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Presley: Special Ed in district is ‘good to go’

An assistant superintendent of the Lincoln County School District said the special education programs at the four attendance centers are “good to go” when it comes to meeting state standards.

Though cited in the past for serious infractions — in one case auditors witnessed a deaf and blind child chewing on a shoe in a life skills class at Enterprise Attendance Center— Letha Presley, who heads up the program for the district, said the issues the Mississippi Department of Education found in February 2016 have been corrected.

Recently, parents and advocates addressed the Lincoln County School Board with their concerns about how special needs students are treated in the district, specifically at Loyd Star Attendance Center.

Former principal Shannon Eubanks, who left Enterprise in July after 12 years to take a job with “Better Schools, Better Jobs,” said about six students from the school’s seventh- through 12th-grade life skills class were moved to Loyd Star in an effort to comply with the state’s mandate.

Presley said Eubanks is correct. “That is true. We moved the class from Enterprise to Loyd Star. We changed teachers,” she said.

She said the students were in a class called “The House” which was used to teach the moderate to severe special education students basic life skills. The program had been housed in that building for 30 years, she said. “The state department didn’t like it because it was isolated,” she said.

During an audit in February 2016, MDE found several infractions, including lack of supervision which allowed a male and female student to be alone in a bedroom of “The House” behind closed doors and a student to sleep on a changing table. The MDE auditors also reported that students in “The House” had limited interactions with non-dialed classmates and that paperwork for students’ individual education programs were incomplete.

Presley said the six students were moved to a more age-appropriate building at Loyd Star. Other students in the special education program at Enterprise remained at that school.

The life skills program is one of two district-wide programs that are provided at Loyd Star. Two other district-wide programs are provided at West Lincoln. For those specialized programs, students from all four campuses are directed to one particular campus for the class. “The state won’t give us four teachers for four different programs,” Presley said.

While each campus has special education classes, the four district-wide programs are held at Loyd Star and West Lincoln.

The district has about 400 special education students — which includes those in speech language programs — Presley said.

She is unsure why parents have recently been referring to the problems that were cited at Enterprise in 2016. The state has not cited the district for any infractions since that report, she said. “We’re good to go,” she said. “It was year ago at The House with a different teacher. I don’t know why they keep bringing that up. We’ve  addressed that, put that aside and moved forward.”

Presley, at the board meeting last month, offered to host a meeting of parents of special education students to discuss her plans for the district over the next five years. She wants to get input from parents of students in the program. “I’ve had several parents express concerns and I’ve offered to meet with these parents,” she said.

So far, there has been little interest in a parent group session with Presley. A date has not been set for the group meeting. For more information, contact Presley at lpresley@lincoln.k12.ms.us or at 601-835-0011. She said she is available to meet one-on-one as well. “I’d be happy to meet with someone,” she said.

The next board meeting for the Lincoln County School District is Monday at 5 p.m. It will be held in the cafeteria at Bogue Chitto Attendance Center, 385 West Monticello Ave. The meeting location was moved in anticipation of a larger audience than the district office board room allows.