ACSD Annual Presentation to the School Board (2019-2020)

Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities, 2019-2020

Local Educational Agency Administration

The Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities (“ACSD” or “the Committee”) is a Virginia legally required citizen advisory committee appointed by the local school board. It’s mandated functions are:

  • Advise the local school division of needs in the education of children with disabilities;
  • Participate in the development of priorities and strategies for meeting the identified needs of children with disabilities;
  • Submit periodic reports and recommendations regarding the education of children with disabilities to the division superintendent for transmission to the local school board;
  • Assist the local school division in interpreting plans to the community for meeting the special needs of children with disabilities for educational services;
  • Review the policies and procedures for the provision of special education and related services prior to submission to the local school board; and
  • Participate in the review of the local school division's annual plan.

Committee Members

The Committee’s thirty-three members are approved by the School Board and include representatives from:

  • Each school Board member,
  • Each Region Assistant Superintendent,
  • Community boards and groups,
  • One voting teacher representative, and
  • One voting student representative.  

The majority of the committee is comprised of individuals with disabilities or parents of students with disabilities, as required by law.  Other than the one teacher, any FCPS faculty must serve in an advisory/consultant role only.

Staff Liaison and Consultants:

  • Office of Special Education Instruction, Director, Michael Bloom;
  • Assistant Superintendent, Department of Special Services, Teresa Johnson;
  • Office of Special Education Procedural Support, Director, Jane Strong; and
  • Parent Resource Center, Manager. Mary Beth Harrison-Cunningham.

ACSD 2019-2020 Membership

ACSD 2019-2020 EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

  • Cheri Belkowitz, Chair
  • Connie Lorentzen, Vice-Chair
  • Ann-Marie Ward, Recording Secretary
  • Sandi Dalhoff, Corresponding Secretary

Community Representatives     

  • Darcy Acquavella, City of Fairfax School Board
  • Sandi Dalhoff, Department of Neighborhood and Community Service
  • Michael Beattie, Disability Services Board
  • Lynn Kiewel, Fairfax County Health Department
  • Ann Marie Ward, Fairfax County Council of PTA
  • Erin Lauer, Fairfax/Falls Church Community Services Board
  • Vacant, Federation of Citizens
  • Linda Mason, Higher Education
  • Vacant, League of Women Voters
  • Susan Edgerton POAC-NoVA
  • Ally Baldassari, SEPTA

School Representatives

  • Toby Latham, Assistive Technology
  • Joanne Walton, Faculty
  • Jessica White, Preschool
  • Cathy White, Transition Services

School Board Member Representatives 

  • Liz Brocato, Braddock District-Megan McLaughlin
  • Lissy John, Dranesville District-Jane.Strauss
  • Brandon Cassady, Hunter Mill District-Pat Hynes
  • Meghan Gray, Lee District-Tamara Derenak Kaufax
  • Harry Henderson, Mason District-Sandy Evans
  • Phara Rodrigue, Member at large-Karen Keys Gamarra
  • Vacant, Member at Large-Ryan McElveen
  • Joe Alston, Member at Large-Ilryong Moon
  • Connie Lorentzen, Mount Vernon District-Karen Corbett Sanders
  • Mary Hackman, Providence District-Dalia Palchik
  • Cheri Belkowitz,  Springfield District-Elizabeth Shultz
  • Mary Kate Ganley, Student Representative
  • Michael Simon, Sully District-Thomas Wilson

Region Representatives

  • Melissa Morrison, Region 1-Douglas Tyson-Assistant Superintendent
  • Niki Zimmerman, Region 2-Fabio Zuluaga-Assistant Superintendent
  • Vacant, Region 3-Nardos King-Assistant Superintendent
  • Rachel Macias, Region 4-Jay Pearson-Assistant Superintendent
  • Laura Allen, Region 5-Rebecca Baenig-Assistant Superintendent

Committee Structure

The ACSD is structured to ensure that its work is aligned with its legal obligations under the Virginia Regulations.

Our standing subcommittees support the overarching goal of the ACSD in identifying unmet needs of students with disabilities in FCPS.  Our four standing subcommittees are:

  • Family Engagement and Outreach;
  • Student Achievement and Outcomes;
  • Policy and Regulations; and
  • The School Board Charge.

Orientation

The ACSD held an orientation at the Parent Resource Center for its members in September 2019.

  • Attended by Dr. Scott Brabrand, Superintendent of FCPS, in addition to Mike Bloom and Teresa Johnson
  • An Orientation Manual was distributed to all members which contained information and resources to support their ACSD work.
  • In addition, the Committee reviewed the organization’s
    • Purpose;       
    • By-laws, and Standard Operating Procedures; and
    • Robert’s Rules of Order.

Committee Presentations

The ACSD appreciates all the numerous staff members who supported the Committee’s work.  The following educators and DDS staff gave informative presentations to the Committee.

  • Explaining the NEW Assistant Special-Education Ombudsman Position
    Dawn Clements, Assistant Special Education Ombudsman
  • Supporting Behavioral Needs in School
    Sara Cooner, Manager of Behavior Intervention Services; and Tina Wilkerson, Coordinator of Applied Behavior Analysis  
  • Basis for Committee Decision (“BCD”) Form Updates.
    Dawn Schaefer, Coordinator of Due Process and Eligibility
  • Anti-Bullying Programs
    Stefan Mascoll, Coordinator of Student Safety and Wellness
  • Annual Plan Review
    Lea Skurpski, Director of  and Strategic Planning; and Jackie Prentice, Financial Management Budget Coordinator
  • FCPS Family Engagement Policy
    Kathleen Walts, Executive Director--Office of Professional Learning and Family Engagement; and Renee La Huffman-Jackson, Coordinator--Family and School Partnerships
  • Equity and Cultural Responsiveness in FCPS 
    Nina Thomas, Coordinator of Professional Learning and Cultural Responsiveness
  • DSS Distance Learning Plan Update
    Teresa Johnson, Assistant Superintendent--Department of Special Services; Jane Strong, Director of  Procedural Support; and Mike Bloom, Director of Special Education Instruction
  • Extended School Year (“ESY”) Plan
    Teresa Johnson, Jane Strong, and Mike Bloom

A History of Collaboration: The 15th Annual Special Education Conference

The Annual Special Education Conference, scheduled for Saturday, April 15 at Hayfield Secondary School, was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The ACSD appreciates the FCPS staff from the Office of Special Education Instruction who had been working towards this event.

The Committee looks forward to collaborating with FCPS staff for the 2021 conference.  The Committee appreciates Career and Transition Services staff that planned to provide a student program promoting self-determination at the conference.

Public Comment at Committee Meetings

The ACSD heard 24 public comments, an increase.  These citizen views incorporated critiques in a number of areas, but the ACSD also heard commendations.

Commendations:

  • The ACSD was commended for collaboration between the ACSD and SEPTA.
  • Commendation of the Office of Procedural Support—for assistance with VAAP paperwork.
  • For improvements regarding dyslexia--Improvements have been made in identification of students with reading disabilities.

Concerns

  • The access 2e students have to AAP courses and appropriate supports
  • Number of students with an IEP in one general education class
  • IEP--Failure of implementation
  • ACSD should provide mid-year reports
  • FCPS should explore new evidence-based behavior management programs
  • Parents have a right to student records without fear of retaliation
  • A concern with the confidentiality of student records recovered by FERPA requests
  • The ACSD brochure should be given at IEP meetings
  • Data that’s not properly disaggregated impacts the special education success rate.  SOL scores versus VAAP data should be disaggregated.
  • Develop policies and procedures for restraint and seclusion
  • Communication of the many available supports and services to parents
  • Communication about 504 Plans and IEPs to parents; for children whose school records document a medical diagnosis.
  • Add a question to youth survey to identify anxiety and depression in children, ages eight to eighteen, who are caregivers for relatives with disabilities or illness.
  • Inconsistent identification of dyslexia, and dyslexia service delivery
  • A student who was negatively impacted by the treatment by teachers and staff at an FCPS school.  Only upon switching schools was the student able to thrive.
  • An elementary student whose recess was taken away as a punishment
  • An enhanced autism teacher -- necessary options for students unable to  adapt to distance learning, and ESY
  • The social-emotional and mental health of students during the pandemic and virtual learning.
  • We need a more trauma-informed school system.
  • Preschool autism students have trouble accessing distance learning.
  • How transition IEPs for preschool autism students are being handled virtually during the pandemic.

Executive Summary

The ACSD continued to thrive.

  • Committee meetings were very well attended.
  • Most every ACSD membership position was filled.
  • The Committee was pleased to collaborate with its staff liaison, Mike Bloom, and greatly appreciates the efforts of the additional staff consultants, and the administrative support provided by OSEI administrative assistant Natashi Anthony.

The 2019-2020 ACSD Charge

The Committee Focus was to increase parent awareness of the ASCD, and parent knowledge of special education.

2019-20 Committee Charge
Examine current FCPS practices regarding the communication and dissemination of information to parents related to supports and services provided to students with disabilities.  Make recommendations designed to improve and strengthen the relationship between parents of students with disabilities and FCPS school staff and central office staff.

ACSD 2019-2020 Accomplishments

The ACSD held the 2nd “Meet and Greet” on October 22, 2019.

  • FCPS Coordinators for Related Services were available to parents, who
    • asked questions,
    • learned about services, and
    • made connections.
  • Numerous parent concerns on systemic issues were heard by these coordinators.
    Concerns recorded include:
    • Inconsistency in services,
    • The lack of awareness both parents and staff have of the available services,
    • Failure to consider individual needs of the student in favor of established FCPS programs,
    • Fear of retaliation for contacting the Central Office, and,
    • Lack of collaboration in IEP meetings.
  • Advocated for and received an FCPS email address.
  • Established social media presences on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Planned a Spring Meet and Greet (cancelled due to Covid 19).
  • Submitted a letter to the Virginia High School League supporting the creation of a Wheelchair Division in high school athletics.  The ACSD unanimously voted to support this effort to allow students in wheelchairs to participate in school sports equally to students without disabilities.
  • Voted to commend the Office of Special Education Instruction (OSEI), for their openness to new ideas and willingness to consider bold changes in behavior management programs for students with disabilities.
  • Worked with staff and administrative support to conduct virtual meetings once Covid 19 cancelled the remaining traditional public meetings.
    • Virtual meetings were held on May 6th, May 13th, and June 10, 2020.
    • We ensured continued access to public comment.  Video and audio testimony was solicited, and shared at the beginning of virtual meetings.
  • Met in July and August; to continue the important discussion regarding the provision of special education services during the pandemic.

Highlighted Recommendations from the 2019-2020 ACSD Annual Report

Family Engagement and Outreach Subcommittee

  1. Maintain support for the Special Education Annual Conference
  2. Ensure printed copies of the ACSD brochure are
    1. updated annually,
    2. available in multiple languages,
    3. always available in every school and center, and
    4. offered to parents at IEP meetings.
  3. Continue to support an ACSD presence at FCPS conferences and events.
  4. Continue to support ACSD outreach events, including Meet and Greets, held throughout the school year.

Student Achievement and Outcomes Subcommittee

  • Provide opportunities for integrated public preschool.
  • Provide and promote standardized preschool screening; at local elementary schools on designated days/events.
  • Provide team-taught elementary school settings across FCPS.
  • Provide elective classes, such as Strategies for Success, to occur before or after the school day.

Policies and Regulations Subcommittee

  • The 2012 FCPS Restraint and Seclusion Guidelines should be converted to policy, without the numerous exceptions to what counts as restraint and seclusion.
  • DSS must create quarterly reports of restraint and seclusion (R&S), including school breakdown, disproportionality data, and reports of R&S where policy was not  followed.
  • Adopt  Ross Greene’s Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS) model, and provide training for all teachers/support staff assigned to CSS sites and public day programs.
  • An IEP meeting with FBA shall be required when a student reaches three events of restraint or seclusion within 30 school days; or has reached four events in the same school year.
  • Problems to be targeted by a BIP will be addressed by the CPS model whenever collaboration with student is possible through any means (picture exchange, AAC, letter-board, or keyboard). 
  • All teachers should receive training on restorative practices. 
  • Make increases in ABA coaches and ABA site visits.  Increase ATS and SLP support/teaming.   

School Board Charge Subcommittee

  • Provide schools a  "standardized information packet" for each parent attending an IEP meeting.
  • Ensure local schools adequately and routinely use the Central Office Resources available to them.
  • Promote a climate where parents are made aware of their rights as a valued member of their children’s individual education plan team.
  • Ensure parents have the opportunity to provide input to Board's approved independent audit of special education services in FCPS
  • Ensure special education orientation and training includes a parent and older student voice; to sensitize staff to work collaboratively with parents/students.
  • Endorse, and provide adequate hands-on training for special education staff in high leverage educational practices including selected age-appropriate social skills development and executive function curriculum.
  • Provide training for all staff on identifying and addressing trauma in students.
  • Establish a mechanism for staff to report suspicions or allegations of policy violation; procedural violation; and waste, fraud or abuse.  These reports will be investigated outside of the usual reporting channels without fear of retribution or reprisals.
  • Establish a reasonable policy for use of security cameras in classrooms—particularly in classrooms for children with communication disorders.
  • Create a media campaign to familiarize families with FCPS Special Education Programs, Organization and staff involved with their children.
  • Standardize and communicate policies for administrators to allow, outside providers access to disabled children during the school day; parent observations; visits for parents and students to school settings considered in transition plans; and students to choose electives in middle and high school that reflect their own strengths and interests.
  • Widely disseminate district best practices and templates to schools for daily communication and data-sharing with parents.
  • Ensure all Special Education Leads and Chairs are aware of and make efforts to promote system-wide  events.
  • Continue to use low-tech means to communicate important school or program information.

Additional Recommendations: 

COVID-19 Readdress

  • The Committee requests that the ACSD participate in the development and review of future changes to policy, procedures or practices to serve students with disabilities prior to their implementation.
    • This is  in accordance with the Regulatory Function of the Committee; which would cover, but is not limited to, Temporary Learning Plans. 
    • The ACSD represents parents from all corners of FCPS; as well as, many community stakeholders and provides valuable citizen insight and information.
  • Develop assessments to evaluate the need for compensatory services for the general and adaptive curriculum, and related services.
  • Provide all parents of all special education students an Information Sheet on compensatory [recovery] services that includes:
    • How to request services;
    • How to appeal a denial of services.
  • Review with the ACSD issues that affect the provision of special education services for students with disabilities.
  • Provide a detailed plan for remediation  under a variety of scenarios, including:
    • Continued remote learning plans,
    • Phased re-entry to direct instruction, and
    • Use of “hybrid” models, as well as,
    • Opportunities for “year-round” school, to be reviewed by the ACSD
  • Reconsider deployment of staff and resources to more consistently comport with IDEA.
  • Ensure all students have access to the internet and devices to access services remotely.  The devices must be appropriate (i.e. adapted with touchscreen, etc.)
  • The ACSD Commends the FCPS Parent Resource Center (PRC) for its quick transition to online and distance services.  The PRC is engaging many families of students with disabilities through their online Webinar trainings, and other services.