After nearly an hour of often-emotional parent testimony about the district’s special education services Monday, the Killeen Independent School District board neither addressed the parents’ concerns nor offered apologies.

Instead, the board deferred comments about deficiencies to a spokesman for the consulting firm that audited the district’s special education program.

Frustrated parents of special-needs children, teachers and three school board candidates addressed the Killeen ISD school board Monday, raising concerns about the findings of the newly released special education audit.

The district released the special education audit report to the media late Friday. On Monday, Greg Gibson, president of Gibson Consulting Group, presented the same special education findings to the board.

The audit found Killeen ISD’s special education program to be in need of a “major overhaul.”

“We fight for (least restrictive environment) everyday,” said Laura Thomas, a parent of a special-needs Killeen ISD student. “He deserves to be in a classroom with non-disabled peers. When we moved here, they threw out our (individualized education plan). ... As a veteran and current military spouse, I am so angry that I was forced to move here and go through this. This is terrible; shame on you.”

Specifically, the audit report found Killeen’s special education program lacks accountability measures, efficient staffing numbers and district-wide program consistency. Also, the audit found, the district held back more special education students than the state average and has fewer teachers per student than the state.

Board audit committee member Shelley Wells proposed the administration put in place quarterly check-ins with the board audit committee.

“(Gibson) has identified some very serious areas of concern and I would ask the administration to address every single one of those and take that information that is given and improve our special education program,” Wells said.

Chief among the issues parents addressed Monday was the need for adequate, equal special education services.

“My son has been described as nothing but happy, fun, go-lucky… (then) he wouldn’t even leave my house,” said Angela Garvin, a mother a former Killeen ISD student. “He would fall at the floor of your school because he did not want to go in. My son lasted nine days in your district. Nine days. In nine days, my family was losing our son. ... This situation has continued long enough. Either help or get out of the way.”

The school district serves about 5,000 special-needs students; of that number, 37 percent are children of military servicemen and women stationed at Fort Hood.

Killeen Educators Association President Rick Beaule was accompanied to Monday’s meeting by statewide Texas State Teachers Association president Noel Candelaria and many Killeen ISD educators.

“It all starts with you,” Beaule said. “And with the goals and priorities, and yes, the moralities set forth in the budget you create and approve. We know from the audit report that we are not there yet; that the work to repair and rebuild the Special Education Department is far from done. As you continue your budget deliberations, we respectfully ask all persons on the dais to resist the temptation to adopt a ‘hold the line’ mentality.”

Under the district’s policy, board members are unable to respond to items discussed during a public forum. However, school board member Susan Jones did respond to one commenter.

“To the gentlemen’s question about why an audit,” Jones said, “We are very limited in our ability to dig around in the administration. The only way for us to verify that data is to hire an external auditing firm to work for us. ... Mr. Gibson’s firm works directly for the board.”

Jones later added, “We should have an assessment audit in a year.”

Major findings

Gibson relayed his major findings to the board Monday: Special education students receive disciplinary placements — in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension and disciplinary alternative education program — at higher rates than general education students. Special education students are placed in restrictive environments at a higher rate than other comparable districts.

The district also spends less money per special education child than state average. The reason for this finding, Gibson explained, was due to the large population of special education students.

Gibson also cited the high special education population for another one of the audit’s findings.

“The larger the ratio, the fewer number teachers relative to the student population,” he said.

Co-teaching, more inclusion, staff increases and reallocations, reorganization of department duties, and increased data integrity controls were some of the suggested ways, Gibson suggested to turn the tables of the special education department.

At the end, Superintendent John Craft thanked those involved in the audit.

“All of these points and then some will be taken into consideration,” Craft said. “I appreciate the thoroughness and all the efforts of all involved.”

Contact Lauren Dodd at ldodd@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7568

(8) comments

schiperno

killeenadvocate-- thats really interesting. Will you be at tomorrow night's school board meeting? You sure sound like a wealth of information. This is the first time I have heard of those dots being connected.

GARD3N- I know and I agree completely.

Tomorrow night the district is going to tell us all that they are 1005 complaint in evaluations.

I don't believe so at all. I think that they have just manipulated the data so that they could give this "awesome" powerpoint. (here) :https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=38544757

killeenadvocate

Is it any surprise that the attorney that represented Beaumont ISD in special education matters (Heather Rutland) is also the attorney that helps represent Killeen ISD? Beaumont ISD was taken over by the state due to incompetence in the special education department.

Two of the worst special education departments in the state and ONE common link.

GARD3N

Schiperno-public education is paid for with county property taxes, state and federal money. Last I checked-KISD gets a large percentage of my yearly property taxes. I expect KISD to hire and retain enough qualified and trained teachers to give EVERY child a fair education. As residents we pay for the district to educate the future citizens of KISD-it's not FREE. As a tax paying citizen-it's offending that my money isn't being used appropriately by administration.

schiperno

You all really should have attended last night's meeting or glanced at the audit findings. The district used their same old excuses of things like "the high mobility rate," which the auditor clearly explained that it's not an appropriate excuse and that other districts with that same rate aren't failing like Killeen is. You should have also noticed that KDH didn't interview the people running for office who spoke. They reported on the people who chose to speak and what they said. No one stood up there saying they agreed with district decisions so the media can't report about that. The district could have corresponded and the new unqualified special education director could have also spoken, but they all chose not to. Instead of criticizing a news report, perhaps you should ask your school board why they didn't comment? What exactly is KDH favoring-- parents who want to see their kids receive a free and appropriate education? Shouldn't we all favor that? If you all are as opinionated as you seem to be you should come on out to that next school board meeting.

texastorenado3

I did read the findings. See there is a big problem and we all know it. The school board can't report because then the words would be twisted and used against them. A news report usually has 2 sides to the story unless your CNN or MSNBC. Education isn't really free if you pay taxes unless I'm wrong. Just tired of those committing here saying the sky is falling because KDH says so. Didn't want to come out to a Jerry Springer show, so thats my story and Im sticking to it. Did read the parent surveys and most seem pretty positive. Of course no one stood up there and agreed with the report? Huh

concernedcitizen19

Where is the neutrality in reporting? How is it that the newspaper can get away with writing an article that is clearly favored? While I am very aware that there are areas that KISD needs to address and correct, were there any board members interviewed? Any one in attendance that had differing opinions??

texastorenado3

Awesome comment. Yes there is two side to every story if you are a reporter. Kinda like Jerry Springer show type of reporting here.

GARD3N

I look forward to the follow up audit-that will happen in a year. Will that Audit be from a 3rd party? I hope it is-so it is a fair assessment. I think time and patience is needed to evaluate the changes. I hope the district continues to hire, train and retain special needs teachers and staff. I wonder what the staff turn over rate is or will be? The numbers sound overwhelming for special needs teachers to keep up with the large population of special needs students. I can understand why teachers might not want to stay and work in that kind of environment. I hope the students and teachers get the support they so desparately need. I hope the district can hire and retain a trained and experienced workforce.

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