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Westfield school board presented on special education services

WACS CSE/CPSE chairperson Amy Webb.

WESTFIELD — “What makes us different, unique, and fantastic,” said Westfield Academy and Central School CSE Chairperson Amy Webb, “is that we have all of these special education services in house.”

Webb offered a presentation on the district’s special education services to board of education members at their supplemental meeting held recently. She reported that there the current caseload for CSE is students, for CPSE is 12 students, and 56 students have 504s

Webb told board members that occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, as well as access to a school social worker, counselors and school psychologists are what set WACS apart from other districts.

“A few students who are ‘high-need’ just transferred into the district,” she said. “Some people move into this district because they know we have these services.”

There are higher numbers of students in speech therapy this year, Webb said, primarily because nearly every preschool student who has an IEP is in speech therapy. Students who qualify for IEP services have more severe needs than those who receive “speech improvement” services.

Speech and Language pathologists Heath Forster and Jessica Group provide speech therapy for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grades, Webb said. Forester said he is unable to provide speech improvement services at the present time due to the high caseload of IEP students who receive speech therapy.

Board member Tom Tarpley asked Webb about providing services to students who receive remote learning. Webb said physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy over Zoom are not the same as in person services.

“We have our work cut out for us, certainly,” she said.

Tarpley also asked if remote learning for these students has been a failure. Webb does not think it has been a failure because each student has received some help.

“I wouldn’t call it a failure, but do I think these students have suffered from remote learning? Absolutely,” she said.

Webb told the board that success in special education can be measured by lower numbers receiving the services.

“We tell the teachers, ‘your job is to work yourself out of a job with this child,'” she said.

In other business, board president Wendy Dyment asked for and received board approval of the revised version of district goal 6, which deals with “WACS’ ability to deliver a well-rounded education in a COVID world.”

The board also approved a resolution regarding the 2019-2020 senior class trip. The business manager will distribute reimbursements to parents and students who paid deposit monies for the trip, which was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tarpley asked what parents have said about the reimbursements that will be provided by the resolution. District Superintendent Michael Cipolla said that overall people are satisfied because they were not expecting to get any of their deposit money returned to them.

“Many of the kids are off to college now and would probably like to receive the reimbursement money,” Cipolla said. “But the check will go to the parent who made the initial deposit with us.”

During board commentary, Tarpley noted that he is pleased to see sports up and running.

“It is really great to see kids participating in sports again,” he said.

Board vice-president Steve Cockram reminded board members that it is essential to keep up to date on all computer practices in the district.

“It’s a scary world out there,” he said. “There are lots and lots of bad actors who are trying to get ransom money from districts for unencrypting data.”

He noted the importance of keeping hardware up to date and of making sure all employees understand safe practices.

“The sophistication of fishing e-mails is astounding . . . they can spend six months fishing around your system trying to find a weakness,” he said.

Cipolla told the board that WACS technology coordinator Can Tenamore “has been incredibly helpful. He’s put safeguards in place for us and he’s always working on that,” he said.

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