By Claire Walla
In addition to its rousing debate on the tax cap, the Sag Harbor School District made time Monday to hear from a consultant who analyzed the district’s special education programs, and Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone and Assistant Principal Donna Dennon presented the board with updated plans for the school’s Pre-K program.
Though Special Education Consultant Susan Kosser offered some suggestions for the district’s special needs programs, overall she said the district is working well within its means.
“By being creative and being flexible, the children’s needs are being met,” she said. “Which is sometimes very difficult for a smaller district.”
Kosser praised the elementary school’s kindergarten inclusion class.
“Right now you really have a nice model in Sag Harbor,” she said in reference to the school’s two kindergarten classes with four special education students in each. However, she recommended that the special ed. teacher and teacher’s assistant switch classrooms every other day, or mid-way through the day — rather than every week — in order to provide more continuity of instruction.
“That would be a very strong recommendation,” she added.
Kosser had similar recommendations for special education teachers throughout all levels of instruction, advice that would essentially streamline the process and make special education programs more efficient.
She also recommended that the district reach out to other schools where Sag Harbor district students have been sent for particular programs, suggesting that reorganization could make the environment at Sag Harbor more suitable for these learners.
Overall, she said special needs instructors should meet as Instructional Support Teams on a more frequent basis, and review children’s Individual Education Programs (IEPs).
“This is a really good time to review which youngsters should get speech services,” she said. “Look at what entrance and exit criteria are and really come up with consistency across the board.”
Just this week, the district’s first Pre-K program welcomed a new student, bringing the class size up to 12.
But as Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone told the board, by next year “our goal is to really increase that enrollment.”
Though this year the district spent money to refurbish a first-floor classroom at the elementary school in which to house the Pre-K program, an increased enrollment next year might mean the addition of another Pre-K classroom, and it might mean changing locations.
“We have to be cognizant of the fact that we may outgrow the space that we have,” Malone said. He added that next year’s fifth-grade and first-grade classes might expand from four to five sections, which could push the Pre-K program out of its current location.
He said that he and Assistant Principal Donna Dennon have reviewed possibilities such as moving the program to Pierson Middle School or the Sag Harbor Methodist Church, both possible alternatives to an elementary school site.
While the program will continue to be run in conjunction with SCOPE, Malone added that the program’s top priorities are extending the school day beyond 11:15 a.m. and making services free for all students.
Though the $275 price tag can be supplemented by scholarship money for low-income families, Malone suggested the district take on the cost of hiring teachers and running the program without SCOPE so that services would be free for all children.
Malone will address the issue further at the next budget meeting Monday, March 14.