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Interim special ed directors discuss direction of program

Marysville Special Education PTSA Secretary Michele Olson, left, and President Amy Sheldon welcome district officials to their meeting on March 11. - Kirk Boxleitner
Marysville Special Education PTSA Secretary Michele Olson, left, and President Amy Sheldon welcome district officials to their meeting on March 11.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — The Marysville Special Education PTSA meeting on Tuesday, March 11, featured appearances not only by Marysville School District Superintendent Dr. Becky Berg and Assistant Superintendent Ray Houser, but also by interim Special Education Services Executive Director Dave Gow and Director Dr. Bob Gose.

“We’re learning a ton from them,” said Houser, who acknowledged that he and Gow still need to identify a specific vision and priorities for the district’s special education program.

“We know that we need a vision for the direction of this program, as well as transparency of decision-making and clear communication, especially given the complexities of special education,” Berg said.

“I’ve been very impressed with the dedication of your staff,” said Gow, who’s already conducted site visits to five schools in the district, in addition to meeting with several parents individually. “We do need to identify those communication issues. We also need to look at our materials, training and staff development, to see where the holes are. Hopefully, we can help provide a framework that our successors can follow.”

Gow agreed that it’s vital that para-educators are properly trained to respond to students with special needs, which Berg pointed out is additionally complicated by the number of students whom school staff are expected to serve, thanks to several years of state funding cuts.

“We have too many students and not enough classes,” Berg said.

Several parents reiterated concerns that had previously been voiced at Marysville School Board meetings, with one mother noting that several teachers of her 17-year-old child at Marysville Getchell High School weren’t aware of her Individualized Education Program as late as December, while other mothers inquired about a para-professional who was moved to another school in the district after working at Marshall Elementary.

“The frustrating part of ongoing investigations is that we’re prohibited from commenting on personnel matters,” Houser said. When parents suggested that a climate existed which discouraged the reporting of such issues, he responded, more than once, “Then we’ve got a problem.”

Gow and Gose were asked about special education models at successful school districts with which they’ve served, since Gow served in the Shoreline School District for 30 years as a special education teacher and director, and in the Mukilteo School District for nine years as special education director, before retiring in 2011, while Gose spent the latter half of his career as a school psychologist and special education student services coordinator in the Shoreline School District, prior to his own retirement in 2013.

“I’m intimately familiar with many of those models, and they’re all structurally different,” Gow said.

“They’re all dynamic, people-oriented programs, but what works for one district might not transfer well over to another,” Gose said.

Berg pledged that parents would be included in the upcoming process to find permanent replacements for Gow and Gose, whose contacts end on June 30.

 

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