BOE considers new special education classroom

By NICOLE SMITH, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 10/21/17

The Walker County Board of Education is considering a new classroom that will benefit special needs students in Walker County.

Director of Student …

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BOE considers new special education classroom


The Walker County Board of Education is considering a new classroom that will benefit special needs students in Walker County.

Director of Student Services Butch Sargent gave a passionate plea to board members and Superintendent Dr. Jason Adkins about the need for a special needs classroom at Oakman Middle School. He said there are special needs students currently enrolled at the school with “significant needs,” and the school system has also received several special needs transfer students, prompting the need for more specialized instruction in a proper classroom setting.

“Over the years, we have been seeing an increasing need for some more specific, specialized instruction in the areas of behavior and special ed,” Sargent said. “Quite frankly, we’re unable to meet their needs the way that things are now.”

He said Oakman Middle would be the ideal location to create a special needs classroom, since a large classroom is already available there, that with a few modifications would allow for the students to have their own private restroom.

Sargent has applied for catastrophic funds through the Alabama State Department of Education in the amount of roughly $340,000 to be used for development of a special needs program at the school. Those funds would include a full-time special needs teacher, three paraprofessionals, a special needs school bus, a bus driver, bus aide, sensory equipment and other associated costs.

“Catastrophic funds are monies that are set aside, and if you have an unexpected, costly need in your area, you could apply for those monies,” Sargent said.

The board of education would first have to put up local funds for the program and would later be reimbursed by the department of education; however, it is not a guarantee the department of education will issue the funds. Sargent said they will not consider the funding, unless the board pays for the project up front.

He said boards of education across the state are seldom turned down to receive such funding.

“It is a huge, huge need, and it’s dealing with a group of children that rarely get the attention in a proactive way. It’s usually in a reactive way,” Sargent said.

Board members and Adkins entertained the conversation for nearly 45 minutes, but ultimately decided to table the vote on funding a new classroom. All board members agreed they needed more time to review the information presented. They also requested a rough estimate of annual fixed costs for the program that would include classroom upkeep, salaries and bus maintenance costs.

He explained some salary costs could possibly be absorbed through government funds.

Despite the decision to table approving a special education classroom, board members later approved the purchase of a special needs school bus and a special education teacher at Oakman Middle. The board also approved to add transportation aides for special needs students.

Other highlights of the board meeting included:

• a presentation from the Blue Devil BEST Robotics Team, that is comprised of students from Bankhead Middle School and Cordova High School.

BEST is a middle and high school robotics competition that teaches 18,000 students across the country engineering, science and technology skills. Schools accepted into the program participate at no cost.

Students showed their new robot to board members, which is designed to help firefighters retrieve injured victims, relocate dangerous materials and extinguish fires. Students have been working with the Cordova Fire Department on how their robot could be utilized to help firefighters.

• the termination of an employee. After a 10-minute executive session, the board later voted to terminate the unnamed employee. BOE attorney Mark Boardman said the terminated employee was non-tenured, and an employee hearing was not required to terminate employment.

A few people in the room became disruptive after the termination announcement, and board Chairman Brad Ingle had to momentarily stop the meeting due to noise interruption. A police officer at the meeting had to instruct people to lower their voices, and they later left the meeting. Board business resumed shortly after the disruption.

• the approval of a Carbon Hill High School multi-purpose facility bid.