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State: MESD failed to provide special education to youth in correctional facilities

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The Multnomah Education Service District will need to take steps to improve its special education at two correctional facility high schools, says the Oregon Department of Education.

Some Multnomah Education Service District staff will have to get some remedial education of their own after the Oregon Department of Education found them out of compliance with federal special education law.

The state found the district violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by failing to provide differentiated education for students with special needs at two high schools. The state also found that MESD staff failed to provide adequate or timely progress reports on students’ specialized goals.

As the first part of the required corrective action, the district must hold a meeting for its staff with ODE to review the requirements of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by Oct. 15.

The state agency’s report, released Sept. 28, reviewed two high schools operated by MESD and found that there was no individualized instruction offered to students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs). In fact, the IEPs — which are designed to direct instruction — were almost never consulted by staff.

“When the IEP meeting was done and the IEP finalized, it was put away in a filing cabinet,” reads the state report.

Three Lakes and Ocean Dunes high schools identified

While the two high schools are not identified by ODE or MESD, The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Three Lakes High School science teacher Ben Sharvey filed the complaint. Sharvey listed the high schools as Three Lakes High School at the girls-only correctional facility Oak Grove in Albany and the boys-only correctional facility Ocean Dunes High School in Florence.

Spivey wrote an opinion piece in the Aug. 15 Eugene Register-Guard complaining that his high school offers “career training” credits in exchange for janitorial duties, such as cleaning toilets. His complaint to the ODE over the credits was not upheld, according to an Aug. 26 episode of Think Out Loud from OPB radio.

Three Lakes High School, according to the report, runs year-round with students ages 12 to 24. During the 2014-15 school year there were 28 students with IEPs and an average enrollment of 48. The total enrollment varies throughout the year.

Ocean Dunes High School has a maximum enrollment of 10 and also serves ages 12 to 24. Three students had IEPs during the investigation.

MESD’s Chief Program Officer of Education Katherine Skimas is listed as the principal of the two correctional programs, although the report notes that Instructional Vice Principal is in charge of the daily function of the schools and also the special education expert.

In addition to the meeting with ODE to review special education requirements, the district will have to develop a master schedule for progress reports by Nov. 15 and develop compensatory education plans for the students still enrolled at the two high schools, which are due each quarter.

"We are taking the ruling very seriously," said MESD spokeswoman Laura Conroy, who added that the district will not appeal. "We are doing everything ODE asks us to do and are working cooperatively with them."

Shasta Kearns Moore
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