September 23, 2017 10:02:54 PM
A Monday special-call meeting of the Columbus Municipal School District Board will focus exclusively on special education. But board president Jason Spears doesn't expect any official action to come of it.
The meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. at Brandon Central Services, will offer district personnel and parents a chance to discuss the state of the district's special education program.
"I don't know anything that we have to make a decision on," Spears said. "Really it' s a chance to listen, learn where we are and where we need to go next. We do discuss special education in our regular meetings. ... But because we do operate under limited time constraints during our regular meetings, we wanted to have a forum where there would be plenty of time and opportunities for discussion."
According the agenda for the special-call meeting, board members will hear from the district's Special Education Advisory Committee as well as Donna Jones, the district's Special Education director. There will also be an expanded public comment period where parents can voice their opinions on special education at the district.
CMSD's special education program has struggled as recently as October 2015 when a state audit found the district to be out of compliance in 21 areas. Seventeen of those areas were corrected by May 2016 and a follow-up in June by the Mississippi Department of Education's Special Education division should the district to be in compliance in all 21 areas.
The board of trustees approved the creation of a special education advisory committee, appointed by the superintendent, a year ago, to monitor progress and raise awareness of issues as they emerge.
"We want to be open and transparent about all of our programs, including the state of our special education program," Spears said. "But this is more than checking the boxes: We want to know what's working, what's not working, how we can improve what we're doing."
The nine member of advisory committee, chosen in October, are Josie Pippins Moore, Rosemarie Prater, Jacqualine Cotton, James Fowler, Tabitha Rozzell, James Wilson, LaTwanya Miller, Angie McCoy and Shelenia Henry.
"I'll very interested in hearing from the community members," said CMSD board member Josie Shumake. "As far as I'm aware, we've never had the advisory committee appear before the board, so I'm interested in hearing what they have to say. There's nothing in particular I'm looking for, but I do think this will be a good way to be a broad overview of where we are with special education."
Neither Jones nor CMSD Superintendent Philip Hickman returned calls or messages seeking comment for this article.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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