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School district reviewed for special ed. progress

The Brookhaven School District’s special education department isunder review this week by the Mississippi Department of Education(MDE) as part of a routine evaluation process conductedstatewide.

About 30 parents and relatives of special education students metat the State Room in downtown Brookhaven Monday evening andexpressed mixed feelings with committee members. The MDE reviewboard, sent to evaluate the extent to which the Brookhaven SchoolDistrict includes students with disabilities into mainstreamclasses, faces similar situations during meetings all over thestate.

“Parents are concerned,” said Tanya Bradley of the MississippiDepartment of Education review board. Many times, “communicationlines are not open. We get calls. We try to direct them to workwithin the system first.”

Some parents expressed concerns that their children do notreceive necessary resources. However, that was not a topic of themeeting and they were directed to speak to the district’s specialeducation director.

Others, like Mary Wilson, expressed praise for the district’sinclusion of her son into mainstream classes.

“He was doing so much better, so his teachers recommended thathe work toward a diploma,” she said. “He’s done well.”

Wilson’s 16-year-old son, Joshua, now spends all day in regularclasses and has worked through a reading disability. He alsoactively participates in extracurricular activities.

Students like Joshua have benefited from implementation of”Least Restrictive Environment (LRE),” an effort to makeconcessions and place students in as many mainstream classes aspossible.

“Our goal is to place students in mainstream classes 80 percentof the time,” said Lea Barrett, superintendent of the BrookhavenSchool District.

This week’s MDE monitoring is reviewing the city schooldistrict’s efforts to integrate students with special needs intomainstream classes. The monitoring is done in several districtseach year.

Schools in comparatively sized districts are measured accordingto their LRE inclusion and several chosen for evaluation. Nodistrict is evaluated in two consecutive years.

Essentially, monitors ask if children with special needs areincluded into the mainstream to the greatest extent possible andwhether the appropriate accommodations are made, Bradley said.

Despite the outcome of the MDE monitoring visit, it is safe tosay that Wilson is pleased and the Brookhaven special educationprogram has worked for her son.

“My son was in another district,” she said. “Since then he’sbeen doing good.”