After a nearly two-year investigation, state education officials said the Killeen Independent School District has reached 100 percent compliance for its special education programs.
The district said it took three major actions: creation of a three-year improvement plan, forming operational guidelines and maintaining a formal database for tracking, officials said.
In late January, the TEA released a report stating KISD is in compliance with regulations and policies related to special education.
“Killeen ISD no longer has any identified noncompliance,” TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said in an email. “Therefore, they have fulfilled the required actions that were outlined in their corrective action plan.”
KISD officials last week detailed the changes made to their special education program to meet compliance. Those changes include: developing systems to mitigate lack of effective processes and procedures, evaluating appropriateness of special education referrals and developing tracking systems for documentation of complaints and due process hearings.
The announcement comes as TEA itself is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for mandating that districts have 8.5 percent or less percentage of total enrollment in special education programs.
TEA regularly checked these KISD actions until January:
Creation of a three-year, KISD strategic plan (that has been in effect since 2016) to address TEA’s compliance. To date, the goals identified are in the finalization status or complete status for year one. The plan is the result of a six-day planning process that took place last June, district officials said.
“The purpose was to develop a three-year plan for KISD’s special education department, utilizing input from multiple internal and external audits and sources of information,” officials said last year. “The plan will provide guidance, direction and metrics to address identified areas of improvement in delivering educational services to students with disabilities and their families.”
KISD then created operational guidelines and revised operational guidelines to ensure consistent practices that are aligned to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
KISD is maintaining a tracking database to monitor that timelines are being met, as outlined by TEA.
KISD has responded to all TEA complaints within the time frame required by TEA, district officials said.
In a Jan. 25 letter from the TEA about special education issues sent to KISD Superintendent John Craft, the state said KISD has addressed all the issues of noncompliance.
“Therefore, no further action on this issue is required at this time,” the letter stated.
TEA’s investigation report in 2015 found the district lacked a uniform system to track special education evaluations, inner-office conflicts and faulty data, which resulted in delayed services for special education students in the previous seven years.
Per TEA’s request, the district developed a “corrective action plan” and presented it at a school board workshop in July of that year.
The report summary that evaluated the district in the 2014-2015 school year said: “The TEA staff found that Killeen ISD does not have an effective process in place to meet federal and state requirements. While the district has a knowledgeable, capable staff, there is a lack of effective systemic process and procedures that prevent compliance for timely evaluation of students. The integrity of submitted data is lacking, and staff members responsible for reporting accurate data, as well as responding to complaints and due process hearings, are not complying with TEA requirements.”
Every year, school districts must submit special education data to TEA in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Initially, the district submitted data showing half of the special education evaluations were not completed on time in 2014 — far below the state mandate of 100 percent compliance.
Since the investigation broke, Jamie Morris, the district’s special education consultant was hired and said KISD was making progress.
“In this past year, we have made great strides,” Morris told the school board in April 2016. “It’s almost like building a house — you really can’t see how pretty that yard is until you have that foundation built. We are light years ahead of where we were last year.”
Referring services to special education students in a timely fashion is paramount to their adequate learning as children, parents have said.
In a special education report from the Herald in December 2015, Ellison High School parent Sallie Davis said her child, Austin Davis, went without the vocational and transition planning he needed during his time in KISD.
“Getting the services he is entitled to has been a struggle his whole school life,” Davis said in 2015. “The latest issue that has been going on for the past four to five years is the total lack of transition planning and related vocational training. For our son, it is too late. This is his last year.”