December 16, 2016
By LEAH DEARBORN
PEABODY — At a meeting on Tuesday, the School Committee received responses from two Special Education Department reports.
The reports were conducted by consultant Joseph Schechtman and autism school Melmark New England in 2014.
Both reports outlined potential actionable steps to improve the special education programs in the school system.
The meeting presentation by Special Education Administrator Ruth Grube also outlined what has changed in the two years since the reports were commissioned.
Highlights included a finding by the Melmark report that the autism program at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School, which began in 2015, has saved the public schools $500,000 in potential out of district student placements.
Schechtman suggested the inclusion of more therapeutic programs, which the district is working on by continuing daily calls and focusing on the Social Emotional Curriculum as an embedded approach to working with students.
One of the report recommendations from two years ago was to resolve turnaround issues related to the Administrator of Special Education position.
The district responded in 2016 by hiring Grube and is continuing discussions in regards to hiring an assistant to the position, according to the Schechtman report.
A number of other hiring changes have recently taken place, with Leslie Entwistle hired as department head at the high school and Yuko Ryder brought on as a board certified behavior analyst at the Captain Samuel Brown Elementary School in 2015 in accordance with report recommendations.
Craig Macarelli was hired as program administrator at public day school Community High, where 25 students are enrolled, in 2016.
Committee member Beverly Ann Griffin Dunne said the committee received and reviewed the special education information during the meeting but no vote or further action was immediately taken.
Dunne said the department reviews were a self-guided process from within the schools whereas the upcoming Coordinated Program Review (CPR) from the state is a required process.
“The CPR will tell us what we actually need to do,” she said. “We’re constantly making policy updates. It’s an amazing process. These reports are huge and have action items.”
Dunne estimated that the district’s next CPR will take place in January or March with a response from the district due in April.
Leah Dearborn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.