Despite no major influx of new special education students to the Silver Lake district, Special Education Administrator Marie Grable said increases to tuition and transportations costs need to be addressed in next year’s budget for the 629 students in the program.
Estimates for next year’s budget were not ready to be discussed formally, Grable told the committee; they are still in the rough draft phase. In her presentation, she outlined some of the finances that need to be considered on a yearly basis when addressing a special education budget.
To begin the presentation, she highlighted that there isn’t a standard program that can be applied for all students in the special education program.
“Accommodations need to be individualized,” Grable said.
Specialization has its own challenges. For one, Grable said, developmental delays are often diagnosed anywhere from the age of 3 to 9. It can be hard to tell if a student is struggling with reading or if it’s because of some sort of developmental delay.
Committee Chair Jason Fraser asked about unexpected cost from students coming into the district mid-year. Unexpected cost can also affect a special education budget, she said. When a student from out of district from Plymouth for example moves to Halifax mid-school year, Grable said that student is already budgeted in Plymouth’s special education budget for the year. If the student is from out of state, the rule doesn’t apply, and Silver Lake would get an unexpected cost added to the current fiscal year’s budget.
The state does provide some relief with special education budgets, Grable explained. She said municipalities are responsible for the first $44,000 no matter what. However, the state does pay a percentage of additional dollars, but that rate is set on a yearly basis. According to Grable, she’s preparing for a rate around 55 to 60 percent.
Fraser reminded the committee that the district still needs to pay for that money because the state funding is a reimbursement given for the previous year.
Some of the district’s funding does come from state grants, though. The district gets two entitlement grants from the state. One of those grants is for a little over a $1 million statewide. The district gets a cut of that grant each year. That first grant, the district uses to help pay for the paraprofessionals at the schools. The second grant helps fund special education programs at the preschool level. Exact municipal numbers were not specified.
Grable spoke highly of the district’s special education programs. She was especially proud of the developmental learning centers at each school level (elementary, middle, high) district wide and how language-based learning programs were going. Grable said the language-based learning program has been implemented at the middle school successfully, and she hopes to do the same at the high school when the timing is right.
One thing she hopes to continue with, especially in the last years of high school, is remind students that once they turn 18, they are usually responsible for making sure they get the accommodations they need, especially at the college level.
“Colleges don’t necessarily look at IEPS, but do verify disabilities, so when students turn 18, they need to advocate for themselves,” Grable said.
A budget draft will be available at a later school committee meeting.
Principal Michaela Gill presented formal requests to the school committee for some curriculum changes. One request was to remove the practical computing course. Gill spoke of students’ success in the other course computer applications, making the course unnecessary.
Another course change proposal was removing College Prep II Trigonometry from the curriculum.
“Let me explain the math behind this,” Gill joked.
Right triangle trigonometry is now taught in geometry to help students prepare for standardized testing.
“There’s not enough material to run a whole trigonometry class when it’s already in geometry,” she said.
The high school also received the following donations:
• $25 gift card from May Flower Municipal Health Group to pay for new cables for the library smartboard.
• Three residents donated vehicles for the high school’s automotive program.
A middle school-level National Junior Honor Society is coming to the district. Pam Samford said the district will start putting this together after term two grades are in.
Samford said the honors society for seventh and eight graders will run much like the high school model. After grades are in, eligible students will meet in the auditorium. They will have to complete community service, get teacher recommendations, and be interviewed. Students will be told if they will be inducted before April vacation and another ceremony will follow.