Special Education Budget Rises

Londonderry School District Pupil Services Director Kim Carpinone outlined for the School Board the Special Education budget for FY 15.
Her budget totals $2,876,594, an increase of $104,188.
Carpinone told the School Board at is Dec. 12 budget workshop that Special Education serves 95 students with a diagnosis in the autism spectrum, which comes to 13 percent of the identified population.
Carpinone said the manual used in diagnosis of autism spectrum was updated in May and because of that, she expects the numbers of students with that diagnosis to rise.

“Another 10 percent of our population in special education are students with mental health issues,” Carpinone said.
In response to a question from board member John Robinson, Carpinone said 760 students are served through Special Education.
“Approximately half of the 760 children have more than one area of special education identification,” she said. “That means the severity of the population that we’re dealing with, while the number of students or head counts is going down, the severity of their needs, the intensity of the interventions required, continues to increase.”
She noted that has allowed the department to remain constant in staffing.
“So instead of asking the board for additional assistance, what we’ve done is as our general special education population has decreased, we’ve reallocated our staff to meet the needs of the growing population in our self-contained and our more intensive programs,” Carpinone said.
Based on the special needs population growing at Matthew Thornton Elementary School, she has increased special needs teachers from one to two in the PALS and FRIENDS programs.
She is projecting 729 Special Education students for next year.
Carpinone also noted the 504 students continue to increase. “The 504 program is a legal right and requirement, different than special education, where special education is an entitlement. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act allows for access for children who have a diagnosis or condition that requires accommodations to access the general curriculum.” Currently the 504 program has 257 students.
“We have built self-contained and specialized programs Pre K through 12 in all of our buildings, and at the elementary level they are housed either at Matthew Thornton or South,” Carpinone said.
Carpinone said one critical shortage area concerns teachers of the visually impaired. She said New Hampshire has only 11 such teachers, some nearing retirement age.
Two teachers in the Londonderry district are getting their certification for teaching the visually impaired.
Board chairman Nancy Hendricks asked if the district purchased equipment such as hearing aids for hearing impaired children . Carpinone said the district doesn’t buy hearing aids, as they are considered medical, but is responsible for batteries for them. She said the district purchases either personal or class room wide amplification system.
Robinson asked if there was a set of criteria for the amplification system or whether other systems from “other disciplines” could be purchased that provide the same result. Carpinone said there was no set system but the district uses the recommendations of professionals in the field.
Carpinone said her tuition and transportation lines are not increasing significantly, although those are usually “big ticket items.”
She said one of the increases is in the visually impaired line and equipment needs, and there will be two one-on-one nurses needed instead of one because of an additional student who requires that care.
Robinson asked “what percentage of the increase amount is discretionary.
“Zero,” Carpinone said.
Board member Leitha Reilly asked if Carpinone thinks she has enough staffing to continually evaluate the needs of the children. Carpinone said the staff had been reorganized and is able to do any and all testing.
Board member John Laferriere asked why the numbers of students requiring services seem to be going up.
“What do you think is driving this? We’re approaching 25 percent of our student population as falling into these categories. How is this happening?” Laferriere asked
Carpinone said she attributes that to better diagnostics and awareness.
Laferriere asked why there seemed to be more identified students at the high school than middle school. Carpinone said one reason could be that there are four years in high school and only three in middle. She also noted that middle school is more structured.
Board member Leitha Reilly asked about charter schools and transportation to them.
Carpinone said that according to law, the district must provide the services and be transported by the school district if students attend charter schools and need special education services.
Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said it is mandated to transport that child to those services.
“If the services are provided by the charter school, it is at a fiscal cost to the district,” Carpinone said.
In other business, on the question of whether or not to use propane as a fuel for school buses, a topic continued from the board’s last meeting, Carpinone said she had received an email from the Director of Transportation in Oregon, which she said is one of the states using propane for all school buses. She said they were very pleased with propane and have no “cons” for its use.
After polling the board and seeing no continued concerns, the board unanimously approved accepting propane as a fuel for its buses.

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