Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A message from Executive Director of Special Education

September 10, 2015
Dear Parents and Guardians of a SPS student with special needs,                               

On behalf of the Special Education team at Seattle Public Schools, it is our pleasure to welcome your family to the 2015-16 school year.  We are looking forward to a productive and rewarding year for your students.

I want to share with you, an update on the work that we have done over the past year and let you know about the direction that we are going this school year.

Over the past year, combined efforts have led to significant achievements, including, among others:
  • Proactive recruitment (from across the nation) of highly qualified special education staff. By the start of school we will have filled 96% of the FTE (full time equivalent) special education certificated staff positions. We have 19 full time FTE cert positions to fill and hope to fill ten more by the start of school. Last year there were 42 FTE SPED certificated positions open at the start of school.
  • The successful completion of all 40 activities listed in the Comprehensive Corrective Action Plan with the Washington State Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction (OSPI).
  • The publication of a Special Education Family Newsletter and an internal special education procedural guide. We will continue to work with the Special Education Advisory and Advocacy Council (SEAAC) to complete a parent companion to the special education procedural guide.
  • The creation of a three-year special education professional development plan for the District in collaboration with the University of Washington. As part of that plan, this summer, we held the first annual Special Education Professional Development Summits for principals and instructional staff.
  • The hiring of two new supervisor positions to help transform Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Transition Services in Seattle Public Schools.

As we reflect on the past year and prepare for the year ahead, our focus is shifting from the creation of new structures and tools to their thoughtful implementation within schools. In a new agreement with OSPI, we will build off of the work completed in the Comprehensive Corrective Action Plan. In this next phase, the special education central office and schools will collectively improve services for students with special needs.
Beginning this fall, we will support our school sites through a process of ensuring that services are delivered in accordance with district, state, and federal expectations. OSPI will work with us through a verification process which includes on-site activities to assess regional service delivery standards, including file reviews, staff reviews, classroom observations, and parent focus groups. School visits to verify that special education services are meeting standards will occur one region at a time over the course of the coming year.   
We will continue the Special Education Family Newsletter and Special Education Regional Meetings this year, some of which will coincide with the Seattle Special Education PTSA.  We look forward to seeing you at the Regional Meetings! We are incorporating more community members into SEAAC and plan to work with the Council on a District mediation process as well as develop communication for families in clarifying the continuum of services and placement for children with special needs in Seattle Public Schools.  
The progress we have made in the past year gives us great confidence in our ability to further ensure quality special education services. We are looking forward to working with you toward positive outcomes for you and your children/students.

Wyeth Jessee
Executive Director of Special Education      
Seattle Public Schools

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