By Allen Weinstein
Holt Journal Staff Reporter
HOLT — Funding and staffing are two of the biggest challenges for Holt Public Schools in their special education programs.
“Funding and staffing are a challenge for all of the schools,” said Superintendent David Hornak. “We have to be strategic and have to offer efficient programs.”
“Special education takes up a lot more of the budget than general education does,” said Michael Willard, principal of Holt High School.
“Special education teachers are assigned to students, so we have to pay for them and teachers teaching the general education students. This puts an extra burden on the district,” he said.
Holt schools uses scheduling and pairing resources to offer the most effective programs.
“We may offer an Autism program at two schools instead of five schools and have it be cross district instead of at individual schools,” Hornak said.
The high school uses a Teacher Consult model.
“Special education teachers are assigned 30 to 35 students and meet on a regular basis,” Willard said. “All of our kids are mainstreamed, the general education and special education students are mixed, a lot of people call it full inclusion.”
According to www.cpdbytes.com, the teachers help their students with classes, homework, and meeting Individual Education Program demands.
The special education programs are driven by an Individual Education Program, which is specific for each student.
“The Individual Education Program is a committee of parents and teachers who meet for an individual student,” Hornak said.
“Individual Education Programs are required by the law,” said Thomas Hehir, a Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor.
“This allows the program to be tailored to the needs of the individual. If someone needs an interpreter, they can get that. A blind student will be taught Braille if they need it, someone who suffers from Dyslexia can get the help they need,” Hehir said.
Each year, the program is required by law to undergo a review.
“We’re always tracking the failure rates,” Willard said. “More special education students fail classes, and we want to be able to help them be successful.”
“Every three years each student gets an in depth test to make sure their needs are being met,” Hornak said.
“The three year test is really more of an in depth reevaluation of the program,” Hehir said. “This is to make sure that the program is working and is effective.”
Holt schools offer a resource teacher at every school.
“They help students who need help learning, or if they’re having trouble with reading, math, or writing,” Hornak said.
“We have a number of kids on the Autism spectrum, so we offer a lot of Autism based programs,” he said.
“We have one of the biggest programs in the state for Links,” Willard said. “In the Link program, a general education student is traded and assigned to help a student with Autism with the social needs.”
The program has been well received at the high school.
“It’s been very successful, we’ve gotten awesome feedback from the kids, the general education and special education students,” Willard said.
“The Autistic students are able to get the help they need, and the program extends beyond school hours. The Links will take each other to games, football games, basketball, and help them with the social aspects that come from those, it’s like a friendship,” he said.
Funding and programs at each school vary by need.
“Every IEP is individual, we really strive to serve the stake holders,” Hornak said. “We’re on a continuous improvement and we take pride in serving our students.”
“There may be some discomfort from parents, they might feel that a different program is better for their child, but we ave very celebratory,” Hornak said. “We really try to give each student what they need.”