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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 26, 2002 - Issue 54


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Importance Of Special Education For Tuba City District

Photos and Story By Suetopka Thayer TC District Navajo-Hopi Observer
Tuba City Special Education StaffSpecial Education students and their varied needs are not put on the back burner in Tuba City #15, the largest native school district in Northern Arizona.

The physical and educational needs of these students are important enough to warrant continued administrative and staff in-service like the one recently held in Flagstaff with TC school attorney, and weekend presenter, Patrice Horstman of Hufford, Horstman, Mongini, Parnell & McCarthy, pc, of Flagstaff.

The title of the workshop “ Special Education Issues/FERPA” was an in-depth, comprehensive look at Child Find, FAPE, IEP’s, FERPA, discipline guidance/compliancy, timelines in formal notification to parents, behavior identification problems, native language/custom considerations, as well as legal considerations for special needs children on the state and federal level.

By the end of the conference day it became clear that written documentation of all special education services and related issues are an important part in servicing and tracking progress in a special needs child.

Physical limitations, speech and eating difficulties are also considered when making these formal assessments.

Each child in the TC Special Education program has a very individualized program (IEP) assessed for their educational needs, which determines the types of services that a child will receive. While some of the students can be in a regular classroom environment, others need special one-on-one assistance and this must be provided by the staff.

Helen Stalnaker, Director/Spec. Ed and Kipra Burns, Spec. Ed Supervisor, oversee a full special education staff of 94, which includes a full time speech pathologist and physical therapist, sign language and auditory services to provide a well-rounded special education experience for its students in the district’s seven schools.

Recognizing the importance of having a full time physical therapist as well as a full time speech pathologist for their students, the TC Governing Board and its administration provides funding support for continued in-service training for its employees who deal directly with their special students.

Workshops like this are possible through aggressive lobbying and budgeting from both Special Education staff and TC Administrators for outside funding to support their programs.

While most school districts do not employ these types of specialized services on a full time basis, it was extremely important for TC district to have these services as part of their everyday full time staff to provide an outstanding program that would truly benefit their special needs students.

Helen Stalnaker, Director of Special Education praised the TC Governing Board, the current administration and gave very special thanks to the Director of Transportation Services, Mr. Phillip Johnson and his outstanding driving staff for assisting her program in getting their students to their school sites safely. Stalnaker said that Johnson’s transportation staff treats TC special needs students with courtesy and respect, taking the extra time and patience in loading them on and off the buses and making sure they were safe while riding.

While the student is the primary client for specialized services, the parent(s) of each student is the second most important client of what is considered a TC model team concept. Parents are asked to be a part of the initial evaluation, have input on their yearly needs assessment, and are encouraged to have actual participation in their students everyday classroom environment.

Services for all students, including special needs begin at age 3 according to State and federal regulations, but services do not end for special needs students at age 18, it ends at either graduation with a regular high school diploma or age 22.

Helen Stalnaker, Director, TC Special Education, “ Saturday’s training was the result of the work of several years - and it was wonderful to have the Administrative Team together with the attending Governing Board members and the District’s legal counsel in this training opportunity. The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) is so comprehensive that it really requires some thoughtful, uninterrupted time to review.

“It was great to have our District’s legal counsel endorse our forms and our procedures and to have the chance to review them with everyone in such detail. Our students deserve the best that we can provide - and it was so important to have the support of our superintendent, Dr. Harold Begay in assuring that our administrative staff has this information.

“We have already had comments from the schools, saying they learned so much that they can apply the given information immediately. It’s terrific! We particularly acknowledge the work of Phillip Johnson and his staff in the TCUSD Transportation Department.

“His staff continues to go out of their way to assure that students with special needs can access transportation in a safe manner. This staff has been great to work with and continually demonstrates real caring and concern for the regulations and our students.”

For more information on the Special Education Program at TC District, call TC Public Relations at 928-283-1072.

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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