn't affect students involved in athletics, but Fitzpatrick said that this would be a difficult task due to the fact that trip is planned months in advance.

Goossens also asked about providing a tent for the graduation. Member Sandy Wyatt brought up concerns about insurance for getting a tent.

Argiropolis commended the school marching band for their performance at the Memorial Day parade.

Bartolomucci talked about an upcoming contest to create a domain for three schools; PMHS, BES and ACS. This would allow students to keep one e-mail account throughout their entire career.

He also said that the policy committee would be reviewing communications, advertising on school fields and search and seizure policy at its next meeting.

Jeff St. Cyr reported that the finance committee would be reviewing the audit and that it would be reviewed at the next board meeting.

School administrator Chuck Stuart brought forward a new contract for HVAC service provided by Siemens that would allow for a zero percent increase for next year and a three percent increase for the next two years.

The board approved extending the contract with Siemens.

Fitzpatrick brought forward a request for the position of an online facilitator for summer school with a cost of $2,000, and the board approved this request.

According to Fitzpatrick, two online sessions will be held, with a maximum of 15 students per session.

Fitzpatrick said that there are two seniors who are not graduating after failing English and will be enrolling in the online class.

He also reported that 25 freshmen failed a first semester class and may enroll in the program. Fitzpatrick said that this average was high and involved mostly English, science and civics classes. The cost is $100 per session, and students also have the option to take summer classes in Laconia.

Landry asked how the order of priority would be set and was told that it would set in order of need. Students who pass the online class are given the minimum credit in the class.

The board approved the new Professional Development Master Plan and approved the hiring of four teachers; an English teacher, a physical science teacher, a math teacher and a math teacher that will be funded using Title I money.

The next scheduled Prospect Mountain School Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, July 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the PMHS library.

Tim Croes can be reached at tcroes@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
Armen Kevorkian
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